Can you feel them? The two days of frantic shoppers, insane crowds, and congested traffic? We are now into November, and very soon Black Friday and Cyber Monday will once again descend upon us, sending people into holiday shopping-induced insanity.
Unfortunately, many small businesses are often passed over by eager shoppers looking for the best deal. The two biggest shopping holidays of the year benefit big box stores and huge internet-based companies way more than they help community storefronts or smaller online outlets.
Luckily, there are still several ways that small businesses can get in on November's shopping frenzy.
Coordinate with Other Small Business Owners
People, by and large, do like supporting the small businesses that make up their community. However, it can be difficult to pass up the convenience that department stores offer their shoppers, and there isn’t much a small business can do to compete with a place that sells meat and produce ten feet from where it sells jeans and electronics.
To try and offer the same type of convenient shopping, network with other small business owners and your local chamber of commerce. Draw up a map showing where shoppers can take advantage of small businesses that are offering holiday sales and discounts, and work together to spread the word. Chances are your city will even get in on plugging a local shopping network – buying local generates keeps way more money in the surrounding area since the owners of the shops and stores usually live in the same places they do business.
Push, Push, Push!
You definitely don’t have the budget to run the same amount of commercials and ads that department stores flood the airwaves with near the end of November. But you do have an online storefront, local radio stations, and blogs, and customers that you actually talk to, rather than simply take money from. Use all of these to your advantage – get the word out about buying local and create a sense of community that doing so inspires. The one thing that megastores have trouble doing is convincing the surrounding area that they are part of that community because most of the time they aren’t even based in the same state. That sense of personality is what will convince customers to support your store, even if your prices aren’t low enough to start a riot.
And smaller online businesses can get in on this too – use your homepage, your social media accounts, and your locality to advertise your end of November sales. Talk to your neighbors, your community, and ask them to check out your website before clicking over to GiganticMegaStore.com.
Be a Part of Small Business Saturday
American Express has an awesome program called ‘Small Business Saturday’ that they started in 2010. Small Business Saturday is held on the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and is meant to channel customers to the smaller businesses and shops in their town. And AmEx offers a wealth of resources to small businesses that take part. Free advertising is open to qualifying small businesses – whether they are brick and mortar, or run an online storefront. They also put out a map with all of the small businesses participating in the program in a particular area. Last year, over one hundred million people shopped locally on Small Business Saturday thanks the AmEx’s campaign. With a wealth of free resources, it is definitely worth checking out for your startup.
If a community rallies together and makes a concerted effort to help support its local businesses, smaller shops can really benefit from something that typically only helps department stores that take business away from Main Street. But it is up to the owners of these small businesses to get together to take advantage of every resource available to them. You probably won’t have people camping outside of your store on Thanksgiving Day, but you will be able to keep some of that holiday spending and community cheer that comes from it locally.
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Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. You can follow her and MyCorp on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.