Your step-by-step marketing road map to a successful Small Business Saturday

When we decided to partner with Laurel Main Street to promote Small Business Saturday we did so because we believe that small-town small businesses deserve to succeed.

But, we can’t do it without you.

Without you Small Business Saturday is just an idea. As much as we want to see the streets of Downtown Laurel full of happy shoppers and hear the ring of bells as they swing open your doors, we simply can’t make it happen alone.

If Small Business Saturday is going to be the success we know it can be, we need your help.

In the coming weeks we will be putting all of our resources to work to make this the biggest shopping event of the year. If you, and other business owners like you, make a commitment to do the same then this will be an event that folks will be talking about for months to come and it could be the turning point your business needs for long term success. Are you committed to making this happen with us?

Here’s how we can do it together.

Your 6 steps to #shopsmall success

Step 1. Create a realistic, results-driven strategy

Have you ever stared at that little post box on Facebook and wondered what you could possibly say to get people to actually take notice?

One of the questions I get most often is “What do I talk about?“.

When you have a results-driven, realistic strategy in place, you’ll never ask this question again, because you’ll know what, when, how and where to say exactly what they need to hear.

To develop a strategy for driving people through your doors on Small Business Saturday you’ll need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want to achieve? (Ex. More foot traffic, a new type of customer, a stronger following, etc.)
  • What is my specific measurement of success? (Ex. 10X more sales, 5 new referrals)
  • Are my expectations realistic? (If not, go back to step 1.)
  • What message will make this happen? (Ex. Solve their unique problem, offer something that is scarce, provide more value)
  • What resources can I use to communicate this message? (Ex. Social media, local media, relationships, referrals, etc.)
  • How will I do what I promised? (Ex. Better experience, prepare offer, prepare products)

Now that your event strategy is in place, let’s talk about the tactics you can use to make it all happen.

Step 2. Inspire your AUDIENCE

If you want to see great results during and after the event you’ll need to inspire your past, present and future customers to actually walk through your door. The best way to do that is to give them a good reason to care and to make sure they know about it! Here are my best tips for promoting your business and Small Business Saturday.

– Create your offer

An event like Small Business Saturday is a perfect opportunity to do something special for your customers, something that will bring them back time and time again and inspire them to talk about you and your business at every opportunity. The right offer could be the key to long term success for your business and a great way to test what works for your audience.

Your offer should:

  • Add valueSales and discounts can hurt your business in the long run by decreasing the perceived value of your products, but adding value can inspire customers to spend more, come back time and time again, and refer you to their friends. Here are some ways you can use an offer to add value:
    • Include an “extra” with every purchase during the event. (Ex. A free necklace with every clothing purchase, a free Christmas ornament with every purchase, etc., a free “upgrade” with purchase)
    • Include a service with every purchase during the event. (Ex. Free gift wrapping, layaway, etc)
  • Include their friends – Why wait for your customers to find an opportunity to refer you? Use the #shopsmall event as a reason for them to tell their friends about you! Here are some ideas:
    • Give them a gift to give their friends. (Ex. A card that lets their friend take advantage of the event offer after the event, a pre-gift wrapped token such as a Christmas ornament or other inexpensive item.)
    • Create a secondary value-added offer for referrals. (Ex. Give a free gift for every referral)
  • Make it fun, make it local – One thing we’ve learned at OYH is that Laurel folks love our town and Mississippi. Include a Mississippi-made or Laurel-centric item, gift wrapping or card with every purchase!

Step 3: Plan to succeed on Social Media

A great offer will not only inspire repeat business but will give you an authentic reason to promote the event on social media, through email and through traditional marketing methods. SBS is a great opportunity to flex those marketing muscles and really get your message out there. Here are some tips for getting the word out.

  • Find out which social networks your customers use most and reach out to them there – If your customers aren’t using Twitter, then your time may be much better spent on Facebook or another network. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need to be everywhere. The same goes for traditional media. A tip: Figure out who the social network or media outlet markets to for their own products, and you’ll know who their primary audience is.
  • Provide value – There’s that word again! It seems that everyone is trying to market to us these days. Break through the noise by talking about the things your people actually care about. Ask questions, provide answers, be authentic; treat your audience like the real people they are and they’ll be much more likely to pay attention to what you have to say.
  • Use native content for increased engagementNative content is the type of content that works best on each network. Links and big images (and albums of images) on Facebook, quick posts and hashtags on Twitter, beautiful images (not ads!) on Instagram and helpful content on Pinterest. Each network has it’s own type of conversation; make sure you aren’t interrupting it and you’ll see much better results from your social media efforts.

