Back in 2010, American Express designated the Saturday after Thanksgiving as  Small Business Saturday® to encourage people to “Shop Small,” or to support local businesses between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  

If you’re a small business owner, you’re hoping for an increase in foot traffic to your brick and mortar stores on Small Business Saturday—you want to bring in new customers, as well as your loyal regulars. It’s a real opportunity for you to connect with a different, new customer base. That’s great! 

New customers are always welcome and appreciated. It’s even better if you can get them to come back again, especially if you’re able to maintain the same great level of service they experienced during their first visit.

The good news is that there are some small, high-impact things you can do to connect with new customers on Small Business Saturday and also shore up your relationship with your regulars. All in service of jump-starting your annual holiday sales, and laying the groundwork for the new year. Here are a few tips you may want to try:

Focus on greetings and goodbyes

Greetings and goodbyes might be the two most important service touchpoints. Your customers’ experience in between those two touch points can get complicated and messy, but if the greeting is right, it sets the customer experience up for success. It makes shoppers feel like they’re being welcomed into your home. Likewise, a friendly goodbye makes them think fondly of your business later. It makes them want to come back. 

Offer a few special touches

Plan a few “special” things throughout the day. For example, set up a refreshment table near the door. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, maybe cookies and small bottles of water. 

Hand out percent-off coupons when customers arrive. 

Hold several drawings for giveaways throughout the day. 

Think creatively: What can you do to create a fun experience and remind customers why “Shopping Small” is great for them and the community?
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Widen your reach on social media

Reach out to social media followers to invite them to come in on Saturday. Let them know you have big sales and special events going on. Encourage them to comment or share—you might enter those who do so into a drawing to win a free product or service. The more people you can get to walk through the doors, the better. A busy store makes a good impression.

Collaborate with other local businesses

Partner with (and manage up) other small businesses. For example, you might agree to give out fliers with coupons to each other’s shops. Also, promote other small businesses at checkout. “Do you have lunch plans? You should try out Mary’s Restaurant just down the street. It’s fantastic!” When people shop local, it benefits everyone in the community. Remember, a rising tide lifts all boats.

Give customers a great experience in-store

Before Saturday, give employees a quick brush-up on what great service looks like. Sometimes it can help to give them keywords to say: “Can I help you find a few other black dresses? I have time!” Or “I don’t know the answer to that but I will find out.” 

Or simply “Thank you for coming in today. We appreciate your choosing our dry cleaning services.” Coach less experienced team members on what to do or what to say in stressful moments, so it’s easier to keep their cool when it’s busy.

Recognize your regulars for their loyalty

Yes, go out of your way to thank new customers for coming in, but also let regulars know how appreciated they are. Loyal customers are worth their weight in gold. Make sure they feel like family, like they are being welcomed into your home. This can be especially impactful during the rush of the holidays when lines are long and tempers are short.

Make it personal

Make service as personal as you can. This is what small, local businesses are known for. Really talk to people. Ask questions. Try to find out what their what is (in other words, what is most important to them).

In fact, it’s a good idea to keep a record of preferences. That way the next time they come in, you can wow them by remembering that they like the peppermint hand lotion (and pointing out that you just got in a shipment of soap in the same fragrance).

Ask customers for feedback

Ask customers how you can serve them better. Is there anything you can do differently that would make them return? Anything you could carry that you don’t currently? More convenient hours? This can be an informal conversation with customers (just be sure to record their answers) or it could even be a short and sweet survey you slip into the bag with their receipt.

Be festive (but on-brand)

Make the most of the holiday season. Make sure your decorations are up by Saturday. If you are planning refreshments, maybe include a bowl of candy canes or snowman cookies. If you’re a hardware store, make a cool display out of Christmas trees, snow shovels, and other winter necessities. 

Make your business a warm, cozy spot that invites people to “come in out of the cold.” Also, you might remind employees to point out items that might make great holiday gifts.

Thank customers on social media

Take lots of pics and post them on social media the next day. Make sure your message includes a sincere “thank you” to new and loyal customers. Make it obvious how much fun people were having at your place of business. Potential customers who didn’t make it in on Saturday will see your posts and make a mental note to stop in later.

Really, Small Business Saturday shouldn’t be a dramatically different experience from any other day of the year.  Don’t overthink it. Do a few extra things to recognize the special day but make sure it feels natural and not forced. 

Remember, letting customers know we appreciate them and providing great personalized service is what all business owners should be doing all year long, every day. This is a great reminder as we kick off the holiday shopping season.

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Quint Studer

Quint Studer is author of Wall Street Journal bestseller The Busy Leader’s Handbook: How to Lead People and Places That Thrive and Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change Is Reshaping America. He is founder of Pensacola’s Studer Community Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the community’s quality of life and moving Escambia and Santa Rosa counties forward, and Vibrant Community Partners, which coaches communities in building out a blueprint for achieving growth and excellence. He is a businessman, a visionary, an entrepreneur, and a mentor to many. He currently serves as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of West Florida. For more information, please visit www.thebusyleadershandbook.com, www.vibrantcommunityblueprint.com, and www.studeri.org.