Inexpensive Ways Small Businesses Can Increase Sales

Wall art I purchased from Marafiki, our new local Fair Trade store.

This weekend I stopped in to our local dollar store. I had made some candies with my family for holiday gifts, and wanted to pick up some festive tins to put them in. When I reached the checkout, the owner was there. Just making conversation, I asked him if the store had been crazy busy over the holiday weekend. “No,” he told me. “It’s been really slow.” In fact, he was on his way to a meeting with the other small business owners in the shopping strip his store is located within, to discuss what they could do to help things pick up. “We can’t have another season like this,” he said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

The look in his eyes as he spoke quietly broke my heart. Maybe it’s because I lost a business myself in this economy. (I was one of the fortunate ones in that I was able to reinvent quickly, and had people who lent a helping hand that saved us.) But this conversation really hit home for me, and I can’t get it out of my head.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. And yet so often when it comes to shopping, we think of the big box store first. Now sure, it’s up to small businesses to advertise in such a way that you do think of them. But when business gets tough, advertising dollars shrink, and it can be very hard to make an impact with a small budget.

And that means small businesses need to get creative. Here are some inexpensive ways your small business might be able to increase sales:

  • Partner with local youth groups and community organizations that are holding holiday babysitting fundraisers (the teens watch the kids from their community and allow the parents to go out and get holiday shopping done.) Offer to promote the event for the group, and provide coupons for all the parents that take advantage of the babysitting offer, good for that night only.
  • Use Facebook. Too many small businesses neglect Facebook to their detriment. This weekend I went shopping at a new Fair Trade store that opened in my town (and bought a beautiful wall hanging for my home.) How did I know it had opened? Some of my friends and local realtors had posted about it on Facebook. I went to the store’s Facebook Page and looked through the photo albums they had of some of their products. I had my eye on that wall hanging long before the doors actually opened. And when I went into the store, I couldn’t resist. (I went home and told hubby he’d purchased an early birthday present for me!) The local Irish pub in my town posts about the nightly entertainment, fun stuff going on, etc. If you’re thinking about where to go for dinner, his little reminders at just the right time may be just the thing you need to choose his place of business.
  • Teach. Offer free workshops throughout the holidays in your place of business. The dollar store owner could host a workshop on how to decorate beautiful gift packages or create holiday centerpieces using his products. A jewelry store could host a clinic on how to layer jewelry, or choose a diamond. Stationery sellers could hold a hands-on workshop on creative holiday cards. Coffee shops and restaurants can provide dessert or drink-making classes. No matter what your product line, you can teach people how to use your products. And since your customers are already in your shop, they’ll probably buy the supplies to make more at home from you.

It’s also important for people to support their local small businesses. When you’re thinking about running to your local big box store for something, ask yourself if a small business in your area offers the same product. Even if it’s a couple pennies more, by shopping at a local business, you get more personalized attention, and you help rebuild your local economy. And that’s good for everybody.

Ask yourself: What would your town be like if there were no small businesses there? Because if you don’t support your local businesses, there won’t be any. That’s a fact.

What ideas do you have to offer to local businesses in your area? What can they do to get the word out, and stay afloat? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

3 Responses to Inexpensive Ways Small Businesses Can Increase Sales
  1. Ingrid Glenn
    January 30, 2012 | 8:08 am

    Sadly, in Australia we have become so paranoid about child molesters that we could never do the babysitting idea. If anyone in government found out, then everyone involved would have to get a Working with Children check before we could even think to pull it off!

    However, I love the other ideas!
    Ingrid Glenn recently posted..Christmas Workshop and some pages to share

  2. Misti
    November 29, 2011 | 1:19 am

    Great ideas! Thank you so much! I just attmpted a fund raiser for Union Rescue Mission (a Christian organization that helps the homeless) in Los Angeles. It didn’t go over very well. BUT I am doing a Boutique in my home in a couple weeks. SO I think I will advertise that it is a fundraiser as well! Thank you!

  3. Joanne Sanborn
    November 28, 2011 | 10:31 am

    Thank you for drawing direct selling and small biz together! I live in a small village (Interlochen, MI) just south of a small town (Traverse City) in northwestern Michigan and we have a COMPLETELY empty strip (2 strips actually located across the parking lot from each other) mall with only the anchor food store remaining. It all began when we lost the local drug store (not a huge chain store) that provided us with everything from prescription medications to candy bars. I protested buying our scripts online or through the mail as many insurance companies insist is best for us….’we’ll lose our local store…what if we NEED something that doesn’t have to refilled monthly?!’ I pleaded. Well, it was the other ‘anchor’ and when it left, so did the bookstore, the video store, the pizza parlor, the family owned restaurant, the exercise spot and (not my fav) the dollar store. We now have deteriorating buildings and we all have to drive further to purchase products = more fuel use/waste. So I’ve been encouraging all the direct marketers I know to INCLUDE themselves in this Black Friday, Black Weekend, spending extravaganza whenever and where ever possible….and I’ve seen some posts from them on facebook. Last week, I held a Local Holiday Market here in my home where I gathered several direct marketers, artists and services providers and we chose 2 animal shelters as recipients of part of the profits and it was a huge success! 14 vendors were represented and over 100 people came through my home to visit, learn about new products, and they spent over $2,500 that all stayed local (no charge cards), the vendors gave back over $400 (much more than the 10% requested in lieu of a ‘booth fee’) of that $ to the charities, the public donated an additional $500 to the charities and we had 4 local musical performers keeping the spirit lively and promoting THEIR upcoming concerts, etc. So it was a win, win, win for everyone involved — including the 4-leggeds we helped with the monetary donations as well as barrels of used towels and blankets needed when rescuing and caring for these animals! So there we were, just some local folks providing a warm and inviting environment for shopping, good food and drink, music and even the first holiday sing-along of the season and everyone went home with some wonderful gifts, knowledge of each others efforts in the community and a good feeling of helping some animals in need. Please encourage others to do the same. I’ve been inspired by your blog and information….probably where I got the idea in the FIRST PLACE! so keep it up. Much happiness to you as we work through 2011 and continued success in 2012. I love my Shaklee business and working with others to have a healthier lifestyle and home while we honor the planet with non-toxic cleaners and laundry products! Best, Joanne Sanborn – Choosing Vibrancy

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