Close the Sale: Turning Small Business Browsers Into Buyers
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To take full advantage of the opportunity, small-business owners need to focus not only on getting people to walk in their doors, but also making sure they walk out as customers.
The numbers from last year demonstrate the need to close more sales. In 2016, a record 112 million Americans said they shopped independent businesses on Small Business Saturday, a 13 percent increase from 2015. However, even with this surge of shoppers, estimated sales dipped slightly to $15.4 billion.
The challenge is a bit of a catch-22 for many small-business owners: Unlike large retailers that slash prices and stay open at crazy hours to boost sales, most small businesses compete on unique products and services backed by exceptional service. On any regular day, these positive attributes are personified by the business owner, who can help close the sale. When your business is jam-packed with shoppers on Small Business Saturday, however, it may be more of a challenge to reach all of them with your unique story.
What you need is more of you to go around. Of course, most small-business owners feel that way every day. For Small Business Saturday, you need a strategy that enables you to spend more time connecting with customers so that you can close more sales and add that personal touch. That requires a combination of solid planning and having the right tools at your disposal. Here are a few tips that will help you get ready for the rush:
Staff up strategically.
Staffing up is a no-brainer for any business participating in Small Business Saturday, but owners should think just as much about how their staff is deployed. If you are working the register, checking inventory or stocking shelves, you're not converting sales. Think about assigning other employees to tackle the behind-the-scenes tasks that frees up your time to interact with customers, answer questions and share your excitement about your business.
It's common for small-business owners to want to keep a close eye on every aspect of the business. For an event like Small Business Saturday, it's best to plan ahead to ensure that you're developing lasting connections with customers while employees are dedicated to other tasks in a manner that's comfortable for you.
Extend your reach with printed materials.
Smart, polished marketing materials can share your message when you're overextended, helping to both increase immediate sales and shoppers after Thanksgiving weekend. Product brochures can provide valuable information and background on your business with customers who you're not able to interact with directly. Business cards are great for a point of contact, but other printed materials that also include space for additional product or business information can help customers recall why they grabbed it in the first place. You may consider offering customers a discount card to encourage a return visit.
Armed with materials like these, a business owner can move quickly between shoppers and still leave a lasting impression, increasing the chances that they will walk away making a purchase, or at least planning a return visit.
Keep the lines of communication open.
Closing sales on Small Business Saturday is a top priority, but you also want that surge of customers to help you build sales momentum that can last throughout the year. Take the time on Small Business Saturday to be thoughtful and make eye contact with each customer. Greet them, ask questions and ensure you or your employees are making them feel welcome in your store. These personal touches can help them remember you and your business and desire to return.
From a tangible standpoint, you should plan ahead to take the opportunity to gather and share contact information for future marketing purposes. Provide your social media channels in all of your printed materials, and consider capturing customer email addresses for follow-up communications after the busy Saturday. The pass-along business card is another great tool that empowers your customers to share your message for you. A discount or other incentive, combined with space on the card for customers to note specific items that a friend might be interested in, creates a strong sales tool that comes with the built-in authenticity of being shared by a satisfied customer.
With the right strategy and the right tools in place, small-business owners will be well-prepared to close more sales with the waves of shoppers expected on Small Business Saturday. One tool is the UPS Store's "closer kit" of printed sales and marketing materials. In the meantime, we encourage all small-business owners to start planning now for "closing time" in November.