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It’s hard for small businesses to compete with the big ones. But that’s why it’s Small Business Saturday.
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American Express founded Small Business Saturday in 2010, giving small businesses and brick-and-mortar stores across the country a special boost and a way to grab the attention of shoppers between Black Friday and Cyber Monday (Small Business Saturday will be held on Saturday, November 25, 2010 this year).
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Since its inception, it has been a powerful opportunity to reconnect with customers and increase sales. Last year, 112 million shoppers participated and spent more than $15 billion.
With the big day just around the corner, it’s important to make the most of this special sales event. Think strategically and find methods that will hopefully help you strengthen your relationships and business throughout the year. Here are 21 small business Saturday ideas to get you started.
Don’t forget the easy stuff. Make sure your address and contact details are correct on your website and all social media profiles. You’d be surprised how many small businesses forget to update all their accounts as their business grows, and busy shoppers may not know you’ve opened a new location or have new hours.
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And while you’re at it, browse your site as if you were a customer, making sure all promotions are clearly visible and the checkout process works properly. You should run these checks regularly, and an annual holiday sale like Small Business Saturday is as good an incentive as any.
American Express does the hard work for you by offering free signage, email templates, web badges, posters and other marketing materials that will make your business stand out. There is still time to download many of these materials and have them ready for your needs in minutes. Next year, see if you’re eligible to order a full set of materials (you can even access the initiative’s Little Shop map).
If you normally close at 5pm. on Saturdays consider staying open until 8pm or 9pm. Check out tonight’s events in your city and plan accordingly to make the most of your foot traffic, suggests marketing software company Vertical Response. And if you change the time of the shopping event, let shoppers know on social media and on your website.
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Train your staff to make a good impression. Your ability to engage with customers and create more personalized experiences can help set you apart from the competition. According to a 2016 study, even though people are still shopping online, nothing beats in-store shopping, so make sure yours is memorable. Analyze the scenarios your store might encounter on a busy weekend and give your employees the tools they need and the words to say to troubleshoot and help customers who may not have visited your store in a while.
Give people a reason to come to your store or events. Last year, shoppers in Oakland County, Michigan had a chance to win $5,000 with a special promotion that allows shoppers to submit photos of their receipts. Consider your own in-store incentives, such as raffles, collecting contact information for upcoming events and promotions throughout the year.
You might be tempted to drop prices “Black Friday-style,” but don’t. Doorbusters may work for big retailers like Walmart and Target, but that doesn’t mean your small business has to do the same. Marcus Lemonis, host of CNBC’s The Profit, advises small businesses to stay away from deep Black Friday-style discounts. Instead, remember that your market is coming to you for another reason: to support local businesses.
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Collaborate with neighboring stores to give shoppers more reasons to visit. In South Dakota, downtown Sioux Falls offers a variety of deals, giveaways and activities throughout the city. Last year, shoppers enjoyed free espressos and a special art market, encouraging shoppers to spend the day at the sale and exploring downtown.
By teaming up with other retailers, you’re likely to get a free city-wide promotion, just register as a participating business. Find out what your local community has planned and be a part of it. These relationships can help you throughout the year.
In 2015, then-President Barack Obama hit the local bookstore for a small business Saturday and even shopped at a local soda shop in our nation’s capital. While not every store can invite the president to their store, consider inviting other local officials who can make your store an impromptu photo opportunity. (Elected officials from all 50 states fought for the day last year, so you’ve got a prime audience.) Plus, don’t forget other local celebrities, including local authors, creators and even contest winners , who may be flattered and excited to stop by if you make them feel welcome and special.
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Americans love to support small businesses, and some have even created online communities to help promote Small Business Saturday. Go to meetup.com and search for terms like “small business meetup groups” and “small business Saturday groups” in your area. It’s free, so join to connect your name and company with motivated and enthusiastic people.
Small Business Saturday is a community event, so try to celebrate other small businesses participating in Shopping Day. Retweeting them and sharing their social content is a great way to show your support. Chances are they’ll return the favor too.
Customers love to know where their money is going, especially if it’s for a good cause. Bubbly Paws, a Minnesota dog grooming and retail outlet, had a very successful 2015 Small Business Saturday, in part due to promotions and partnerships with other local stores, but also because it donated a portion of its sales to a local dog charity. The company saw a significant increase in sales and said customers were motivated to buy and happy to know their money was going to help dogs in need as well as their communities.
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Even if you have a product or service that doesn’t necessarily fall into the “Christmas Shopping” category, don’t wait. In Staten Island, even exterminators use Big Shopping Day to offer discounts and promotions. By joining the shopping event, businesses can take advantage of free online and local media marketing.
Tell your store’s story on social media. Document your preparations for the big day and get your clients cheering you on. Take photos of your displays to whet your appetite, and on Saturday, share photos of your fastest-selling items and how excited your store customers are.
Also, don’t forget to add event-related hashtags to your posts: #SmallBizSat, #ShopSmall, and #SmallBusinessSaturday. In 2016, there were nearly 250,000 social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that used the hashtags #ShopSmall, #SmallBizSat, and/or #DineSmall, and more than 150,000 were posted on November 26 alone, so make sure you’re part of those conversations and those searches at the end of the day.
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Go Digital Marketing advises small businesses to update their PPC (pay per click) keywords to ensure their business name is at the top of customer searches. Change your keywords to reflect your current offers and promotions, as well as your location.
To encourage customers to spread the word about your small business to their friends, ask them to sign up via social media. Offer discounts or promotions to those who prove they’ve registered with a platform like FourSquare, Yelp, or Facebook. A 2015 Nielsen study found that 83% of people surveyed trust their friends’ recommendations.
Ask customers to take photos of themselves spending a Saturday at a small business and ask them to post the photos on their social accounts and tag your store. To keep the Small Business Saturday momentum going, pick the most creative, funniest or favorite photos to then win a special prize, a prize winners can only win if they return to your store later during the holiday season.
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According to a study by Kissmetrics, 78 percent of mobile searches for information about local businesses result in a purchase. That said, make sure your website is mobile friendly so that Saturday shoppers who can’t make it to the physical store can purchase your products on their smartphone.
Kick off your shopping day with the launch party. Invite VIP customers and even local notables to your store with snacks, drinks and a special discount or gift to show your customers that they are special and make their day.
Do some business on Saturday and adventure. Cities from Anchorage, Alaska to Fruita, Colorado held scavenger hunts last year, encouraging people to celebrate their cities and shop as they went. Scavenging can encourage customers to explore their cities and discover stores like yours.
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Combine Small Business Saturday with other holiday events happening in your city. This year, Boulder, Colorado will host carolers and offer Snowflake Express rides
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