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Oh, the Holidays are in full swing. I’m writing this from 30,000 feet on Thanksgiving day, making my way to have dinner with family in Indiana. By the time this hits the Internet, we will have passed this and two other Holiday milestones – Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. If you’re not familiar with the latter, I’m not surprised.

Small Business Saturday is a recent addition to our holiday calendars. Wedged in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this day is intended to get shoppers to buy from independent shops & restaurants instead of buying from large chains. In my opinion, it is a good cause. While the large chains do employ a lot of people per location, it takes many more small shops to employ as many people as one Wal-Mart, and these small shops don’t have the corporate backing that the big boxes do.

You probably won’t see a shiny multi-page ad in the Thanksgiving Day paper for many, if any, of your local shops. You won’t see a well-produced TV ad at halftime of the Cowboys or Lions games for them either. You may not even see a local ad or commercial. Many of these shop owners are doing their best to keep the lights on at the shop and at home while pursuing their dreams of bringing to the public products and services they are deeply passionate about.

They don’t have large marketing budgets.

They may not have marketing budgets at all.

They just rely on you to remember them this Shopping Season.

The problem is, your memory sucks.

Don’t feel bad, everyone else’s memory sucks too. We get so distracted by the flashy ads from the large chains that we forget that our neighbor has a boutique down on the square where she sells some really nice clothing that your sister would love.

That is the real purpose of this piece. I want to address how small businesses can improve your memory with little or no cost. No monetary cost that is. There is always a cost, but many small business owners have more time than money – often they have little of either – but I’m talking about a very affordable marketing program.

Small business owners, Listen up!

Look around your shop. See all that stuff? Yes, the stuff with price tags on it. You see it. You bought it. You want to find it a new home.

Who would like to have your inventory? Maybe you have some specialty things that are targeted to a certain demographic. Maybe you’ve got items that appeal to a larger audience. Whatever the case, take some time to imagine the person who would be overjoyed to receive a surprise trip into your shop.

That’s what a gift is: A surprise trip into your little corner of the world, planned by a loved one, wrapped in shiny paper and tied with a bow.  

Who wants – who needs – that trip? Describe him or her.

Is this person male or female? Sure, you may have stuff that appeals to both females and males, but remember, we’re talking about the one person who is going to be super excited to come through your door.

How old is he/she? Again, we’re looking for your ideal ONE person. One person cannot have more than one age (except for my mother, who, somehow, is not only younger than I am, but also gave birth to me).

Where does this person live?

What kind of music does s/he listen to?

We call this developing your avatar. Keep thinking about exactly who this person is and what he/she likes and wants. 

Now, you’ve got your avatar – your ideal customer. Now, you’ve got to find not only him/her but his/her loved ones who are going to curate your avatar’s surprise visit to your store. Where are these loved ones hanging out?

Odds are, they are citizens of the world’s third largest country. No. Not the United States. This country is about three times larger than the US, or at least it would be if it truly was a country. Facebook’s one-billion-plus population would make it the third most populated country in the world, behind China and India. With a population that large, odds are, your avatar’s friends and family are on Facebook. Odds are, you are too.

If you’re not a Facebook member, stop reading this, go join Facebook, then come back and continue reading.

You are now a member of one of the largest communities on the planet, and you now have access to all of its members. What is more awesome than that? I’ll tell you what’s more awesome than that: You get to talk to them FOR FREE!


Yes. For free. (At least, as I’m writing this. There has been talk about change, but it hasn’t happened yet.)

Let’s think about how we are going to catch the eyes of your avatar’s loved ones. (For simplicity, let’s call your avatar :”Ava”, but it could be “Alvin”, depending on if you avatar is female or male.) What item, handful of items, or specific display in your store do you want them to see? What do you have that that just screams “Ava!”?

Now for the hard part. I’m not being facetious; this is the hardest part of what we’re doing here. You’ve got to take a very eye-catching photo of your item(s). You must take a photo that grabs the attention of people whose attention is being demanded from all directions. Don’t be stingy with your shutterbugging, either, these are digital photos, not film, snap as many as you need to ensure the perfect picture. The biggest tip I can offer here, is to get the lighting right. Maybe you need to get it out into natural light. Maybe you need to filter the light coming in from the windows. Maybe you need to bring in some more light, or wait until a certain time of day when the light in your shop is just right. You don’t need a fancy camera; your iPhone will do just fine. You also don’t need to be a professional photographer, but practicing and reading some blog posts about photo composition and lighting wouldn’t hurt.

Now, for the second hardest part – writing the sales copy (which is a fancy way of saying “using the right words to sell your product”). On Facebook, you can write a lot or a little, but you want to keep your message short enough that it doesn’t get broken up by a “read more”. We will call this “keeping it above the fold”. (Note: Keep your post to 40 characters.)

What is the most important thing you want the reader to know? How can you say that in the fewest number of words?

If you have space, what is the second most important thing you want Ava’s loved ones to know? Say that in the least verbose way. Stop there. You don’t want to say too much.

Now, create a post with your words and that picture. Then, share it with as many people as possible (i.e. make it public). Many towns and cities have local message boards (does anyone still use that term?) where people post things for sale, and most of them that I know of allow local businesses to post advertisements. Do this, and do it in accordance with the group’s rules.

If you follow the rules, you should have created an effective Facebook post that will generate traffic to your site. This will let people know you exist, and will encourage them to come into your physical location.

Enjoy a prosperous Shopping Season!