It’s that time of year again – the weather is cooling, the leaves are changing colors, holiday decorations are coming out, and #ShopSmall campaigns are beginning to surface. For those of you unfamiliar with this 7-year trend, Small Business Saturday is on November 26, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and is an event sponsored by American Express to get shoppers to support their local small businesses. When you register yourself as a Neighborhood Champion, you will receive a box of goodies to share with the participating small businesses to advertise the day. These goodies range from a sign to place in your downtown area, flyers, pens, pins, stickers, wall decors, and, my personal favorite, dog bandanas.
There are many different activities that you can do to create awareness and hype within your community. As an economic developer, I utilized the Passport activity. On their website, American Express provides these blank “passports” with 8-10 blank boxes on them. You can print them out and disperse them among participating small businesses to hand out to customers that day. Every time that a shopper purchased something at a participating small business, they were given a sticker or stamp to fill one of the boxes on their passport. Shoppers who visited enough businesses to fill up their passport with stickers were entered into a special drawing and won prizes from the businesses. For those of you more adventurous, creating a scavenger hunt that leads people to the different businesses can be a fun activity for your community.
It is surprisingly easy to get your small businesses on board to participate. All you need to do is stop in and visit your small businesses (good for BRE) and have a conversation with them about the program and if they would like to participate. I found that more small businesses wanted to take part in the day than not. The most challenging aspect of the day is creating awareness in your community to get shoppers out on the streets. I would start with a Facebook advertisement saying to #shopsmall in your community – have the ad take viewers to a landing page with participating local businesses so they are aware of where to go on the day. Place advertisements in the local news outlets, your Chambers, young professionals groups, and Masonic Lodge, Rotary, Lions, and AMBUCS groups. One activity that was successful to me was meeting with our regional Small Business Administrator a couple of weeks before the day. We grabbed lunch at a participating small business and had different news outlets attend to interview us so that, together, we could get the word out. You can also create social media posts to highlight a different participating small business every day in November – tag the business in the post so that you reach their followers as well. One of the most effective activities, though, is having your small businesses advertise the day through all of their customers and to create a strong online presence. Encourage your businesses not to to “direct sell” activities, but to create content – anything that picks at people’s interests and is a “soft sell” to get people to want to see the product with their own eyes.
Here are some helpful resources to get those creative juices flowing: