(This is a transcript of the Fanbank Small Business Week Webinar with Fanbank CEO, Mitch Jacobs)

We're thrilled to be hosting this Small Business Week webinar – we have a great group of attendees from all over the country, an incredible collection of what makes our small business community so great. We have restaurants. We have hair salons. We have fitness studios, auto repair, just a wide representation of what makes our small business community so special and so vital.

Let me jump into the agenda that we are going to go through here today. I will do a very quick introduction of myself, but I also want to introduce all of you as a collection of businesses and people who are making an enormous impact in our communities and I just want to talk about that for a second. Up front, we’ll cover what Small Business Week is and then we're going to dig into the meat of things because this webinar is about how you can use events as sales opportunities. And so we’re going to talk about what big chains and franchises’ secret formula is, and then we'll go through how to apply that to your small business.

So just jumping into it. I am Mitch Jacobs, CEO and Founder of Fanbank and what I would just emphasize about my own experience is that I have spent my professional career sitting with and working with all of you. The first time I sat down with a small business owner, I was 21 years old and that was 1993 - I’ll let you do the math - but it's been over 25 years now of working through the period of the greatest innovation in our history. A lot of that innovation has made its way to small businesses and it's always been my focus of my work to figure out how to make the greatest advances in technology available to small business owners so that it can make your life easier and can help you in your efforts to grow your business and be a positive force in your communities.

In addition to being on the side of the table with all of you, I've also built four companies now and have worked as an adviser to the Treasury when I was in New York and for a while to Mayor Bloomberg’s Council on Technology and Innovation. And so, I've spent a lot of time with Silicon Valley, with government, with Wall Street and have always been an advocate for small business and able to see the way the world uses small business. I think one of things that happens too often is there's too much focus on larger small businesses. These are businesses with greater than 25 or 50 or even hundreds of employees in the United States of America – “less than 500 person company” is a small business and most of the people that we have on the phone today, you're much smaller than that - you’re a main street small business and 54% of the sales the United States generates comes from all of you, more than half of the economy. And, you’re operating a local business and local businesses are crucial to our economy because when money is spent at your business. 50% or more of it stays in your local community and that's part of what drives us here at Fanbank and drives me is, we think that's kind of all that matters, getting those dollars spent locally at local independent businesses so those dollars stay in your community. 

Small Business Week is an event that's been hosted for over 50 years now by the Small Business Administration. It's an opportunity for small businesses to draw attention to the fact that they are such an important vital part of their community and for you to use that as an opportunity to distinguish yourself and showcase yourself in your community. As part of that and part of our mission of trying to make small business’s lives easier, we’ve created materials that you can use on your social sites to print out and display in your business and showcase your pride in being a small business owner.

In addition to that, for those Fanbank members that are on the phone, there's also a whole host of Small Business Week sales offers featuring brand partners that you can find in your member portal. So for everyone, on this screen here, we have the web address that you go to get your free resources. Just go to that site and you can download everything right there: shoplocaleveryday.com 

Let's switch gears then and talk about how big chains and franchises are using the offers and events as a way to win business in your community for their business. So the secret formula centers around three key things and I just want to emphasize that this is not rocket science. Sometimes it can seem totally overwhelming when you're watching what a Wall Street-backed big chain or franchise is doing, but if you really step back and we're going to do that in just a minute here and look at what it takes to do it, it's really not that challenging. 

And there's actually been a big shift, large chain and franchises that have locations operating all over your community - they’ve started to focus in more and more on event-type sales efforts. And the significance of that for you is that this is actually a much more level playing field. As they moved away from just brand advertising which costs an exorbitant amount of money and is way beyond your reach and it moves much more to one market. That's a much more personalized approach that you can really use as a way you can do the same thing. You have the ability to do that. So as technologies evolve and things have become more personal, you start to get on a more level playing field. 

Here's the secret formula that every big chain retailer is using. They are 1) identifying those key seasonal events that they're going to participate in. There are dozens of them per year, they focus on the ones that are relevant to their business and they create some of their own. 2) they identify a different strategy for different types of customers. And so they're really thinking about how do they use those holidays to appeal to different types of customers in the community and then they're attaching personalized offers that are targeted to those customer groups that they're trying to get with that particular holiday.

Let's now switch to applying that and translating that to your small business. So when you think about what eventually you want to focus on, first thing I want to draw your attention to is this isn't just about the big holidays. Let's get out of that mindset. This is bigger than the major holidays or the few big shopping days of the year. There are lots of different national days that you can tap into and lots of much more niche events that are taking place throughout every month. You can use these as something that really fits your business and becomes great content for your social and your email campaigns and the ways in which you are reaching your community.

