Black Friday

Is it worth it?

Most people are worried about buying gifts.  But a few folks on Black Friday got hurt.  How much is each injury is worth?

I was out and about on Black Friday, but I spent time at distant coffee shops, and at a restaurant opposite a viciously busy mall in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Black Friday was apparently a success. The last number I remember seeing was over 52 million dollars spent on the day after Thanksgiving.

Do you mind if I ask, how many of those dollars were spent in your local community?

I’m still very much interested in getting people to spend money in their local community.  I’d rather know that 68% of my money was staying in my local community.  As a result, all the money I spent on Black Friday was spent at local stores and restaurants.  I can’t support sending my hard earned dollars out of town…and more importantly, overseas. I had a scone and a cup of tea in a local coffee shop, then I had lunch with three friends at a local restaurant.  Before I was done for the day, I bought a couple of plants at a local nursery (fall and winter planting in Phoenix is my favorite!). That’s it.

While I sometimes spend money on the internet, focusing on local businesses, especially this time of year is critical to keeping our economy moving.  Where are you spending your money?

Would YOU be willing to spend $50 at a local business at least three times a month?  If so, I WANT to hear from you!  This is the only way we are going to get things to change. I’m tired of seeing all our hard-earned dollars going to countries overseas. I know far too many people who can’t find a job because their jobs have been outsourced.

Isn’t it time to bring things back to the U.S.? I’m looking forward to hearing your words of wisdom.

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Amex Supports Small Biz Saturday

This might seem like a bit of a stretch, the great big corporation, American Express, supporting Small Biz…and yet it isn’t.

Initially, Small Business Saturday was the day after Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving).  Amex was pushing ads in the middle of the summer to have small businesses apply for an opportunity to win $25,000 and grow their biz.  The deadline was in the middle of summer, so perhaps they’re really trying to spread the word about supporting small business.

What I always find interesting is this bid for attention to a single day of the year this coming November.  Now they’re promoting Small Biz Saturday all year.

I can’t argue with their effort.  Small biz needs to find their oomph.  If American Express is going to support that effort, I’m all for it.  For now, I’ll “Like’ them on Facebook, and I’ll watch to see what other tools they make available to small businesses to better market themselves.

There are free tools to use, available from them on their website at Small Business Saturday.  Most of them have to do with creating a biz page on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.  If you aren’t doing this yet, you really need to.  I’m not going to wonder at their motives, they’re purely financial…but if it brings biz back to Main Street, America, then let’s join the march!

Words – Persuasion

We are constantly persuading and being persuaded, whether we realize it or not.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we knew when we were engaging in this behavior?

What would it do for us?

Even more importantly, what would it do for our business?

Being able to be persuasive without being manipulative will allow you to experience a sales interaction that is both professional as well as productive.  As a small biz owner, who wouldn’t want that?

Every word we utter or write is designed to do something. The problem occurs when we don’t plan out what our words actually mean. We just say something or quickly throw some words on paper or on the computer screen because we have to.

With a little thought and effort, you can refine your message to more accurately reflect what your business stands for and what people can expect by doing business with you.

Stay tuned for more information on how to write for your business.  There is PLENTY of information on this topic!

Holiday Open House, Champagne and Lights

This is an event that you can host with your small business in conjunction with other small businesses in your area. This is specifically for the December holidays. Again, it is a “unite your forces” idea that I expressed in one of my earlier articles.

This event we called Champagne and Lights. It is held on a single Friday or Saturday evening, early in December. This is where all the shops agree to be open late on a Friday or a Saturday evening. In one city, there were two shopping centers that were just a block away from each other. They discovered that if they were to actually unite forces between the two shopping centers and have their Holiday Walk, or their Champagne and Lights, or whatever they wanted to call it on the same night, the were able to maximize the draw from each other’s marketing and advertising efforts.

You want people who are easy to get along with and are savvy business people to help organize this among the shops, and certainly between two separate shopping centers. All too often small business owners feel territorial about these ideas and fail to see that by uniting forces they create a much bigger event, which will gather energy and draw a much bigger crowd.

If you are willing to share ideas and you recognize that rather than feeling as though you’re giving away secrets, you will realize that by joining forces it is actually better for everyone involved. The project will develop a synergistic energy that continues to grow.

