A recent survey found that 75% of consumers plan to support nonessential small businesses as soon as restrictions are lifted. And as folks begin venturing out again, Small Business Week (May 2–8, 2021) is the perfect time to engage them.
What is Small Business Week?
National Small Business Week (NSBW) is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s yearly week-long celebration of the economic powerhouse our country’s small employers represent. The event has been held annually for over 50 years. In the past, Small Business Week has elevated entrepreneurs by touring the country and awarding honors and prizes to business owners who advance other business owners. Examples of past awards include:
- Small Business Person of the Year
- Start-Up Business of the Year
- Woman-Owned Business of the Year
- Contractor of the Year
- Veteran Owned Business of the Year
- Community Lender of the Year
- SBDC Counselor of the Year
- SCORE Counselor of the Year
- Journalist of the Year
- Family-Owned Business of the Year
Small Business Week 2021 is different than other years
This year presents unique challenges. A dizzying 92% of small businesses have suffered because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions aren’t lifted everywhere, and even where they are, many folks still exercise caution. As a result, communicating your reopening plan is an important step this year. It’s the foundation upon which all Small Business Week messaging must be built.
That said, 2021’s Small Business Week also provides a rare opportunity. Bloomberg economists predict Q2 and Q3 to be the highest consumer spending in 70 years, calling the trend “revenge spending.”
How to prep for a successful 2021 Small Business Week
Let’s get started planning for a memorable, profitable week.
Start by getting together with others. First, contact your local SBA office. They may have pre-made promotional ideas teed up for you to deploy.
Next, get in touch with your city officials, local chamber of commerce, economic development corporations, and area politicians. They may have funds to contribute to winners for “local spending,” a great idea deployed by one creative chamber.
You also can tap small business celebrities. These are online personalities who have built their platforms by championing startups and main street shops.
Then, loop in global conglomerates. “But wait, isn’t Small Business Week all about small businesses?” you may ask.
The answer is yes, but enterprise-level companies have always helped to make Small Business Week a success. Each year, major corporations sponsor Small Business Week and look for other creative ways to support their small business counterparts.
One year, Visa partnered with a Houston bakery and the technology enthusiasts at the Inclusive Innovation Incubator in Washington, D.C. to host a hackathon. The goal was to celebrate Small Business Week while cooking up creative disaster recovery solutions for future crises. The big brand awarded $60,000 to the winners of the much-hyped event.
American Express is another big supporter of small businesses. The big brand literally owns the phrase “shop small.” Amex is also credited with establishing Small Business Saturday as the well-known holiday it is today.
Finally—and this is the fun part—get together with fellow small businesses. Some ideas could include:
- A fitness center and an alterations provider partner together for a workout challenge — the winner could get free tailoring so their old clothes would still fit.
- A dance troupe and hair and nail salon put on a performance and cross-promote their work. The salon could provide beauty treatments while the performers provide entertainment.
- An art gallery and a cabinet shop donates an art piece — plus a custom shelf to display it at home.
- A local optometrist partners with a book shop or science, tech, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) tutoring service to donate an eye exam to ensure students can read and see their work.
- A boutique and photographer could get together to offer a glamorous photo session for a local citizen.
For more clever ideas, check out Andrew Davis’s book Brandscaping.
Brainstorm and narrow down ideas
Once you’ve identified a potential partner or two, contact them and spitball potential ways to celebrate Small Business Week as a team. The suggestions above can spark an idea for a challenge or activity that citizens can join (like the exercise challenge).
As your concepts take shape, list ways customers can compete with one another while promoting local small businesses. They could:
- Vote for “the best [fill in the blank] in town”
- Submit their own stories of how a small business operator made their day
- Nominate their favorite establishments (or business leaders) for an SBA award
As you think through challenges, decide what you can afford to give away in the form of promotions and incentives.
- A percentage off of sales?
- A gift card for some kind of local outing?
- Funds from the economic development group?
Remember, consumers want to support their local small businesses but often don’t know how. Small Business Week is the perfect time to help them help you.
Create a plan and assign roles
In your plan, go beyond self-promotion and promote small businesses as a whole. Remind consumers that:
- Individually, small businesses employ small numbers, but collectively, they’re by far America’s largest employer. They employ over 47% of the U.S. workforce.
- Small businesses add variety and culture to our towns and lives. Think about the most interesting small businesses you know about. Glass blowing, customization shops, improv comedy troupes, and app developers add flavor to our spending choices.
- They funnel tax dollars back into our community. So much of the taxes paid by small businesses go right back into schools, roads, services, and more.
- Local businesses sponsor youth sports. “Small businesses very much support school fundraisers and sports teams, and all those other extra things,” said Natasha Hartson, director of entrepreneurship and innovation at WBEDC, in a 2020 local radio interview. “Amazon doesn’t have their logo on any baseball team jerseys, right?”
Once you have a plan, appoint a spokesperson and notify your local newspaper, area bloggers, and podcast/radio outlets to cover the event. Marketing experts at CoSchedule show you how to write your own press release and their guide even provides templates to get started.
Publicist Christina Daves also says you should supply the media hosts with a basic list of five or six questions to ask you. This common practice cuts their workload and motivates them to reach out for an interview.
Assess your infrastructure
What if your hard work pays off and you enjoy a surge of new business? Could your systems and processes handle the influx? Now is the time to analyze your operating procedures and pressure test workflows for gaps.
One common weakness for small business owners is their bookkeeping practices. If you go into Small Business Week unprepared and financially disorganized, a rush of new customers will worsen the problem. Accounting software like NeatBooks will help you manage the influx of customers so that when when Small Business Week is over, you won’t be left chasing mismatched transactions or manually inputting data about each sale or expenditure.
Enjoy the week!
Once Small Business Week arrives, create a custom hashtag for you and others to use all week. Social media marketing experts at Spark Growth have a great hashtag-creation tutorial for you to get started.
Ask customers and fellow businesses to take photos of their fun and post them online using your custom hashtag. Then, schedule “remember when?” posts for later this year, and tag folks involved to remind them of the special week.
Remember that Small Business Week isn’t limited to local businesses. Reach out to faraway small business bloggers and podcast hosts for interviews to tell them how you maximized this event. Your story will spark the imaginations of their readers and listeners, elevating small business owners everywhere.
Nurture the connections you make during Small Business Week 2021
Avoid going into any of your new relationships (with partners, vendors, customers, or media personalities) thinking they’re one-and-done interactions. Keep the momentum going throughout the year with other seasonal events like Small Business Saturday. Twitter Business has a full calendar of 2021 events you can celebrate with your new partners and customers.
Small Business Week is an event, yes, but it’s also a skill. The more years you hype Small Business Week, the better you’ll get at it. And Neat is here to help. When you post, tag us on social so we can comment, like, and share your content. Together, we’ll help elevate small businesses everywhere.