It’s all about preparing and promoting

It’s all about preparation and promotion when it comes to gathering interest for an event. Everybody who has been alive for more than a few years knows about Black Friday; it’s a national campaign. Black Friday deals are advertised on television, newspapers and magazines long before you cross off the last day in October. Storerooms are packed with merchandise weeks before, just waiting for the day and when the time arrives; the crowds are unbelievable.

If you’re a small business owner and want to not only be able to survive but thrive then you need to advertise and get your company into the mainstream and gobble up the market share.

Expanding your reach in order to get your company or event in front of the consumers during a prime time is critical.

Companies and organizations are relying more on internet advertising than anything else these days and why not; everyone is on either a cell phone or computer; but is internet only enough?

Carol Kolson and Allory Smith, greet guests as they arrive for their passports to begin the Shop Small Saturday Event on Nov. 30.
Mesquite. Photo by Teri Nehrenz

Another national campaign, much newer than Black Friday, is Shop Small Business Saturday (SSBS).

SSBS is a movement that was founded by American Express in 2010, during the recession, to encourage holiday shopping at small businesses. American Express believes, “Making a difference in your community is as easy as shopping small. Because when you support your favorite small businesses throughout the year, you help your neighborhood thrive. See how you can make a big impact in your community today and every day.”

For those who wish to participate in SSBS, American Express offers a wide array of activities, events and promotions for those hosting it to help raise awareness and set it in motion. As far as anyone could tell Mesquite residents got Facebook advertising and flyers that were put in the windows of only the participating businesses a week before the event. Comparatively speaking, only a handful of residents participated in the event because not many knew about it.

A passport game was initiated for those who did participate but less than two dozen passports were turned in for the win, which went to Quinn Ellis. Ellis took home $720 worth of gift cards donated by chamber members and local businesses.

Seventeen business participated in SSBS, each offering their own deal for shoppers, participants had to stop in each one to receive a stamp on the passport. Passports had to be stamped by every business to be eligible for the drawing to receive the $720 in prizes. Chambers members didn’t know how many passports they handed out or printed for the event but there were only two on the table after 11:30 a.m.

Two small business owners kept track of the number of passports stamped on Saturday, one business stamped 13 passports, the other stamped 12.

One of those business owners only made one sale from those who came in for the stamps but both said that there was one or two people who didn’t know they existed before that day, so some awareness was raised.

Several of the participating businesses and a host of residents felt that the event could have been much better had there been more promotion of it; many shoppers, especially those in Mesquite, don’t do Facebook and a large portion of people didn’t even know about it. Some businesses didn’t participate because they didn’t have enough notice of the event to properly prepare.

When trying to keep things balanced and everyone happy, is under promoting any better for shoppers and businesses than over-promoting?

When shoppers walked into the local Walmart on Thanksgiving Day before 6 p.m. they could hardly get to the regular merchandise. Black Friday deals were wrapped, stacked and waiting for the evening rush of holiday shoppers. Regular merchandise was shoved into tight cubicles and most of it partitioned off making it nearly impossible for the shoppers who didn’t want the deals to shop for everyday items; not the best way to treat everyday customers but Walmart has the monopoly in Mesquite being one of the only places to shop departments and angry customers “put up with the inconvenience.”

Some shoppers even felt as if they were intruding on the store before the 6 p.m. hour with displays being guarded by employees. One fairly angry shopper said, “Sure, they get an army to keep you from getting the deals one minute early but on a regular day they can’t afford more than two cashiers…and forget getting help in the paint department; you’ll turn gray waiting. If this wasn’t the only game in town, I’d never shop here, it’s horribly mismanaged. Hell, they’ve had Christmas stuff on the shelves before the Halloween candy was even bought.  They can rush the crap outta selling that but on a normal day, you’ll wait in line forever for one item; I don’t do self-checkout, I’m the one making them their paychecks, not getting one.”

People were lined up with carts waiting next to a coveted item for hours before the plastic wrap was finally torn off pallets upon pallets of amazing deals. There was plenty of most everything to go around with only a few shoppers unhappy about missing an opportunity to snatch the newest electronic device, tool or toy but the frenzy lasted for hours, a little over 24 to be exact.

When you’re the only game in town, perhaps the early promotions don’t do a business in a small town much justice, you anger loyal customers for the sake of the temporary sale. Smaller businesses and less known events need as much exposure as they can get to maximize the amount of people they reach within a certain demographic.

Bottom line, get to know, cater to and care about your audience because it truly is all about preparing and promoting that makes a difference.