One of the hardest parts of communicating with your audience is finding the time to do it right. The professionals use tools and services every day to make our job not only easier, but possible! Here is how you can do the same:

  • Create a content schedule – Deciding when and where your posts should go live well ahead of the actual “launch” date will not only save you a ton of time and headaches, but will help you present a cohesive, consistent message that inspires engagement and action. Write out your plan for the next weeks, building up to a higher frequency of posts as the event approaches. Don’t overdo it though! A few well timed, varied and value-added posts throughout the week will get much better results than a barrage of the same advertisement posted 15 times a day. No fancy tools here! Use a handwritten calendar at this stage so you can see easily see any conflicts or badly timed posts.
  • Prepare unique graphics well before you need them – The graphics you see on the Laurel Main Street Facebook page aren’t made on the spot. Own Your Hill prepares them well in advance so that we know they’ll be ready when we need them. Tip: Use a free service like Canva to make near pro-quality graphics without expensive software. You can also get great free pre-made graphics as part of your promotional packet from the official Small Business Saturday website here.
  • Be a part of the movement – By using the official event graphics, hashtag and color scheme you’ll become a part of something bigger than your individual business and will be a part of a bigger cohesive message. We’ve provided some great resources at the end of this post to make this much easier for you. Remember, #shopsmall!
  • Use a scheduler – This one tool could completely change your outlook on social media. It’s just that good. A social media scheduler will allow you to create your posts days or weeks in advance and watch as they magically roll out while you play a game of golf or read a bedtime story to your kids. I recommend Buffer to all of my clients, and use it myself every single day. If you only use Facebook, take note of their internal scheduler next to the “post” button. You can schedule posts out in much the same way as Buffer while taking advantage of some of their native features. I tend to schedule Facebook posts using their tool to control link graphics and tagging, and all other networks using Buffer.
  • Rinse, and repeat – One of the best parts about marketing on social media right now is the ability to see what works and what doesn’t. Every network (except Instagram) has an analytics tool built in. Buffer has built in analytics as well. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover! A post that looks like it got very little engagement may have received a ton of click-throughs or momentary views. Figure out what is working well with your audience and deliver more of the same.

If you create a great offer, inspire action and present a consistent cohesive message Small Business Saturday could be your biggest sales day of the year. Take the time to do it right and the results could really surprise you! But, promotion isn’t a magic bullet by itself, sometimes you need a little help. Let’s talk about some outside resources that could be that added boost your business needs.

Step 4. Use your RESOURCES

Your resources aren’t limited to your own talents, time or energy. If you want to see better results than you’ve ever had, you’ll need to look for new ways to communicate your message and implement your strategy in a way that you haven’t tried before.

Finding new resources:

  • Reach out to your best customers – Your customers are more than another sale or another bill paid this month, they could be your best resource! Reach out to them and ask questions, gather ideas and find ways to make little changes to your services and products before the event. They might even have an idea for a killer offer!
  • Meet your neighbors – Reaching out to the business owners around you is a great way to find new ideas and partnerships that could help make your Small Business Saturday offer even better. Is there a music studio down the road from your retail shop? How about asking them to perform during the event for your customers? Could your shop use sprucing up before the event? How about checking out the antique store for new display options or something special for your window decor?
  • Become a LMS member or partner – Participating in an organization like Laurel Main Street gives you great opportunities to meet other business owners, local artists, experts and social influencers while helping to revive and restore Downtown Laurel, which can only mean great things for your business!
  • Get help sprucing up your shop or building – The LMS Facade & Amenities Grant could be your answer to that new paint job you’ve been waiting for, or even a small bit of outdoor decor. We want to help you fix up your downtown buildings! Apply for a Facade Grant now to be ready in time for the event.

Remember, your resources aren’t limited to what you can do by yourself. Laurel is a great community full of talented, helpful people who want to see us all succeed, and who are willing to do what it takes to make it happen. Need help? We’re happy to help connect you with other business owners or local experts.

