Ever since Small Business Saturday (SBS) was introduced in 2010 to help drive holiday shoppers to local merchants, it has continued to grow in popularity among both retailers and consumers. Early predictions estimate that this year will eclipse the 100 million Americans who shopped at local merchants on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2011.
But so much attention on one day presents a marketing conundrum for small business owners.
On one hand, you have a nationwide push to help small retailers attract holiday shoppers. On the other hand, with so many local businesses and big box retailers competing for the same consumer dollars over the weekend, it can be challenging to get new and returning customers to your door.
Here are five ways you can get your local business to rise above the noise, attract customers, and set the foundation for turning those holiday shoppers into steady customers throughout the year.
1. Pay attention to search engines
On their computers and mobile devices, consumers are searching for the place that best suits their shopping needs. To help your business land higher in search engine results, be very specific about what you sell when you describe it online and use words your customers would use, not insider terms or marketing jargon.
Regularly refresh your content to include SBS and your specials. Just as customers will be on the lookout for great deals, the search engines will be on the hunt for fresh online content. There are also tools that allow you to update your digital storefront, which includes product listings, and help you publish your holiday hours and specials on a wide array of search engines all from one place. However, don’t go overboard trying to game the system. Over-optimized Websites that are stuffed with keywords in an effort to rank higher in search engines are often pushed to the bottom of search results.
2. Be smart about smartphones
More and more, consumers rely on their smartphones when shopping to find what they are looking for and double-check to see whether they’re getting the best deals. It’s important to make sure that your listings and hours are up to date on popular mobile apps like Foursquare, Yellow Pages, and Google. Equally important, make sure that your website is optimized for mobile viewing so people can read about your business without scrolling too much and having to zoom way in.
3. Maximize and customize your online presence
Odds are you’re using several different marketing channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, email newsletters, and blogs. For successful cross-platform marketing, make sure your messages reflect the tone of each social media vehicle rather than posting identical messages across all the different networks.
You’ll see better results if you spend just a little bit of extra time customizing messages, personalizing when possible, and providing informative tips along with your SBS specials. Remember to join the conversations and offer your expertise as opposed to solely posting promotional information.
4. Provide extra reasons to shop on SBS
Consider hosting a charity event or running a promotion that gives a percentage of goods purchased on SBS to a nonprofit. You could also consider offering a free gift or service, such as a cup of cocoa, gift wrapping, or a massage, using a limited-time check-in or local deal.
5. Update your profile on travel sites and city guides
When the busiest travel weekend coincides with the busiest shopping weekend, you have to be sure you’re on the list of local hot spots as visitors map out their weekend plans. When they’re shopping, engage them so you can keep up with the conversation through email or social media after the holidays.
Using the recommendations listed above, as well as the free marketing resources for SBS, you’ll be able to seize more opportunities this November 24.
Wiley Cerilli is vice president and general manager of SinglePlatform at Constant Contact, based in Waltham, Mass., which provides online marketing services primarily to nonprofit organizations and small businesses.