Lessons Learned From Small Business Saturday

Image result for small business saturdayLike every year, I went out on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to do a little shopping.  I love Small Business Saturday. It gives me a sense of purpose to my holiday shopping. I feel better helping my community and look forward to seeing what little shops around town have in store for me, literally.  But I can’t help but put on my marketing hat everywhere I go – sometimes to the horror of the shop owner – and give advice on small things business can do to make a big impact.

Here are a few of the most common mistakes I saw in 2018.  With any luck you will stow these away for next year.

Common Mistake #1 – No Community Strategy

Image result for shop local district
Source: castleberryhill.org

Dear Mr or Mrs shop/yoga studio/restaurant owner, Why are you trying to do it alone?!  Mark your calendars now. In September/October 2019 call a meeting with the owners of your surrounding small businesses and work together on a plan.  Design signage, promotions and incentives together that are focused on your community. When you work together, you all win! But how does a pet toy boutique, a coffee shop and a restaurant work together?  

A few ways:

  1. If you don’t already, create an identity for your shop community.  Something like Nelson Street Row or Historic Horton Park Shopping District.  Once you have a name, create a Twitter and Facebook page. Each small business should become a member link to/from the page on their own websites.  Then promote the page in each store with signs or handouts encouraging people to like it. You can also advertise the page on each store’s own social presence.  Once November hits, start promoting upcoming events and deals on the community page.
  2. Develop a Small Business Saturday festival of sorts.  Create a Facebook event and promote it with signage around stores and streets for all of November.  The event might offer free gift wrapping to the first 50 customers at each location or offer piggy-back incentives, like spend $25 or more at Tony’s Pizza and get $25 off to Lulu’s Emporium.  It may even have attractions, like Santa or a photo booth.
  3. Take lots of photos!  You now have content to share on social for the next few weeks and next Small Business Saturday.  I recommend hiring a professional digital photographer from thumbtack.com for a few hundred bucks to cover the whole day.  You’ll be happy you did.

Common Mistake #2 – Nothing Special Planned

Want people to bust down your door this Small Business Saturday?  Give them an excuse. I went to one pet store this year and they had no sales, no incentives and no special draw.  I was in and out in a few minutes and purchased nothing, despite going there for the explicit reason to shop. One thing they could have done is offered a gift bag with the purchase of any of their doggy ornaments.  This might have made me think of my friends Amber and Roy who have a boxer. Wouldn’t they love a little boxer ornament? But I didn’t think about it and the store didn’t make me think about it. Missed opportunity.

Image result for tattered cover small business saturday
The Tattered Cover Book Store Source: David Hoyt’s Blog

The best execution I’ve ever seen of a Small Business Saturday is by The Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colorado.  (PS their community is the Mile High Business Alliance) They turn SBS into a true event – and are packed! For example one year they offered:

  • Free book signing for multiple local authors (with book purchase of course).  How great is it to give a signed book for Christmas? Plus the authors and the store sell more books – win, win, win!
  • Free cookies & cider – inexpensive and a very nice treat.
  • Proceeds from gift wrapping went to support a local charity – reiterating the #shoplocal message

Common Mistake #3 – No Online Strategy

Not everyone wants to drive around town to support local boutiques, so make it easy for them.  Send a series of emails with an online Call To Action, in addition to coming into the store. This is especially valuable for yoga studios, hair salons and other local service companies.  Turn Small Business Saturday into your very own online shopping holiday with 1-day only specials and promotions. Your website is your online store front. Are you using it to its full potential?

Tradeshow 101: Be the Party

Each year thousands of people flock to Las Vegas, Orlando, New Orleans and hundreds of other cities to attend conventions.  For them, it is the highlight of their year.  Every day they grind through their 9 to 5 – working well more than 40 hours a week.

But once a year their company sends them to some convention where they are expected to ignore their email and learn something.  But for the attendee this is half learning – half vacation.

So why would anyone want to talk to this guy on their vacation?

boring tradeshow booth

As the one running the booth it is your job to be the party.  People want to hang out with the fun people.  Don’t be boring.

