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Argh … I think I heard Charlie Brown say something as Lucy pulled the Small Business Saturday doormat from under his feet! Was Small Business Saturday a success? The National Federation of Independent Businesses, or NFIB, reports a success with consumers having spent $5.5 billion this past Saturday! Or, could it have been a bigger one that helped launch the beginning to a great 2013? I think some small business owners missed an opportunity today at Small Business Saturday. Yes, many small businesses saw a bump in sales thanks to American Express’ $25 credit (a great boon to shoppers). My take-away from my Saturday shopping adventure in the wonderful Main Street America location, Media, PA, was that some small business owners are not equipped to help themselves to compete against the big brands! I think that many looked at the great #SmallBizSat event as only a way to get people through the door vs. being a springboard to starting a ‘relationship’ and driving repeat sales. My observation is not an indictment, rather, a challenge to think of the big picture! If you are a small business owner, then you should embrace the day and use it as a kick-start for the holidays AND the year ahead! The NFIB reports that 36% of independent business owners consider that Small Business Saturday is the most important shopping day of the year compared to 24% saying that Black Friday holds that classification.

So, more about my shopping adventure today. I took a ride on the “Small Business Saturday (American) Express” today to Media, PA – literally a train from Drexel Hill to Media! While others visited the big box stores in King of Prussia stores and others visited the Delaware malls that did not support the local Delaware County economy in any way I ate and shopped at six small businesses today! And, it was Small Business Saturday event that motivated me! It was a great experience. I was motivated by the $25 credit, however, I trialed (e.g., Reconsidered Home -  nice!) a few stores and spent some cash in a few others (e.g., Local Home & Gifts), so Small Business Saturday lit my fire!

 

However, I am dismayed with the amount of small businesses who did not truly embrace this opportunity that American Express teed up for them. This was the event that should have kicked off Q4 and Q1 for every store owner. This event was so much more than some window flyers, QR code stickers and cool doormats. These were great tools to help the small business owner focus to get customers to buy more, buy more often and visit again soon! From under-trained staff to a lack of a bounce-back strategy there were many missed opportunities I saw today:

Staff Knowledge. Most staff at the six stores I visited did NOT know about the day or how to to explain how the credit worked (e.g., “Are you part of Small Business Saturday?”  I always recommend to small business owners that they train their staff on all frequently asked questions, or at least put this information in the “daily sheet” to be distributed on site or via email. (What you don’t have a daily sheet in place to train and inform your staff?)

 

Staff Customer Service. Small Business Saturday is the new Black Friday for small business owners! Every small business would benefit if each team member was trained on at least two phrases that welcome customers to the store (e.g., “Welcome to Quotations and Thanks For Stopping By On Small Business Saturday”) and when they leave (e.g., “Thank you for stopping by. Please follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/EarthAndState for new gift ideas”) Each team member is the face of every small business, so take advantage of each opportunity!

No Bounce Back Strategy. Only one store I visited (i.e., Earth And State) used a strategy to get me to return to make another purchase within ten days. This strategy was perfect!  They were one of the few businesses who seemed to understand the potential of new customers … get them to come back again soon! Every store needs to consider should a similar strategy to maximize the RFM – recency, frequency, money model. It’s a great way to maximize a day like Small Business Saturday!

Not Leveraging Social Media. Social media is the new language of the customer and it appears that many small business owners do not want to embrace it, event with the big brands looking to spend more on social media marketing in local neighborhoods in 2013. Not one store that I visited had a clear path to engage with them on social media, whether it was Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare. Customers are using social media as their new buying process language! In fact,  I checked in on Foursquare on every store and there was no mention that they were a Small Business Saturday participant (missed opportunity!) In fact, one business had a Facebook call out on their web page … and it linked to a developer page and NOT their own Facebook page.

If you have a question about each of these four observations please leave a comment on this post!

Some other related posts that you might find useful are:

 

So, Mr. Small Business Owner, I am your greatest fan! Don’t miss the opportunity to start to build a long-term relationship with your customers during a pack-them-in-the-store day like American Express’ Small Business Saturday! Instead of feeling like the mat was pulled out from under you when customers don’t return, use that mat to keep on welcoming back your customers time and time again!

 

Gerry Moran

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