Marketing Tips for Small Business Saturday Success

The approaching holiday shopping season means local businesses have an opportunity to compensate for our sluggish summer tourist season. With the advent of Small Business Saturday–falling on November 24th this year–consumers are encouraged to “shop small” on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. With a little planning and effort, small business owners can use this day to grow their customer base this season and beyond.

Small Business Saturday was started by American Express in 2010. It followed the long-standing Black Friday, which has become known as the busiest shopping day of the year, and the more recent Cyber Monday, which was started by in 2005 after consumer studies showed the Monday following Thanksgiving to typically be the biggest online shopping day of the year. Now celebrating its 3rd year, Small Business Saturday is expected to bring 100 million shoppers flocking to small businesses throughout the country.

For many consumers, the approach of holiday season means they automatically start planning their yearly trips to the overcrowded malls, superstores and big-box retailers. While it may be difficult to completely alter the holiday-consumer paradigm that has become entrenched in our culture over the past sixty years, small businesses can do their part to offer an alternative.

The idea is to build a strong connection with customers over the course of the year, so when it comes time to shop–whether for holiday gifts, special events, or whenever they have a need or desire for your offering–they think of your business. The following marketing tips will help small business owners capitalize on Small Business Saturday.

Instore Promotions

Educate your customers. Promote Small Business Saturday in-store and online by utilizing free resources from American Express. You can download free Small Business Saturday resources from American Express such as web banners and logos, instore posters and even email and social media templates. You can also get free resources by “liking” Small Business Saturday on Facebook.

Play upon the local. If you have any products that are locally crafted, point them out and promote them. People love sampling local crafts and cuisine because it is something special and unique to the area. Offering gift items and products that are unique to your location is a great shopping incentive.

Highlight gift items. Think of which products would truly make great gifts, and promote the gift concept like crazy. Arrange special “gift displays” or create custom branded signage to showcase gift-y items. Make sure your gifts are original and not things people could find anywhere online.

Make a day of it. This is the chance to celebrate your business for all that it is. Put up some balloons, hire a solo musician to perform live music, offer coffee, snacks and goodies–make it a party!

Grow your list. On Small Business Saturday, ask visitors to sign up for your mailing list so you can notify them of future special offers and events. Continuing to engage your customers will make sure you aren’t forgotten once Small Business Saturday comes to a close.

Online Promotions

Rally the troops. In order to maximize your reach, be sure to employ all your online platforms including email, website or blog and social media accounts.

Create specific Small Business Saturday messages. Emphasize the benefits of Small Business Saturday for your customers as well as its impact on small businesses in America.

Present a great offer. Don’t just expect consumers to visit your business on Small Business Saturday, give them a great reason to make your store a must-visit location. Compelling offers can range from free gift wrapping to stocking stuffers or a percentage off future purchases after spending a certain amount.

Trending topics. If you use Twitter and other social media, include the hashtag #SmallBusinessSaturday in your tweets and posts.

Worth a thousand words. Post photos of your best (local, unique) gift items to your Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest accounts.

Worth a thousand words II. Take photos throughout the day and post them to Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. Make sure people know you’ll be posting the pictures—that way they’ll visit and tag themselves later.

Engage your audience. Conversation is a key part of successful social media strategy, so be sure to ask questions, encourage feedback and craft messages that prompt likes, shares and retweets.

Become a movie star. Post a video on Youtube about what makes your store special. Make it fun and personal, or add a human, emotional element by sharing how pursuing your entrepreneurial dream has impacted your life.

Blast off. Send email blasts to your mailing list about Small Business Saturday and why it’s important to support local business. Be sure to send a follow-up “Thank You” email after the fact to show your appreciation.

In the run-up to Nov. 24th, your goal should be to associate your store with Small Business Saturday by reminding customers about the holiday at as many customer touchpoints as possible. According to the Small Business Saturday Consumer Spend Survey 2011, 61% of consumers plan to shop at locally-owned clothing and accessories stores on November 24, so you should think of a creative way to draw them in and return the favor.