Here are a few things I do in order to attract those looking to have fun:

  1. No cell phones.  Put them away.  You don’t need them.  Whatever it is can wait.  Your company has dropped thousands of dollars on this event.  Be present and hide your phone.
  2. Get a song stuck in your head.  If you have a fun song stuck in your head it will keep your energy up.  The faster the tempo, the better.  I actually dance at my booths to the song in my head.  People give me weird looks, but it’s usually like “I want whatever she’s having.”  Their on vacation.  Why wouldn’t they?  You would not believe how many people will walk up and start dancing with me without an invite.  My go to is “Conga” by Miami Sound Machine.  Find one that works for you.
  3. Smile.  It seems like a simple thing, but I see it all the time.  People flew across the country to represent their company at the conference and they look miserable.  No one wants to party with the depressed guy who only smiles when you walk up.  Smile like you’re having the time of your life and people will literally cross the room to say hi.

Remember, they’re there to learn and blow off some steam.  So be the party and they will come to you.

And now, for some dancing inspiration…

Tradeshow 101: How to Jedi Mind Trick Someone to Come to Your Booth

Between shipping, giveaways and printing, you can easily drop tens of thousands of dollars on a tradeshow.  Other than television commercials or forgotten PPC campaigns, they are one of the most expensive things a B2B marketer can do.  So generating a positive ROI is paramount.

How do you do it?

To start with, you’re probably going to need to get some leads at the booth.  In order to do that you need to get people to go to your booth.  But everyone is walking by, avoiding eye contact and refusing to come say hi.

Here’s how you get people to come to your booth against their will.

Image result for jedi mind trick gif
“You want to hear my elevator pitch.”

You can jedi mind trick someone into stopping at your booth in 2 simple steps:

  1. Say hello
  2. Shake their hand

It’s that simple.

Step 1: Say Hello

Visualize the convention aisle.  It is wide and most likely you’re facing a similarly sized booth on the other side.  Now cut it in half.  Any person walking on the opposite side of the aisle is off limits.  They’re too far away.  Let them go.

Everyone on your side of the aisle is fair game.  They are in your territory.

Stand at the edge of your booth’s carpet line – one arm’s length from the aisle.

Pro Tip: No one sits at the booth.  Ever.

Image result for compliment memeAs people walk into your territory (directly in front of the carpet), compliment them.  Say something specific and honest.

“I like your shoes.”
“I like your dress.”
“Sweet tie.”
“You are owning that hat!”

Whatever.  Make it genuine and specific.  If you can’t do that, you probably shouldn’t be working the booth at all.

People will instinctively stop, examine whatever you complimented, and then make eye contact to say thank you.  Test it out if you don’t believe me.  Tell someone at work, as their walking past, “I like your [insert piece of clothing].”  They will stop, look at what you are complimenting, and then look at you to say thank you.

Why?

People examine what they’re wearing because an unexpected compliment makes them Image result for compliment giftake pause to see why they are receiving it.  Many won’t remember immediately what tie they wore that day so they have to check.
Then they look at you to say thank you because they’re mamas’ would smack them up side the head if they didn’t. They were raised that the proper response to a compliment is “thank you”.

Step 2: Shake Their Hand

Image result for shaking handsAs soon as you have made eye contact it’s time to stick out your hand. You have their attention.  Time to reel them in.

Stick our your hand as if to shake hands and wait.  Don’t move.

You can experiment with this at the office too.  Stick out your hand to a stranger and see if they shake it.  I’ll bet you a dollar they do.

Why?

Because since you were a baby people have been walking up to you and shaking your hand.  It is so ingrained in your day-to-day routine that it is motor memory at this point.  It is considered painfully rude to ignore someone’s outstretched hand and you do it unconsciously.

So just wait.  95% of the time, they will shake your hand back.  It feels weird not to.

Then you can direct them onto your booth carpeting and go into your elevator pitch.

Don’t believe it works?  This is me pulling in 7 people at once by doing exactly this.  Say hello and shake their hand. Repeat. Works like a charm.