Step 5. Provide an EXPERIENCE worth talking about

Your job doesn’t end the morning of the event! The best way to ensure that Small Business Saturday gives you long term results is to WOW your customers as they walk through your door. Give them a reason to talk about you and growth will follow! Here are a few ways you could create an experience worth talking about:

  • Entertain – Laurel is full of talented musicians, storytellers, comedians and artists. Enlist one (or more!) of them to perform or provide a demonstration during the event, right in your shop! Many of them will have their own local following who will likely visit your shop to see the performance and could become regular customers! Tip: be sure the act fits with your brand and will appeal to your unique customer.
  • Educate – Online marketers know that the best way to gain a new follower is to teach them something of value. Use the same methods we use online to turn your casual shoppers into lifelong fans! Do a demonstration of your own or bring in an expert! Ideas: DIY decor projects, styling an outfit, holiday decorating, etc. You’ll have the added benefit of promoting individual products used in the demonstration while providing great value to your customers!
  • Engage – Be present during the entire event. Answer questions, talk with your customers as they come through, share in the fun with them!
  • Excite – SBS could be the perfect time to reveal any big news you’ve been waiting to talk about. Use the added excitement of the event to get extra attention for your big reveal!

Step 6. Evaluate your SUCCESS

Small Business Saturday should serve as a kick-off point for years of success for your business, but it all depends on what you do after the event is over. Take a few moments after the event to write down your thoughts so that you’ll not only be ready for next year’s event, but also know how to make better marketing, promotion and offer decisions in the months to come.

Some things to consider:

  • Did you reach your goal? Was your goal realistic or perhaps, not big enough?
  • Was your offer well received? How could it have been better?
  • Did you inspire your audience to action? What do your analytics tell you to do differently from here on out?
  • Did you use all available resources? What relationships can you nurture this year to be better prepared for next year’s event?
  • Did your customers enjoy the experience of shopping with you? What would you do differently next year?
  • How can you use your successes to help other downtown business owners? How about your failures? Be a resource to our community by sharing what did and didn’t work for you.

You’ve refused to fail, and we’re ready to see you succeed.

You’ve made a commitment to refuse to fail, to see this thing through to the end. We’re here to help you in any way we can and we’re excited to see your success. Leave a comment below telling us why you think it is important to shop locally and share your best ideas for a successful Small Business Saturday.

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Hattiesburg & Laurel Entrepreneurs:
Come to church with me.

You’ve heard it before.

Networking is the key to success!

What does that even mean?

Another event full of people who are much less interested in what you have to say than in how fast they can get a business card into your hand?

One more date on the calendar, one more obligation.

Silvia Selman of The Starupist reminds us that “connections come as a results of other connections,” but the quality of those connections and their lifetime value is hard to quantify.

The inability to determine the usefulness of such a time-consuming, introvert-bashing practice is enough to tempt you to rush to Google Analytics to seek solace in the predictable (and quantifiable) ebb and flow of pageviews and visitor stats.

But web stats can only provide comfort for so long, and blog posts and their tweety counterparts can only answer so much.

We need something more – something tangible, personal and inspiring to keep us moving through this treacherous landscape of solo entrepreneurship.

Pine Belt Entrepreneurs: Networking for the Rest of Us

I found myself driving home late one Thursday night in January – feeling an intense, unfamiliar rush of … relief. Finally. I had found my tribe.

Earlier that night I had attended my second PBE meeting. Afterwards a few of us stayed back to share our ideas, to seek out the expertise of others in the group and to bask in a shared appreciation for innovation, creativity and challenging the status quo.

“This wasn’t networking,” I told my husband later, “this was church!”

This wasn’t another business-card-trading, let’s-hang-out-and-drink, let-me-tell-you-about-my-golf-game event. This was a quantifiable, measurable learning experience with tangible results. The connections we made were just the “free gift with any purchase”. Everyone who attended that meeting walked away with something new, something to propel them forward.

And like any good religious movement, we want to bring you into the fold.

What is Pine Belt Entrepreneurs?

Pine Belt Entrepreneurs was organized by Chris Spence, a USM and Harvard graduate, “to bring together past, present, and future/potential small business owners who are in or near the Hattiesburg area, and use this fellowship as a platform for free feedback and support with their ideas.”