Make sure customers have a fantastic shopping experience and then ask permission to maintain the connection via e-mail or social media. By capitalizing on Small Business Saturday, but also thinking beyond that one day (the above strategies can be customized to apply year-round), local businesses have an opportunity to develop lifetime customer relationships.

Working harder to engage your local community will help alleviate the strict dependency on tourist traffic as the sole lifeblood of your business.

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Gain Marketing Mileage from Business Milestones

Earlier this year, Oreo celebrated their 100th anniversary. To commemorate the event, they created the “Oreo Daily Twist,” – daily images featuring Oreo cookies that had been customized or modified in relation to current events happening in the world. For 100 days in a row, the images were posted on their website, Pinterest, Twitter and shared with their 27.9 million Facebook fans.

Many of the resulting images were quite brilliant, and their efforts earned Oreo an astounding amount of buzz, PR, social media activity and the highest level of brand engagement ever to be realized by a cookie. They even incurred some backlash when they posted a cookie with rainbow-colored filling in support of gay rights.

Oreo’s “Daily Twist” takes on Mars Rover landing, Gay Pride & Talk Like a Pirate Day

This promotional juggernaut did more than improve brand awareness; it altered the public perception of Oreo. This campaign turned Oreo from a cookie that’s always been around, into an important brand with a strong voice that is relevant to our times. And, while I haven’t heard the official sales results, I’m fairly certain that cookie sales did increase.

More recently, Campbell’s soup launched “The Art of Soup” celebration, marking the 50th Anniversary of Andy Warhol’s iconic artwork, 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans, in which he immortalized the product in silk-screen paintings. In honor of the event, Campbell’s deviated from their rigid red, white and gold color scheme and printed a limited-edition run of soup can labels in a plethora of pop palettes that would make Andy proud.

The back of the can features the story of the promotion along with a photo of Warhol, his signature and one of his many famous pithy quotes. The clever part is this: Campbell’s then turns the context of Warhol’s quote into a call to action to follow the brand on Facebook and visit the website. This one essential addition is what encourages passive bystanders to become active brand ambassadors.

The Campbell’s ‘Art of Soup’ Campaign Resulted In:

Increased Awareness – Art fans were more than happy to educate their pop-culture-challenged brethren who thought Campbell’s was simply sprucing up their cans with “pretty colors” for soup season.

Social Engagement – You better believe the aforementioned call to action on the cans drove plenty of people online to connect on Facebook and learn more about The Art of Soup.

Massive Word of Mouth – People were actually talking about Campbell’s soup again for the first time since, well, 1962, when Warhol’s prints were created! I’ve been hearing lots of buzz about this promotion from media outlets, from my extended social circle, and–as a pop art fanatic–I’ve even been doing my own part to engage, comment and post about this milestone.

Increased Sales–From the soup fans who simply enjoy the colorful cans, to the Warhol fans who make a pilgrimage to their local Target stores (my girlfriend drove an hour both ways to buy me a stash as a gift), Campbell’s has surely moved some units by capitalizing on this important milestone in their brand’s history.

So, how does all this apply to your small business? By illustrating that you can use business milestones as a theme for a creative promotional campaign that will benefit you in the ways mentioned above. Don’t bother trotting out the excuse that you don’t have a Campbell’s-size marketing budget. Get creative, think outside the box, go beyond a simple sale and do something special that will build awareness, drive traffic, increase sales and be newsworthy enough to earn PR – even if you have to write the press release and submit it yourself.

Are you approaching 10,000 customers? How about 1,000? Has your business just passed its 5- or 10-year mark? Have you won an award lately? Are you launching a new product? Have you landed a new client or partner? Did you make a new hire recently? Have you extended your hours, rebranded your company, or launched a new website? Heck, maybe you even had to fire one of your biggest clients! Think of a clever way to mark(et) your business milestone.

Facebook just hit their “1-billion users” milestone and I’ve been hearing about it across the web all week. You may not have the resources of The Zuck, but with a little effort and ingenuity, I’m certain you can unearth several potential business milestones around which to create a newsworthy event, offer, campaign or promotion that will intrigue and excite your audience and earn your company some marketing mileage.

YOUR TURN: What milestones can you think of celebrating for your business?

