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November 3, 2016
Advertising  |  9 min read

Last Minute Small Business Saturday Promotion Tips

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Ben Snedeker

Can you believe it’s November, already?

To be honest, we’re all pretty surprised about that, too. It seems like the rush into the end of the year gets more intense every year. Even when you’re prepared, the pace always picks up at the end of the year. You’re trying to meet your annual sales goals, the mad holiday rush, and of course, the work-life balance craziness.

Smack dab in the middle of the season is one very special day set aside exclusively for small businesses: Small Business Saturday (SBS). Even though it’s a day that has consistently risen in popularity, many small businesses overlook it in the craziness of the holidays. 

We surveyed 2,000 small businesses to see what they’re doing for SBS

For us, Small Business Saturday holds a very special place in our hearts. We love to see small businesses succeed, which makes SBS a hallmark of our holiday season.

This year, we teamed up with Pollfish to survey 2,000 individuals who either own or work in small businesses around the USA to see how they approach SBS, how they prepare for the day, and how they promote their business.

  • Our biggest find: Of the small businesses that plan to promote their business for SBS overwhelmingly (70 percent) indicated that they get the highest return on investment (ROI) from digital marketing.

Infographic of types of marketing small businesses did for small business saturday

  • The next biggest find: Over 25 percent of small businesses wait until the last minute to decide on their promotion strategy for SBS.

Get the full infographic with all the data as well as marketing campaigns here

With this in mind, we’ve put together some promotion ideas that small businesses have reported provide the most benefit and that can be put together at the last minute.

Plan the campaign

While Small Business Saturday tends to benefit retail and foodservice businesses the most, many businesses in other verticals have capitalized on the momentum of SBS and the Shop Small concept. Digital marketing makes this possible.

One of the most powerful digital marketing tools for Small Business Saturday is email marketing. With email marketing, you can leverage SBS to build a campaign that works the best for your objectives.

Infographic of small business saturday promotion types

In our research, we found that the most common campaigns that business use for SBS and can be quick to put together:

  • Buy-One-Get-One (BOGO): Pay full price for one thing, and get the second one free or at a steep discount
  • Coupon/Promo Code: Redeem a coupon or promotional code at checkout. Limits the number of people who can cash in on your sale.
  • Limited Time Offer: A sale that lasts for a specific period of time. Creates urgency.
  • Free Gift Offer: When you offer a free gift for purchases of a certain amount you provide a great incentive for upselling your customers.

 Get marketing campaigns pre-packaged here

Each of these campaigns achieves different objectives, and you can create a promotion around one idea or combine them. These kinds of promotions work well either to drive traffic to an online storefront or to a brick and mortar location.

While retail businesses tend to benefit the most from these kinds of promotions, businesses that provide services can gain from them, too. For example, a cleaning service could use a coupon for a discounted post-holiday party cleaning. The terms of the discount could require the customer to purchase on SBS and use the service before January 31.

Consider your objectives for SBS as you choose the promotion. If you have a brick and mortar, a coupon is a powerful way to drive traffic to your store. A limited time offer, however, can work well for driving traffic to your website, especially if the offer ends at midnight when your physical store may be closed.

For whichever promotion you choose, be sure to emphasize that you’re a small business. You can continue to play on the sympathy people have for supporting small businesses throughout your other holiday promotions, as well. You can download and incorporate the Shop Small logo on your emails to identify as part of the Shop Small movement.

Segment the list 

Once you have your promotion thought out, you’ll need to promote it on your list.

Most importantly, you’ll want to consider who should get the announcement. You could send a single promotional message to everyone on your list, which is the easiest and simplest way to promote your sale.

But what if you could do more to increase the number of people who respond to your promotion? The way to do that is to give them something most in line with what they like.

For this, you’ll need to segment your list, which means simply to identify chunks of people on your list who share common affinities. Then you can shape your email to them based on those affinities. All of a sudden, the message is more relevant to them, and they’ll be more likely to consider what you have to offer.

Here are some handy ways to segment for Small Business Saturday:

  • Purchase history: Have they purchased one type of product or service from you? Perhaps SBS is a good time to offer them a coupon for an upsell or complementary product.
  • Male/Female: If your business has gender-specific products, you can use segmentation to personalize the promotional emails. For example, you can include featured products that target the specific gender you’ve segmented.
  • Geographic location: If you have multiple locations, you can suggest the nearest location to your recipient to help them get to your store quickly or aid them as they plan their shopping route for SBS.
  • Weather: As you get closer to Small Business Saturday, and the holidays generally, weather plays a distinct role in how people experience this time of year. If some of your list is in colder climates, like Chicago, they could have a different response to your offer than people in warmer climates, like San Diego. You may be able to optimize your holiday offer by keeping the weather in mind.

The more you know about your list, the more power you have to shape your offer for the people who will get your email and increase the likelihood that they’ll respond.

Announce and follow up

Once you’ve got your segments identified, you’ll need to plan your email schedule and compose the emails.

Your objective is to get your list thinking about the sale you’re running on Small Business Saturday. To do that you’ve got to announce the email early on and then follow up over the days leading up to the sale. You don’t want to flood your recipients’ inboxes with email, though. Try to keep your follow-ups to no more than one per day.

Keep in mind: Thanksgiving and Black Friday are in there. If your list is in the USA, consider when your list will be most likely to read an email on those days. 

Now that you know your schedule, you can compose the emails. Here are some things to keep in mind as you write:

  • Use great subject lines. The best subject lines invite curiosity while making it clear that you’re running a sale. Don’t use the same subject line twice in the campaign.
  • Stay on task. Don’t use the email as an opportunity to update your list on other news or offers. To be most effective, stick to a single message: your sale.
  • Remember your segments. Keep in mind why you segmented your list and write accordingly.
  • Shorter is better. Get right to the point and provide all the necessary details.

Small business Saturday is one special day you don’t want to miss on the holidays

Small Business Saturday has a unique place in the holiday season. It’s as much about inviting consumers to shop at local small businesses on one Saturday in November, as it is about raising awareness to consumers that small businesses are competing during the entire holiday season.

This storyline implies something great for your small business. On SBS, shoppers are looking to patronize small businesses, but it means they actually care about small businesses and want to support them. Use this to your advantage as you prepare for Small Business Saturday and the rest of your holiday planning, too.

A free marketing toolkit you can use immediately.

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