Small Business Saturday: 10 tips to boost sales this weekend

In the run up to Small Business Saturday UK this December 3, Startups explores how retailers can get involved and drive business...

Launched in the USA six years ago, Small Business Saturday (SBS) seeks to promote independent retailers in a country and encourage consumers to ‘shop small’.

Following efforts spearheaded by shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, the American Express-sponsored SBS came to the UK for the first time on December 7 2013.

In the three years since, the annual event has galvanised UK shoppers into providing independent retailers with a much-needed boost during the busy Christmas season. This success is ever-growing: during 2015’s UK SBS, shoppers spent £623m with small businesses a 24% increase on the previous year.

With support from the Federation of Small Business (FSB), the Post Office, Talk Talk Business and more, this year’s SBS will comprise a series of events championing small businesses up and down the UK, with Christmas markets, competitions and promotional events planned.

The run up to the day has seen a range of celebrations take place, including a promotional bus tour, the Small Biz 100 index and the launch of a new podcast for 2016.

This year, many new start-ups will be experiencing the event for the first time and, with an estimated 5.5 million small firms in the UK, standing out from the crowd is vital.

For independent retailers that get it right, the SBS campaign will be a chance to gain an army of new customers and could be the catalyst for the next stage of growth. Read on to find our top tips for making the most of Small Business Saturday and give your retail business some Christmas cheer…

  1. Shout about being a small businessThis one might seem obvious, but the more you remind potential customers that you are a small business, the more likely you are to capitalise on Small Business Saturday. Leverage mailing lists, social media profiles and shop space to promote your independent credentials – additionally, sign up for a free starter pack from the Small Business Saturday website which contains posters, badges and stands you can use on the day itself.
  2. Offer your deal of the year Give your customers a reason they should buy on the day by offering them a headline deal they can’t refuse. Don’t be afraid to make a small loss on an item or service if the end result is increased footfall and more potential customers. If you think your business is suited, now may even be the time to put a special Small Business Saturday offer on a daily deals site such as Groupon – but be aware that many other businesses will be using the same tactic.
  3. Let customers know about the dealIf you’ve been smart with your business practice you should already have customers on a mailing list or followers on Facebook or Twitter. Email your special offer to current contacts, post it on social media (the official Twitter hashtag is #SmallBizSatUK) and display it prominently on your business’ website. For more on using social media to market your small business, click here.
  4.  Give out freebies Tie your Small Business Saturday into the Christmas season by enticing customers with freebies and small gifts. This is especially important if you have or sell an edible product; nothing leaves a more evocative impression than taste. If what you sell is less suitable for human consumption, consider giving out branded gifts that customers will actually use; this has the dual effect of increasing goodwill towards your business and giving the recipient a constant reminder of your brand.
  5. Intrigue the mediaNews outlets and the trade press will be on the lookout for Small Business Saturday-related headlines, so think about ways you can make your business stand out through quirky and interesting promotions or business events. An example of this done well is King of Shaves’ winning bid on sprinter James Ellington who put himself up for ‘auction’ on eBay in late 2011 – this aligned the entrepreneurial business with a breaking news story and ensured both were mentioned in the same breath.
  6. Really talk to customers Small Business Saturday is no time to be shy. As a small business, your ability to connect one-on-one with customers should be one of your strengths, so talk to customers about your brand and ask for honest feedback about their experience. Not only can this help you to improve your offering in the future, it makes the customer feel valued and increases the likelihood of repeat business.
  7. Put on your best showAs well as talking to customers, try and go one step further by offering an above-and-beyond customer service experience to really make your business stand out. Even something as simple as offering a cup of tea and mince pie while they wait can make a huge difference to people’s perception of your business.
  8. Get customers onto a loyalty system If you don’t already offer a tiered loyalty system, Small Business Saturday is as good a time as ever to start. Encourage your new customers to sign up with their details when they visit you on the day by offering them immediate and tangible benefits, with further incentives spread out in the future to encourage repeat business. If you already operate a loyalty scheme, reward your existing customers.
  9. See how you can get involved Many local councils and Chambers of Commerce have planned events to tie in with Small Business Saturday. Contact your local authority to see what events are planned and how your business can get involved.
  10. Keep up the momentum – Small Business Saturday is just the beginning of the Christmas shopping period, so ensure that you create a plan to keep the momentum going and retain engagement with your customers. There are several ways to implement this which could include capturing email addresses, running newsletters post-event, using social media networks on the day to create an ongoing dialogue as well asking customers for feedback on your campaign. Be creative and don’t let your hard work go to waste.

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