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Hook Seasonal Customers Year-Round With Marketing Trident

I live and work in a small, mountain community in Northern California. Every summer, Mount Shasta is inundated with tourists, travelers and visitors who come to experience the bounty of our picturesque region. Winters can also be a big draw for the sporty folks who enjoy coming to play on the mountain, but inconsistent weather patterns have put a damper on our winter tourist season of late.

Suffice to say, many of the clients I serve through BAM! Small Biz Consulting have a customer base that ebbs and flows according to the season. These small business owners are experiencing their busiest time right now, which is great! However, I can practically sense their anxiety as the summer winds down and our little mountain town faces the promise of another long, cold winter ahead.

If you run a seasonal business, how can you even out the typical high/low, feast-or-famine volume of seasonal traffic? The ideal solution includes a three-pronged marketing plan that allows you to continue engaging your audience after they’ve come and gone.

The three essential prongs of your marketing trident include:

  • E-commerce Website
  • Email Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing

The trick is that you must use all these tools together in a consistent and strategic way. Sorry to say, but simply creating a Facebook page doesn’t quite qualify as a “social media strategy.”

Let’s look at each of the tools and how they work together.

1) E-commerce Website 

If your customers have to physically be in your store to make a purchase, you are severely limiting your sales opportunities. Allowing customers to shop your products online opens up an entire new stream of revenue that doesn’t exist otherwise.

While e-commerce works best with retail establishments who can ship their product across the country, this still applies if you’re running a service business like a Bed & Breakfast, Mountain Guide Service or Fly Fishing Tours. In that case, you’ll want an online presence that allows prospects and customers to book rooms and tours online. You could also get creative and include the option to purchase customized souvenirs, memorabilia or maps of the area from your website.

E-commerce websites require an investment that’s more than a typical website, but it is an investment that will pay off over time as your audience becomes aware of your online shopping capabilities. Once you do offer online shopping, it is your responsibility to let people know it’s there. Your e-commerce site should be considered your online hub and every other marketing tool utilized should actively drive your audience back to your site. That’s where the next two tools come in.

2) Email Marketing

With fresh and exciting social platforms like Pinterest and Instagram earning all the attention recently, it may be tempting to dismiss stalwart tools like email marketing despite their proven track record. That would be a mistake.

“I’ve been hearing email pronounced dead every year for the last 20 years, but every year its performance stays strong. Email will continue to thrive so long as marketers strive for integration with other channels and a better understanding of the data points. They can effectively message the consumer with the things they care about in the manner and time they expect to be messaged.” –Ed Kats, President, MediaWhiz

Using a robust, user-friendly email marketing solution – not just firing off plain text emails from your Yahoo! account – is still a great way to communicate with your audience and drive them to your site.

As a seasonal business, you need to focus on growing your list while the traffic is high so you can keep in contact during the off-season. Continue to send timely, relevant promotions and communications over the course of the year so you are top of mind when your customer is ready to buy. Be sure to include a strong call to action in your newsletters and announcements that will drive readers back to your site. The more time customers spend on your site, the more likely they are to make a purchase.

3) Social Media 

Your social strategy could include a presence on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google Plus, the aforementioned Pinterest and possibly niche sites that appeal to your target audience such as CafeMom.

“Social media is not a fad. It is a powerful, global communication revolution that requires new approaches for all businesses.” –Robert Safian, Editor, FastCompany

Everyone says that social media is free, which is not quite true. While there’s no cost to set up profiles on the various networks, you still need to spend time building relationships and engaging your audience on whatever platforms you are using–and, as an entrepreneur, your time is valuable. Therefore it’s important to have some sort of strategy so you’re not simply getting stuck in the time-sucking vortex of inane posts that can exist on any platform.

Sticking to our theme of engaging your seasonal visitors, you want to post a balanced mixture of promotional posts – new products, contests, sales, or exclusive deals – that will drive traffic to your website, and personalized posts that allow your audience to glimpse the human element existing behind the brand.

While there are surely additional marketing tools you could employ
 to stay connected with your seasonal customers throughout the year, the three-pronged marketing trident outlined here includes proven, effective and familiar platforms that will help you build and maintain ongoing relationships with your audience during every season.

