More Tips For Local Business Retail Success

cooking demonstrationEarlier I related part of a conversation I had with Alignable cofounder and CEO Eric Groves. I explored his excellent observation that the biggest advantage small businesses have over their mega-corporate competitors is “proximity to the customer.”

Our conversation ranged beyond that point and I want to share a few more areas that we covered. With Alignable‘s goal of promoting local businesses, we touched on some of the efforts currently underway to increase awareness and boost sales. These range from the cash mob movement, to think-shop-buy-local, to mombizmondays twitter parties and Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday is an American Express program and because it’s backed by a huge company, it is probably more well known than some of the other efforts to promote small businesses and shop locally. We see the Small Business Saturdays being publicized by American Express quite a lot right now, and that’s a good thing.

SBS strength and weakness

“The greatest strength of the program (Small Business Saturday) is the attention it brings to supporting local business communities at a time when a significant percent of consumer spending is occurring,” Eric notes. Interestingly, its ties to American Express is at once what gives the program its power, but it is also what hampers the overall impact of Small Business Saturday.

“The greatest weakness (of Small Business Saturday) is that by design it can’t become a national movement,” Eric explains. “For that to happen Amex would have to be willing to let go of it as a marketing campaign, allowing it to be co-opted completely by local businesses regardless of the cards they accept.”

Because of its fee structure, many small business owners take a pass on accepting American Express cards. If the company would let the movement grow beyond its merchants, it would serve the greater good of small businesses. And, I’d be willing to venture that ultimately, American Express would enroll more merchants.

Holiday season strategies

With the big retail sales days of the year fast approaching – Black Friday and Cyber Monday – we talked about ways local businesses could compete with the national brands and Eric pointed out that consumers are always attracted to unique experiences. (By the way, are you watching The Paradise on PBS? If you’re a retailer you should. You’ll get some very interesting promotional ideas.)

I’m certain that you and the employees of your small business have a level of product knowledge that exceeds what is available in the big box stores – even when you can find an employee among their aisles.

Local businesses should use that edge “to create unique in-store experiences for their consumers – tastings, demonstrations, hand-on training, pop-up stores, and more – rather than follow the big box retailers down the path of deep discounts and free shipping,” Eric suggests.

Those suggestions sound like a good blueprint for holiday season sales success. Be inventive and find the ones that are the best fit for your business and don’t stop when this season is over. Continue being more clever than the big players through the entire year.

Sponsored by AT&T

Image: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius participates in a cooking demonstration, US government work.