“I started this group because I think too many potential entrepreneurs are unable to take the plunge, too many existing entrepreneurs are stuck at a specific level, and too many small businesses fail before they are even able to get off the ground.

This Meetup Group was created to form a community of likeminded go-getters who are ready and willing to hear about each other’s challenges and to brainstorm and provide the desperately needed feedback to help each other propel further in their entrepreneurship goals.” – Chris Spence

During each meeting a member of the group presents an idea, challenge, success or formula.

We discuss, offer up new viewpoints and perspective, and sometimes, criticism.

The result is that we all take something away with us that we didn’t possess before, and we learn and grow together so that we can meet our goals, and perhaps, seek to reach further than we had thought possible.

Each month we meet on a Tuesday or Thursday night from 6-8pm at the William Carey University School of Business (Room 221) to do just that, and we want you to join us.

Click here to join us on Meet-Up.

 

Your local marketing expert is wrong, and I’ll prove it.

If you’re a local marketing expert (consultant, strategist, self-proclaimed god) you’re WRONG. I’m going to prove it.

If you’re thinking of hiring a marketing expert – read this first. 

If you’re coming here from the Big Value Big Business podcast, welcome. But you’re probably wrong too.

Put up your dukes, then keep reading.

First – here’s my story  (you’ll get to throw your punch in just a second)

(Want to go on to how you’re wrong? Feel free to skip ahead.)

About 11 years ago I dove into the small town small business thing head on.

I’m a geek by birth, but a creative by passion.

While I was still in school studying marketing, I opened my wedding photography business and hoped to pull in tons of clients from the few little towns surrounding my home.

I had been designing websites since I was about 15 years old (my parents are both computer geeks, it’s in the blood) so I put up my first website and waited for the brides to hunt me down.

And hunt me down they did.

I had a bit of a secret weapon in my back pocket that allowed me to dominate my state pretty quickly – I was pretty dang good at search engine optimization.

While most of the other photographers were struggling with their SEO-useless flash websites (what a terrible trend), I was flying up the rankings for just about every city in my state. The brides were flowing in.

An important revelation

One day, as I was returning email after email, I realized that while I was sitting back and watching great leads flow in, everyone else was still struggling – within my industry and outside of it.

I wanted to hone my skills and learn more about this seemingly-simple process – so that maybe I could begin to help others.

When I wasn’t shooting weddings (or editing), I was spending every waking minute building sniper affiliate websites. It wasn’t long until I was bringing in consistent commissions from products all over the web.

More importantly, I was learning the psychology of behavior and how to get folks to do exactly what I needed them to do.

The moment it hit me.

I built my first teaching website focused on teaching other photographers what they needed to do to duplicate my results and pretty soon I taught my first in-person class full of female photographers in a city near my home.

What was supposed to be an hour of online marketing techniques and conversion best practices turned into over 6 hours of Q&A.

They were HUNGRY for help.

These photographers were actually in a better position than 90% of the businesses surrounding their studios. They had an incredible online community lifting them up, they had a product which was increasingly more web-based, they had it easy.

How you (or your marketing expert) are getting it wrong

The other guys? The small town business owners? They were looking in every possible direction and hearing only noise and really, really bad advice.

  • They’re being told to spam purchased email lists!
  • They’re being told to post 1000 times a week on Facebook and to run a sale every other day.
  • They’re filling Instagram with bad stock photos and direct messaging folks sales messages on Twitter. 

(If you’re a marketing professional and you’ve suggested any of these tactics in the last week – just jump to the bottom and send me a Tweet. Let’s have it out.)

They NEED their businesses to work. They need to find their people, to find a way to reach them and a way to build relationships. They need the knowledge and strategies and techniques that we take for granted.

But they keep getting bad advice, and it’s all our fault.

Why? Because all of us “internet marketing specialists” and “inbound marketing experts” were too busy talking amongst ourselves to even notice the little guys.

We were (and still are!) building more and more self-serving products and services, selling to each other and preaching about the next big idea. All across the country we sit in our fancy desk chairs in our home offices with whiteboards on every wall with giant blinders on to everything that is happening to entrepreneurs outside of our niche.

