The Saturday after Thanksgiving when Americans are urged to shop at their local retailers, is coming up fast. The event — Small Business Saturday — always reminds me why I’m so fond of small businesses: the warmth and care they bring to their customers and communities.A recent poll highlights some of the ways retailers are distinguishing themselves from their larger counterparts this year. When looking over the results, what stands out for me is the value these retailers place on customer relationships and how they keep those relationships strong.

This infographic gets to the heart of what makes small businesses so special:

These responses provide some valuable insights into how local businesses can keep the spirit of Small Business Saturday alive year-round. Key among them:

Go the extra mile

Consumers expect better service from retailers than they do from large ones, and for good reason. The vast majority (87%) of the retailers polled said they emphasize service as a way to retain customers, while 65% said they focus on nurturing one-on-one relationships. Small businesses are in a strong position to personalize their outreach to customers because they know their customers’ shopping habits and preferences.

Highlight unique products

Many local retailers distinguish themselves with their product selection, whether by offering locally made goods, imports from a certain region, or brands that are hard to find elsewhere. More than half of the retailers polled said they carry unique or hard-to-find items to set themselves apart.

I appreciate it when stores post information about brands or designers near their products, as it makes my purchases more meaningful. You could also consider naming a product or brand of the month on your signage or in an email newsletter, text message, Facebook post, or tweet.

Build a vibrant community

One of the key draws of Small Business Saturday is the way it helps customers feel connected to local businesses and each other. Encourage that feeling throughout the year by building a community around your business and staying engaged in your larger community. Ways your peers are doing this include:

  • Hosting special events, such as wine tastings, trunk shows, or special shopping nights
  • Sponsoring a school sports team or teaming up with a local charity
  • Participating in community-wide events, such as parades or town fairs
  • Providing learning opportunities based on the shop’s specialty — for example, a cooking class or jewelry-making workshop

Take pictures during these events and post them in your store, on your blog, or on your social media pages to help reinforce the ties between your customers and your business.

Reach customers wherever they are

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of the retailers surveyed rely on their websites or online listings to reach new customers. These tactics are certainly helpful, given the number of people searching for products and services online. I would also challenge you to get into mobile marketing to help reach the skyrocketing number of consumers using smartphones.

If your current site does not look good on smartphones, you may want to build a mobile website. You also can send text messages to customers and prospects with updates and special offers. Both of these techniques are reaping big benefits for retailers, according to recent research.

Want to take advantage of Small Business Saturday? Organizers have put together a package of signs, banners, and other templates to help you make the most of the day.
What tactics are you using to distinguish your business and keep the spirit of Small Business Saturday strong?


Alice Bredin is America’s foremost small business expert, with more than 15 years of experience in the small business market. She has provided highly practical, actionable advice to millions of business owners through her books, syndicated newspaper column, radio commentary, and small business forums.