small business Saturday boating

Promotional ideas for marine businesses to increase local sales and shopping opportunities during annual Small Business Saturday event

A version of this article originally appeared on SBMarketingTools.com

The 2010 launch of Small Business Saturday gives local small businesses new promotional opportunities to encourage patronage within their local markets.

As an industry largely made up of small businesses – from marinas and boat dealers to local boating services and equipment suppliers – marine businesses should embrace Small Business Saturday to drive additional foot traffic to their businesses.

What is Small Business Saturday?

Founded by American Express Open, Small Business Saturday is designated as the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the U.S., sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

While Black Friday is typically a day that “big box” retail stores thrive and Cyber Monday is one of the most successful days for online retailers, Small Business Saturday is intended to drum up business for local merchants owned and operated by businesses within communities. With so many small local merchants struggling to compete against bigger businesses, the Small Business Saturday event hopes to put an annual focus on shopping with local retailers and merchants on Thanksgiving weekend nationwide.

NOTE: In 2014 Small Business Saturday is Saturday, November 29, 2014.

Small Business Saturday Promotion Strategies

Marketed by AMEX Open (the small business arm of American Express), Small Business Saturday is supported with TV advertisements, online ads, social media and more.

small business saturday local marketingPromotional themes used for Small Business Saturday include:

  • Shop Small
  • Buy Local
  • A day when we all shop small
  • A big day for small business
  • Celebrate America’s small businesses

The overall promotional effort is aimed at encouraging customers to support their local communities and businesses on one dedicated day a year. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and help keep local communities growing.

For local marinas or dealerships, Small Business Saturday can be a great opportunity for Dealer Demo Days or Marina Open Houses. If you have a local marine store or other brick and mortar business, create promotions or sales incentives to get boaters in the door and go shopping. Run an online small business in boating? Let your customers know and plan online promotions that you can promote through social media to get the word out.

Here are some more basic promotional strategies that every small business in boating can consider to maximize the day:

Communicate with customers to spread the word. Get the word out early by communicating often with customers and your community through Facebook, Twitter, email newsletters, on your website and in person at your store. Your most loyal customers can become your biggest advocates and help spread the word to new customers in your community.

Promote your business with a cause. Connect your business with the cause of local community support – not just support of your local business. Emphasize the fact that supporting your business and other local businesses is an investment in your community.

Take advantage of co-promotions and free marketing tools offers. Visit Small Business Saturday on Facebook for free access to marketing and promotional tools like in-store signage, e-marketing materials and other special offers/incentives.

You can also take advantage of the Small Business Saturday Checklist for more ideas, resources and promotional tools. Or, download a full marketing resources kit from American Express that includes logos, signage, social media templates and more.

Use Small Business Saturday to launch sales promotions and offers. Increase the incentives with special one-day discounts and promotions that will improve foot traffic into your store location.

Set special hours on Small Business Saturday. Extend your shopping day for customers on the day of the event by opening earlier or staying open later to make it even easier for customers to shop at your business location.

Create a special event or do something different on Small Business Saturday. You can create even more excitement for your local small business by doing something different to draw attention. Serve free coffee in the morning, display balloons outside your store, hire a musician to play music in your store or create a contest for a drawing. Make the Small Business Saturday event feel like a big event at your business.

Engage other businesses to join the event. Build on momentum from each other by having multiple businesses in the same line of stores or area actively participating in Small Business Saturday with promotions to increase visibility and attention for all local businesses.

Build your customer base. The Small Business Saturday promotional event is a great opportunity to build your own customer database for long-term marketing throughout the year. Be sure to capture contacts of new customers for email marketing, social media or direct mail to continue to communicate to local consumers with specials after the event.

Encourage sharing with existing customers. Ask your loyal existing customers to share your Small Business Saturday promotions with their friends or colleagues to help spread the word. Encourage sharing on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, along with good old-fashioned offline word of mouth!

If you think you may have missed the boat for this year, you can always share some last minute “shop small” ideas with your customers to lay the ground work for future promotions. Take note of what others are doing in your local area and make plans to collaborate next year. There is also growing momentum for a year-long shop small initiative that you can work into your annual marketing plans. After all, its small businesses like your’s that continue to help build the boating industry and sustain it for future growth.




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Diane is a marketer, avid boater and author of the award-winning book PR Tools to Toot Your Own Horn. In addition to being founder of MarineMarketingTools.com, Diane runs the small business site SBMarketingTools.com and the boating lifestyle sites BoaterLifeOnline.com and BoaterKids.com. Diane is also marketing director for SureShade, the new standard for shade on boats.

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