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#SmallBizSat: Boost Your Reputation and Get Customers to #ShopSmall on Small Business Saturday

In 2010, American Express conceived an idea aimed at providing marketing exposure to small brick and mortar local businesses, and a boost the Saturday after Thanksgiving. On the very first iteration of this campaign, AMEX generously gifted every American Express cardholder with a $25 credit to be spent on small businesses. The credit program was a radical success.

In the following years, AMEX had to revise their campaign to better allocate the funding in a way that helped businesses reach consumers during a season where the spotlight was mainly directed at big-box stores. If you are a small, local merchant, there are many reasons why you should seek to engage with this program. It is a means of expanding your marketing reach and leveraging the power of this national campaign to impact your sales at a local level. Let’s take a look at how Small Business Saturday can help your business more and more every year.

Small Business Saturday Has Gone Mainstream

No longer just a fad or a marketing campaign, Small Business Saturday is well received and promoted coast to coast with government officials from senators to mayors, and even President Obama promoting engagement at a local level. Purely by association, a small business can garner significant benefits in building its brand reputation by engaging in marketing campaigns that embrace Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday Gives You Free Facebook Advertising

Through a simple enrollment process, Small Business Saturday will promote your business via Facebook advertising by featuring free cross-branded ads pushed to consumers in your community. This is a fantastic way to get people in your geographical area to know about you without having to allocate budget in social advertising.

(Check out: “Managing Your Facebook Reviews: A Quick Guide for Local Business Owners”)

Small Business Saturday Gives You High-Quality Collateral

Small Business Saturday equips your small business to be part of something bigger that brings value to the community. It gives you high-quality, customized digital and offline collateral to make your small brick and mortar business visible to consumers who may want to support you. Enrolled businesses will receive a number of free, large-format, customized, printed collateral, thanks to the generous sponsorship of FedEx.

small business saturday

Small Business Saturday Brings High-Quality Customers to Your Door

Small Business Saturday is mainly marketed to American Express cardholders. Demographically, this group has significant engagement and buying power, making them ideal candidates for a long-term business relationship.

Small Business Saturday Incentivizes Customers at No Cost to You

The 2014 Small Business Saturday campaign is offering 3 x $10 credit to every American Express credit cardholder, to be used at three different qualified small businesses. A $10 credit with no minimum purchase is an incentive that will most certainly bring new customers through your doors.

Small Business Saturday Empowers Local Businesses to Build Community

Only four years young, this marketing effort has evolved into a cultural event. Local businesses are able to optimize customer engagement by customizing events specific to the preferences of their community, and combining marketing efforts with other local business.

Now, let’s take a look at a few local strategies that have successfully garnered the attention of local patrons during Small Business Saturday.

Boost Your Online Reputation with #SmallBizSat

Consider having a downtown passport: Many small towns with resurgent downtown areas have teamed up and created passport-based promos designed to create buzz, increase engagement across all stores, and give incentives especially crafted to generate future patronage. Incentives might include a coupon booklet for future use based on getting a minimum number of stamps on their passports from having visited participating stores. By issuing future discounts, every vendor sets the stage for additional business opportunities beyond Small Business Saturday sales.

Host a cocktail hour or happy hour: Restaurants participating in Small Business Saturday have fantastic opportunities to engage and get to know new customers, while providing added value to their most loyal patrons. Explore the possibility of serving an open-house style tasting menu, or having a happy hour that multiplies the value of their AMEX credit incentive.

Sign up new customers to your E-mail list: Participating businesses are likely to have increased traffic, with many new, local faces willing to give them a try, thanks to their incentive. Bank on this, and make it a point to give each visitor an opportunity to sign up to your customer list. Having a robust list can help future marketing campaigns and equip you to encourage past visitors to review your venue on websites that permit or encourage outreach such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. (Check out: “Requesting Online Reviews but Having Trouble Collecting E-mail Addresses? Here are 4 Secrets Restaurateurs Use”)

Double the deal and run your own Small Business Saturday special: Double-dipping in a deal frequently enhances the perception of value. Sweeten the pot during Small Business Saturday, and watch the reviews come in. Customers that have a sense of increased value tend to provide highly positive feedback and often become repeat customers and brand advocates.

Create a check-in-based promo using Foursquare: Since you are very likely to benefit from many new visitors trying to maximize their AMEX credit, you have a great opportunity to improve your brand presence across social channels by providing opportunities for social engagement via location-based apps. Why not roll out a Foursquare promo that enhances the possibility of securing a review via Foursquare in direct association to the promo experience?

Bring out the style: Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity to create brand awareness where it matters most. Your local customers are an integral part of the community and a great walking billboard. Why not distribute attractive style aimed at making your brand a household name with everyone in your local community? Come up with an awesome T-shirt or a unique apron design, and use this opportunity to increase brand recall.

Host a multi-shop scavenger hunt: Coming together as a community with other local businesses can help everyone generate a louder buzz. It allows everyone to leverage resources and provide a unique and memorable experience. In the past, business communities have hosted successful multi-shop scavenger hunts that incorporate social media engagement and facilitate an ongoing conversation across all small businesses in a community.

Don’t forget to join Small Business Saturday. Devise a customer-engagement plan aimed at putting your best foot forward and showing your local shoppers the best that you have to offer. With careful strategy and intentionality, you will without doubt secure new customers and generate significant buzz on review sites and social platforms.

Crystal Shuller

Crystal is the Director of Customer Happiness for ReviewTrackers. She's known around the office for E-mails that make everyone smile, and she has a bag of tricks and tips to help businesses solve their problems and delight their customers.

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