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Use technology to promote ‘Small Business Saturday’

By Mariah Smith
Extension Center for Technology Outreach

Smith click to enlarge

With Thanksgiving upon us, that means Black Friday chaos is soon to follow. Big box stores are chasing every dollar, and many are even choosing to open on Thanksgiving rather than wait until Friday’s wee morning hours.

There is another option to consider if you are looking to save money this holiday season, and this option will help your local economy. Many businesses take part in a national event known as Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday is sponsored by American Express (http://tinyurl.com/saturdaybusiness), which offers a website for listing your small business as well as free online advertising and marketing materials that can be downloaded. For many customers, Small Business Saturday offers a welcome change of pace from the frantic derby of Black Friday.

If you are a small business owner looking to capitalize on Saturday sales, there are several ways you can use technology to help. First, be sure to update your Facebook and Twitter pages. Is there an event, activity or new shipment you can spotlight?

Perhaps there is an easy holiday recipe or craft customers can learn to make as they shop (of course, you just happen to have all of the necessary items available for sale in your shop). Be sure to include photos of customers using your products so potential buyers can visualize themselves using them as well. Pictures of your immaculate displays are lovely, but if I don’t think I can put it together myself, I will walk right on by it. Showcase your local customers using your store to enrich their lives. Be sure your customers know you are a big part of the community.

Once you have posted an event or activity to pique customer interest, sweeten the deal by offering a discount on your social media sites. It could be a secret word or code that only your social media customers know. Or, use software such as Woobox to generate coupons that can be uploaded to Facebook or websites.

Next, make sure you list your business on websites such as Foursquare.com, Yelp.com or the American Express small business “where to shop” map. These sites help people (or spouses) figure out where to go to find you. Many locally owned businesses are known for their customer service and for keeping cards on file of a customer’s preferences or wish list.

Create a husband- or wife-only shopping day and email each spouse a list of what’s on his or her loved one’s wish list.

When it comes to shopping for the men in my life, I know it should come with shotgun shells or be electronic or camouflage. If I got an email from the local sporting goods store with a list of their desired items, I would be thrilled. I could simply walk in, plunk the list down on the store counter and tell them to start wrapping. As it is now, I walk in and tell the poor clerk that I need something in an ammunition shell size. For some reason, they invariably ask what size of shell, and I in turn stare at them blankly until we find something that looks like something I’ve seen laying around the house before.

This holiday season, don’t forget most customers are using their smartphones to find you. Be sure that your website is smartphone friendly and that customers can easily get updates directly to their phone via Facebook, Twitter or text message.

As Small Business Saturday catches on, I predict local businesses and their customers will find it much more rewarding than the craziness that Black Friday has become.

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Released: November 15, 2012
Contact: Mariah Smith, (662) 325-3226

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