Seven Ways to Get a 'Cash Mob' to Shop at Your Small Business

Buy-local advocates are creating 'cash mobs,' which ask people to patronize local stores at a particular time. Here's how you can get a cash mob to shop your store.

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By Carol Tice

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Seven Ways to Get a Cash Mob to Shop at Your Small Business
Customers participating in a cash mob at a salon in Painesville, Ohio

Corrections & Amplifications

You've probably heard of flash mobs -- groups of people who use social media to plan to appear in person at a chosen location at a particular time to sing a song, hold mock lightsaber battles or take some other random action. Fun, but frivolous.

Another iteration of this meet up is of much more interest to entrepreneurs. It is the cash mob -- a group of shoppers who agree to patronize a local business at a particular time and spend at least $20 apiece to support their hometown merchants.

Cash mobbers are usually advocates of the buy-local movement who don't like how big chains have emptied some downtowns. So they're voting with their dollars, mostly for small businesses.

Related: Chris Brogan on Social Media Starter Tips to Grow Your Business

Although these communal shopping events are oftentimes organized by individuals, cash mobs have been convened by companies looking to give back to their community. An example is candle company Scentsy, which celebrated its fifth anniversary by giving $100 to each of its 1,000 headquarters-based employees to spend in local shops in their home town of Meridian, Idaho.

Here are seven ways to get a cash mob to visit your shop:

  1. Sponsor events. Businesses with high visibility in their town -- the type that sponsor baseball teams or the 4th of July parade -- tend to be the ones selected as the focus of a cash mob.
  2. Attend events. The owners who invite cash mobs attend chamber of commerce events; they chat on the town's listserv and they turn up at the firehouse pancake day to help out.
  3. Tell your story. If your business is struggling, get the word out. Sometimes cash mobs focus on helping businesses that have fallen on hard times. For instance, after a number of merchants in my town appeared in a newspaper story about how they've struggled through a burdensome Main Street repaving project, shoppers organized a 'give-back' night to support the afflicted stores.
  4. Communicate your values. If your small business supports the buy-local movement, let those shoppers know you're with them. Post signs in your store and on your website.
  5. Organize your own cash mob. If you're active in community groups that promote shopping local, nominate another area business as the beneficiary of a cash mob. That could help make cash mobs a regular happening in your town, which could eventually draw one to your store, too.
  6. Make an offer. Let the head of buy-local groups know that if their members participated in cash mob at your store, everyone can get a freebie such as $25 worth of merchandise for $20 or free appetizers during the meet up.
  7. Partner with other local businesses. Get together with other local merchants and offer a group deal if a cash mob will schedule a trip to your neighborhood.

Related: Expert Live Chat: How to Ramp Up Sales

What tips would you add for attracting a cash mob? Leave a comment and let us know.

Corrections & Amplifications: Scentsy is located in Meridian, Idaho. An earlier version of this story misstated the company's location.

Carol Tice

Owner of Make a Living Writing

Longtime Seattle business writer Carol Tice has written for Entrepreneur, Forbes, Delta Sky and many more. She writes the award-winning Make a Living Writing blog. Her new ebook for Oberlo is Crowdfunding for Entrepreneurs.

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