These guys, the builders, creators and problem solvers, are drowning under the waves of information and techniques and systems and infographics and tweets and podcasts and…

[Tweet “Dear inbound expert, take off your %$&# blinders and help folks.”]

Dear Business Owner and Local Marketing Expert,

I don’t care how small your town is – this stuff DOES work there.

I proved it. I dominated probably one of the smallest towns (and all the surrounding ones) in the world and have since taught many others how to do the same.

It works because it’s real. Because it’s about helping.

  • Social media? Yes.
  • Search Engine Optimization? YES.
  • Conversion Optimization, blogging, email marketing, landing pages, webinars, ebooks. Yes, yes, yes…

It all works – from the tiniest of towns and the tiniest of businesses to the biggest giants in the tallest skyscrapers.

It works because (and only when) it is real.

When you know your people and speak to them where they are, they’ll beg to buy from you.
Tweet This

If anyone is telling you differently, I want you to send them this post. Call them out.

Don’t believe me?

I want to hear from you right now.

WHY do you think this won’t work in your small town? Are you a (now royally ticked off) marketing expert and think I’m full of it? Test me, push me to the limit.

I guarantee I’ll have an answer for you.

Let’s go – show me what you’ve got. Send me an email or post your question to Twitter.

How you can save your business (it’s not what you think)

If you knew that there was only one thing that caused people to either leave your website or walk out of your store without buying anything, would you do something about it right now?

If only you could get everyone to look your way, if only you could figure out that one special offer, or the perfect Facebook post.

But, see. None of that will work, not for long anyway.

We all think the latest “tip” or “trick” will pull us out of this black hole that keeps sucking us back in.

The answer to saving your business is bigger than a one time offer, or God forbid, a sale. It’s bigger than figuring out the best time to post to Facebook or what snacks to serve at the next customer seminar.

The answer to saving your business goes all the way back to why you started this thing in the first place.

Finding your “why”

One of the biggest mistakes we make as business owners is to assume that people will care about us just because we exist. But what is it, aside from the money, that makes us love our businesses when no one else seems to?

You love your business because you know your story.

You know the reason you started this thing in the first place, why your little idea is going to change the world. But, the hard truth is that your people don’t. Your people only see another storefront, or another website.

What is the one thing that will save your business when nothing else works?

The one thing that will save your business is, simply put, your story, and you.

Your people are just that, people. They aren’t data or statistics, they aren’t a collection of “likes” on a Facebook page, they are real people looking for products and services offered by real people just like them, who understand their problems.

Authenticity. Being real and honest with people.

It should be SO easy, but it’s SO dang hard. At least it was for me.

But it’s worth it.

The 2012 Goodpurpose Study proved that authenticity is the most important thing you can possibly focus on in your business.

Ignoring it and trying to “marketing speak” your way to a paycheck will only result in failure and stress. Read more about the Goodpurpose Study and the power of authenticity here.

Being real and helping YOUR people will save your business.

6 steps to achieving authenticity in your business
(The Own Your Hill System)

the-hill

  1. WHY – Tell people why you do exactly what you do. Photograph dogs? Tell them why it makes you happy. Tell them a story about what inspired you to do what you do, and if they feel as you do, if they’re the right people, they’ll connect with you. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek
  2. HOW – Tell your people what it is about your business that makes you different from everybody else (hint: it’s the thing you do that only your people care about). Tell them how you’ll solve their problem in a way that only matters to them.
  3. WHO – Figure out everything you can about the exact people you want to serve, the people who believe as you do. The more specific this is, the easier your life will be and the clearer your choices will be. Find the people with a UNIQUE problem that you know how to solve. 
  4. KNOW – Bring your why, who and how together and communicate it with your people. Every word on your website, every blog post title and question asked on social media should communicate to your people that you are worth getting to know. They can’t know you if you keep all of your ideas and your connection with them hidden inside your head. This is where authenticity counts more than anywhere else, and where it leads to real change for your business.
  5. LIKE – Once they know you, you’ll have a chance to help your people.. You already know one problem they all have in common, figure out what else they care about and write about it on your blog, find answers for them, makes their lives better. Figure out other ways you can help them and DO IT. Your business, and your people, will never be the same.
  6. TRUST – Focus on growing relationships with your people and within your tribe. One of the best ways you help your people, while also lighting an unstoppable fire under your business, is to CONNECT THEM TO EACH OTHER. Give them something to talk about and a place to do it. Focus on being the first follower of your idea, not the leader. Join them.