Then, should your visitors return to your area in the future, they will surely make it a point to visit your business again and again.

How are you building relationships with your seasonal customers?

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How to Create a True Brand Experience

Back in June, when all the schools were letting out, an English teacher in Boston created quite a buzz for his commencement speech in which he blithely informed all the graduates, “You are not special.”

His point was that if everyone is special, than no one is special. However, if everyone is starting on the same level playing field, then everyone has an equal opportunity to rise above the pack based on the intensity of his or her efforts.

I believe this applies to small business owners as well. Let’s face it, the majority of shopping activities and brand interactions we encounter on a daily basis are rather un-special indeed. In fact, most businesses operate purely in Perfunctory Mode, with the seemingly sole objective of completing commercial transactions, thank-you-come-again.

Most of the time, this is acceptable. After all, I don’t necessarily want strobe lights, flashpots and dancing girls every time I duck into the grocery store for a quart of milk. However, other times I’m aching for more than just a business transaction; more than just an exchange of my cash for their product. Sometimes, it’s nice to be surprised, excited, shocked, wowed, inspired or impressed by a memorable experience.

Before you dismiss this as dramatic hyperbole, ask yourself this, “When was the last time I was truly surprised by a company?” As a consumer, how often are you roused from your weary, robotic trundle long enough to actually notice an unexpected detail, a memorable moment, or an innovative idea in action? More than likely, the answer is, “Not often enough.”

I lived in five states and three different countries before the age of 18. Suffice to say, I’ve done my fair share of air travel. Yet, when I stepped onto a Virgin America airplane for the first time in 2008, I was blown away. It felt like a traveling nightclub. My inner Austin Powers was immediately engaged, and it was all I could do to suppress my urge to shout, “Yeah, Baby, yeah!” throughout the duration of the three-hour flight.

You may not have the resources–or the cheeky élan–of Richard Branson,
 but as a business owner, it’s your job to create that elusive experience for your customers. The question is, “How can this be done?”

Some areas in which to apply your own creative solutions:

Atmosphere – People love the feeling of being transported to another time or place, if only for the brief moment they’re in your space. Sights, sounds and smells all contribute to the atmosphere of any given location. Go beyond the basics to create a unique in-store atmosphere that aligns with your business concept, name or category.

Quality – In our Made-In-China society, it’s pretty rare that we buy something that doesn’t disintegrate inside of a month. When people actually do discover a quality product, they stick with it and become vocal brand ambassadors. Pursue quality at every turn, and you will amass a loyal audience.

Efficiency – Creating a leisurely atmosphere is great, but sometimes it’s about moving bodies through the door as quickly as possible. This, too, can create a favorable experience. After all, if your checkout process is redolent of the DMV’s waiting room, it’s time to iterate.

Organization – I went to a newly opened restaurant recently and the disorganized, poorly-trained staff fumbled about haphazardly as if still trying to establish a process. People have enough stress in their daily existence, and if your company’s product, service or in-store experience injects a little organization into your customer’s lives, they will love you for it.

Attitude – Have you ever been in a foul mood, only to be elevated by an encounter with someone whose attitude was positively infectious? They say that attitude is everything, and while that may be an overstatement, I know for a fact that in a world of impatient idiots, ego-centric clowns and vitriolic trolls, a positive attitude can go a long way.

Your company’s brand is comprised of all the mental perceptions floating about in the collective consciousness of your customer base. Therefore, any and every chance that you have to positively influence those perceptions is going to help you create a stronger, more meaningful brand.

With so many of your competitors gliding comfortably along on cruise control, what would it take for your company to fire up the rocket boosters and leave those Sunday drivers in a cloud of turbo-scented dust? Gather your staff, pull out your Thinking Caps and brainstorm on ways that you can improve the brand experience for your customers.

You might improve simple details,
 you might pursue grandiose innovations, but however you choose to actively rise above the perfunctory pack, your actions and investments will surely pay off in improved customer satisfaction, increased word of mouth and stronger brand loyalty. Hey, maybe you ARE special after all.

How does YOUR company create a Brand Experience for your customers?

Posted in Branding Marketing by Bam. No Comments