Small Biz Black Friday: Sticking it to Big Box Stores

November 23, 2011
By Danika Atkins in Online Marketing

I once braved the madness known as Black Friday Outlet Shopping. My friends and I pushed through a post-tryptophan haze to drive to the Woodberry Common Outlets in Central Valley, NY at 2 a.m. I don’t know whether it was circling the parking lot for 30 minutes to find a spot, or standing in line in the freezing cold just for the privilege of entering the Juicy Couture store, but that Black Friday experience put the nail in the coffin.

I was done with Black Friday.

That was three years ago, and since that day I have done my best to avoid that glorified consumer orgy. But this year may be different. Rather than bunker down for the weekend to catch up on The Walking Dead, I may venture out to the strip malls and shopping centers of the Capital Region for one simple reason: to support small businesses. In this economy, I feel it is my patriotic duty to support the backbone of American job creation, even if that means putting my life on the line.

As a small business, standing out amongst the big box stores’ powerful Black Friday marketing engines can be a daunting task. But movements such as Small Business Saturday have encouraged small businesses to play ball with the likes of JC Penney and Best Buy without fear. This year, some businesses have been better than others at using online marketing tools to compete for consumer attention. Though Black Friday is just a few days away, there’s still time to learn from other small businesses to get in some last minutes tweaks. Or, hey, why not start formulating that 2012 Black Friday marketing strategy?

There’s Strength in Numbers

Are you a member of your local chamber of commerce? Are there other neighborhood-specific business development organizations that offer opportunities to showcase your products or services? If you have an organization like the Downtown Wheaton Association in your neighborhood, you’d be smart to jump on their bandwagon. The DWA is helping small businesses collectively stick it to the man by promoting a Groupon that can be used at participating stores in the downtown Wheaton, Illinois area:

It’s one Groupon that can be used at any participating location. And guess what? It’s sold out with more than 1,000 of them purchased.

Businesses belonging to the DWA not only benefit from their promotional efforts, but from those of other small businesses who are promoting the Groupon as well.

If there are no local chambers or neighborhood business associations you can leverage, consider reaching out to small businesses in your area that offer complimentary products or services (i.e. – a massage therapist may consider reaching out to yoga studios and salons) to offer holiday package deals. It’s a win for you and the businesses you partner with, and can create valuable relationships that might produce opportunities for future collaborations.

Use Mobile Guerilla Tactics

The growing influence and effectiveness of mobile retailing can be a valuable weapon in the small business marketing arsenal this year. This is especially true if your business is not in a high trafficked area such as a mall or outlet. Mobile outreach can be an effective way to coax people away from the convenience of the big box stores.

The New York Times reports that nearly 10 percent of e-commerce purchases in October were made on mobile devices and that businesses are looking for ways to leverage that power to steal competitor sales. Shoppers stuck in long lines will look to their mobile devices for distractions or to check for better prices on items they plan to buy. This is your opportunity to swoop in. If you don’t have a mobile version of your site, now is the time to create one. Google’s mobile search results are highly targeted based on location, so make sure your site is discoverable to potential customers looking for price comparisons.

Use Facebook to keep your followers abreast of sales throughout the day. Announce a new coupon or exclusive discount every hour on the hour. Have access to the cell phone numbers of your most loyal customers via an opt-in subscriber list? Make them feel special by texting them exclusive Black Friday coupons that they can share with their friends. Rewarding your loyal customers and singling them out in the midst of their Black Friday shopping is a great way to make them vocal about your brand.

Contests and Giveaways are Always a Crowd Pleaser

Giving away iPods and other gadgets is a time tested way to draw an audience, but especially on a day when your giveaway might be on your customer’s holiday shopping list. A local jeweler, Northeastern Fine Jewelry, is using giveaways to their advantage by offering big ticket gadgets with jewelry purchases:

Promoting your giveaway deal within the weeks and days leading up to Black Friday is the smartest way to generate new business, rather than give prizes away to customers who would have bought from you anyway. Northeastern has used Twitter, Facebook, their blog, and a commercial campaign since the beginning of November to help generate a new customer base.

If you run an online-based contest or giveaway, you have the added advantage of being able to submit your site to contest directories for added exposure and backlinks.

As a small business, you should look at natural events like Black Friday and Small Business Saturday as your chance to shine. Although large retailers have the full weight of their brands behind them, more attention is being put on supporting small local businesses. Use the shifting cultural focus to your advantage by getting more aggressive and strategic with your marketing efforts. Those big box stores will never know what hit them. And we haven’t even gotten into Cyber Monday yet…

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