NWCDC Booth
Bringing in a crowd

Tradeshow 101: The Most Important Thing to Buy for Your Booth

Image result for exhibit hall picture

“Dear Hannah,

I am a marketing manager with a non-existing budget.  This year my company wants us to have a booth at a major industry tradeshow.  We have a tabletop, backdrop and podium.  It’s enough to fill up a 10×20.  With limited funds I’m not really sure where to put the bulk of it?  Should I invest in giveaways or a better booth or something else?  If giveaways, what are your favorites?

Sincerely,
Tabitha”

Tabitha,
Tradeshows happen to be one of my favorite topics.  In fact, in response to your email I’m going to write a series on my top tradeshow tips.

I know all too well how expensive tradeshows are and how unrealistic marketing budgets can be.

Here is hands down, the #1 most important thing you should buy for your booth:

Carpet Padding.

Image result for carpet padding tradeshow

It is the most under utilized, under valued and most important thing a marketer can spend money on for their booth.  More than giveaways, more than the booth itself, more than collateral… carpet padding is king.  And best of all, it’s cheap.

Carpet Padding can accomplish 4 critical things:

  1. Entice people to come to your booth
  2. Entice people to stay at your booth
  3. Keep your team’s energy up
  4. Make you look like an event marketing genius

1. Entice People to Come to Your Booth

Let me paint a picture for you.

Image result for professional woman outfit plusKelly works in an office and rarely gets to do something fun as part of her job.  Maybe she travels to other offices, but it’s rarely a good time.  For the most part she works at her desk, rarely has time to eat or exercise properly, and hardly ever gets to rub elbows with her company’s executives.

Her company decides that she will join several others at a conference in Las Vegas – now they’re talking!  She will be joining her VP and a few directors.  She decides to pack her cutest, professional outfits – which include heels.  Kelly doesn’t think about the fact that she’ll have to walk a mile from her hotel room to the convention hall.  She doesn’t realize the convention call is all concrete slightly covered by carpeting.  It never occurs to her that 3,000 exhibitors means spending an entire day on her feet in the exhibitor hall.  After 2 hours, her feet and back are killing her – and she has another 3 days of this.

Then Kelly walks past your booth and you complement her on her amazing heels and state Image result for feet are killing you“… but your feet must be killing you!  Come enjoy some carpet padding.”  She will shake your outstretched hand and come join you on the carpet, just to be polite.
Then Kelly’s eyes light up.  OMG!  Double carpet padding is instant relief.  Triple carpet padding feels like a cloud.

It sounds crazy, but it works 4 out of 5 times.  This is true of men and women alike.  Men’s shoes can be just as terrible, especially when you’re carrying a few extra pounds and are not used to this much walking.

2. Entice People to Stay at Your Booth

When they feel that relief, they are instantly in a better mood and are happy to listen to your elevator pitch.  If you opt for the triple padding, some people may actually take their shoes completely off.

They will tell you their life story for 3 minutes of relief from their feet and back.  Then you can better qualify them at the booth and hand them over to a nearby sales rep who can more expertly answer their question.

If people are running away from your booth, chances are you haven’t given them a good reason to stay.

3. Keep Your Team’s Energy Up

Image result for ready okayNo one should be sitting at the booth.  It is a hard rule at my events.  No one sits.

It is exhausting smiling, standing and being completely “on” for 8 hours 3 days in a row.  I get it.  If you expect your team to be “on” and on their feet, pay for the extra carpet padding.  Chances are they didn’t pack the right shoes either.  They will thank you.

4. Make You Look Like an Event Marketing Genius

geniusMarketing gets a bad rap for spending too much money (see a previous post on the topic), but you can reverse that when you demonstrate how much traffic you’re bringing in without having the nicest booth and coolest gadgets.  Point out to your team how other booths are not doing the same thing.  They have the coolest booth in the world and people are picking up their goody and leaving.  No valuable conversations at all.

When you’re team observes this, you can point out that you spent 1/3 of what the others did and we’ll probably get double the traffic.

You’ll look like a genius.  You’re welcome.

If anyone has any marketing questions feel free to email me at hlhoward71@hotmail.com.  I’m all ears and you may get a shout out on the blog.