In my experience, Champagne and Lights, the idea is that everyone stays open until a specified time that evening. Each store or shop should have a special that night and each store or shop should have a special offering for the customers. One store might have hot cider, another store might have Christmas or Holiday cookies. Another store might invite kids in and have them make Reindeer feed bags, a simple, simple activity for kids that costs very little, but creates a great feeling of holiday spirit and gratitude on the part of the parents who are shopping with their little ones.

Hire a Santa Claus. Get a group of people to stroll through the shopping center and sing Christmas carols. See if one of your local high schools has a choir or chorus who would be willing to put on a musical show for half an hour during the event. Have a group of people play their instruments. It doesn’t matter what it is that you do as long as you make it a festival feeling.

Your event has to feel festive. There has to be a reason for them to come. It would be a good idea to have whatever best sales or best offers that you have but make it available for that night only. Most of the time the event would be held between 5 pm and 9 pm. In December, it is dark by 5pm and it is a good idea to have all kinds of holiday lights lit outside, making the atmosphere as gay and festive as it can be.

This way, each shop obviously will market to their very best customers. However, all of you will benefit from the very best customers of each shop. This is what I mean when an event like this takes on synergistic energy. You will all win when you all put in the effort.

Small Biz is the Backbone of our Economy

Shopping locally is the thing to do.

Shopping locally will make a difference

I recently read that small business employs a whopping 97% of all employees.  I’m not quite sure how they came up with this number, and you know what everyone says about statistics…that 48.7% of all of them are made up on the spot.

Yes, I made that one up.

The real fact, however, is that small biz is what this country was built on, long before the industrial revolution.

Today, it is what I look for when I shop.  I support CSA, community supported agriculture.  I actively seek out “mom and pop” shops for coffee, lunch, and other shopping endeavors.

Yes, I shop on the internet, and I do shop at the large chain stores from time to time.  If I knew where to get these things without going on the internet or going to a Kohl’s or Target, then I would do so. I also recognize that sometimes you can’t get around finding what you need at a larger store.

What I’d really like to do, however, is to raise everyone’s awareness about shopping locally.

When you shop at a large department store approximately 17 cents of every dollar stays in your community (usually in the form of taxes). When you shop at a locally owned small biz, between 48 and 78 cents stays in the community.

That’s a HUGE difference.

A grass roots movement is afoot around the country to raise the awareness of people to this fact.  The economic forecast is pretty grim.  However, if we try to spend more of our money locally, we might just turn things around.

Let’s do our part.  Shop locally. Encourage others to do the same.

If we can even persuade people to spend $50 to $100 locally this holiday season rather than at a large chain store or the internet, we will be making a significant change in our communities.  Let me know what you’re doing to make a difference.

I welcome any and all comments.

Bring Customers Inside

For any business, your customer is the life-blood of that business.

You know that you need to treat them well in order for them to return, but aside from that how do you get them to come back? In today’s economy, everyone is really watching their pennies. Let’s talk about ways to get your customer to return to the store without costing you anything but a little bit of time and creativity.

Evaluate your business and what you do to serve the needs of your customer.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my typical customer have a common problem that could easily be solved with my know-how?
  • Can I create some type of instructional material that would explain this to them?
  • Am I comfortable writing a brief instruction manual?
  • Could I talk about it, record the instructions about how to solve their problem?
  • Does it have to be seen? Can I create a short video that would help them solve their problem?

Here’s where your list is going to come in handy. Hopefully you’ve been building your customer database with not only their names and contact information, but their interests and problems that they may have that need solving.Select the group of people who have expressed an interest in solving a problem. For example, let’s say you’re a woodworking shop and you’ve sold a brand new piece of equipment to a hundred customers, but you’ve been getting a few returns and even more complaints that the equipment is too difficult to operate.

Create a short video demonstrating the proper use of that piece of equipment. Explain what the most common problems are that new users may encounter, and then show them how it is done right. This puts you head and shoulders above your competition, because what you’ll do now is email a link to this video to everyone who has purchased this piece of equipment.

Not only do you send that email, but the following week, you call each one of those customers and ask them if they received the email, and whether they viewed the video. If they haven’t, encourage them to do so and promise to call them back the following week. (Make sure you DO call them back.)

If they have received the email and viewed the video, ask them for honest feedback. Find out whether that video helped them to overcome the problems you’ve been hearing about.

By taking the initiative to anticipate the need of a group of your customers, and then fixing the problem easily and with little or no cost, you have ensured that you have a group of highly satisfied customers. These customers are the ones who will remember the extra steps you took to take care of them. The next time they need something, they’ll buy it from you.

K Birmingham