Being authentic takes work.

We’ve been exposed to “clever” advertising our whole lives. If you’re like me, you notice every cool billboard or truly attention-grabbing commercial. You might even try to analyze what they’re really trying to achieve. But none of it really speaks to you down deep.

We’ve been drowned in the “attention” mentality. The only way you’ll learn to swim is to stop thinking about what everyone else is doing and decide how you would want a business to speak to you, and do the same for your customers.

We connect with those who not only care about us as people, but also as individuals with unique interests and problems. Recognize those problems and interests in your people and find a way to meet them on a real, human level.

As long as you are talking over their head to the crowd, you’ll never find a connection.

What are you going to do now?

You have an opportunity to save your business. You know what you need to do to completely transform the way they see you, what to do to help them learn to trust you and how to grow your business beyond anything you thought it could be.

You have permission to finally allow yourself to be truly, deeply authentic with your people. To connect with them. To help to change their lives and to solve their problems.

So, what are you going to do now?

3 ways small town businesses are stealing great ideas… and how you can too.

Stop making excuses.

Being from a small town could be the best thing that ever happened to you and your business.

Why?

Because, time, risk and the people are all on your side.

What excuses could you possibly have?

When you’re in a small market you get to sit back and watch. You get to watch what the big guys in the big markets are SCRAMBLING to do to reach their people before the next big idea hits and makes them irrelevant.

Why is that good for you?

Because our people aren’t paying attention to the scrambling. Our people aren’t keeping up with every little thing that happens in the big markets. Our people don’t CARE what that guy in NY did to attract clients.

When you do the same thing, 6 months later, they think you’re a genius.

Seth Godin tells us that you have to be the best in the world. You don’t have to be the best in the WHOLE world, just in your part of it. To your people, your small town is their world. It’s where they live their lives, and you are a part of it.

You don’t have to be the best or even first. You just have to be best in your small town and first where you are. Tweet This Pay attention and draft off of all of the amazing ideas that are out there being tested for your benefit.

That’s right. They’re testing the ideas for you.

THEY, the big guys, are taking the risk.

Like Derek Halpern with Social Triggers, a killer internet marketing blog with a massive audience.

A little while back he discovered the power of video for small business blogs. Not just the power of reaching new folks but the power of video to help you connect with your audience in a very real, personal way.

The kind of video that Derek puts out is not cheap to produce. He spends at least $1,000 on each of the high quality videos on his site. It was a gamble that paid off for him, and it can pay off for you too.

You don’t have to spend $1000 on a video, even a cell phone video is better than no video. 

If you pay attention to folks like Derek you’ll be able to see what ideas make sense to people, and you’ll also see what ideas are absolute crap.

You’ll see which ideas your people are likely to cling to, which ideas will actually make a difference in their lives, which ideas will connect with them in a meaningful way.

How will you know which ideas to use?

Because you know your people.

Right?

If you don’t, you should. Because they are right in front of you.

Do you think the big guys get to see their people face-to-face, everyday?

They don’t. They have to guess. They have to take risks.

Sure they have lots of expensive data and research to back up their decisions, and that IS an advantage for them. But you have that advantage too, without the cost. Because you get to watch what they do.

And if you really pay attention and understand why they do what they do, you’ll have no excuses and your small town will be your untouchable advantage.

The secret to making their ideas better

One of the greatest advantages of our small town businesses is the fact that we can be something to our people that the big guys can’t, regardless of their budgets and reach. We can create custom, personal experiences that can’t be replicated online or over mass distances.

The trick, the big secret, is to create a product or service that works BETTER when it is local, that actually provides a better experience because it is local, not in spite of it.

When your product is a local gem, and you’re reaching your people through authenticity and the methods that have been tested for you by the big guys, your local tribe won’t be able to help themselves – they’ll have to have the best.

Be the best in YOUR world and because of your world. No excuses.

Have you found a great idea from one of the big guys? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Transform your small town small business through the Own Your Hill Insiders workshop.