Why these events are so important for you as a small business owner is, you have a great connection with your community and you have a great opportunity to connect with your customers and associate with something that they already care about. It is an opportunity to say something about your business tied into something your consumers are passionate about. It might even be better for you to pick some of the least obvious events, like National Running Day instead of Fourth of July. Or you might not even be aware that today, right now, is National Teacher Appreciation Day. You could be out there really appealing to the families in your community by recognizing the teachers in your community. 

Being creative about the event calendar is the starting point for setting your strategy and we've actually provided a link on the screen to an inspiration calendar. You can just screenshot that if you want but that fanbank.com/home/calendar is a place where, every month, you can look to see suggestions of lots of different events more than just the obvious ones that are taking place every month. 

Now let's talk about setting your strategy. Step one in setting your strategy is to set reasonable goals. You have to do what you can handle. Don't overshoot. We might like to see you doing three or four things a month, but you have to do what is realistic, doing it on your own. That’s probably about two things every quarter. We'll talk in just a minute about how you can schedule so you can get that done by using just about one hour every week. So it's not about doing it all. It's about picking just a few things and doing them well and recognizing that something is way better than nothing. 

The second thing is choosing the events that are right for your business. So when you look at the calendar, pick the things that feel right for you. Curate what's gonna help you connect with your core customer, the general community, and maybe a stretch customer. So let’s use an example of a hair salon. National Beauty Day is the obvious day to reach out to your core customer. You want to be all over that. 

National Teacher Day could be the opportunity for you to connect your brand to your community not just focusing specifically on your hair services, but about your business as a member of the community and stimulate that word of mouth and reach new people. But then you could also go through something like Earth Day, which might not be the natural, obvious one for you, but it might be a great way to reach a stretch customer. So maybe you have a chemical-free product on the shelf that you want to focus on as part of that and you're using Earth Day as an event to attract an audience that your brand might not have popped out to in the past. And so, you're using that as a way to reach that stretch customer. So that’s an example of how you can think about the way you’re curating your events as you set your event strategy.

Now let's talk about the hooks and the offers, because every event that you've ever seen come out from big chain or franchise, offers are a part of it. Now I want to be very clear about something. Offers are not discounts. An offer is about making a deal with a customer that works for your ROI and it works for theirs. Now I realize that this is about positioning and it's about the impression the customer is left with. And that's why timing an offer to an event is so great because it changes the impression. Let me dig into that a little bit.

When you use a discount and literally your event is the fact that you’re offering a discount, well, the only thing you can do to create excitement is just make the discount bigger. And the problem with that is, you’re going to attract the wrong customer, you can devalue the value of your products and services, and you just, in general, can cause some financial risk for your business. When you tie an offer to an event that’s on the calendar that a customer is interested in, now you're tying it to something the customer is passionate about and you're sort of saying, “let's celebrate something you care about together.” Your brand is elevated. There is excitement working in your favor. You have a tailwind that you can take advantage of, and as a result you can discount less. And so that becomes less financial risk and more upside for you.

Typical rule of thumb for restaurants, retail and service businesses, below 20%, it's hard to get a customer's attention unless they're already aware of you and a committed customer. If it's someone that’s totally a new customer that you're able to attract, you may want to go bigger. In that 25-50% range and only doing that once to get that new customer -- and then, if you're really working with your existing customer base, then you might want to put more conditions on it and really work with an offer amount.

Let's go through that, how you launch events in one hour per week. So this is using 1 hour per week for you to do 8 campaigns a year. Basically, 1 every 6 weeks, and this actually is built around you having four weeks out of the year where you don't even put in that one hour. So 6 weeks out from your event, you want to set your budget and determine your offer. 5 weeks out, you want to determine where and how you will present the offer. Four weeks out, you start your creative development, 3 weeks out, prepare your staff notices, 2 weeks out, you're going to finalize your marketing. And then one week out you're going to train your staff, you're going to set up your offer on your POS. And then you're going to launch.

So, you can do this with very little time every week if you just keep a consistent effort, you look ahead, and you decide what you're going to do, 6 weeks in advance. You're going to notice there are some things that aren't on here like, ramp up your staffing, increase your inventory levels. I just don't think that that is really all that necessary. It's very rare that an event is going to create that type of blowout response. These are boosters and that's why you want to do them consistently. You don't want to over stress yourself about the preparation for them just get in a nice even habit of doing it.

Little plug for the Fanbank membership, all those on the phone that are Fanbank members, you kind of get to skip the six weeks of prep and you just really want to focus your time and energy on the launching of the offer. So that gives you the keys around the strategy of how you think about setting reasonable goals, choosing the events that are right for your business, determining the right ROI and positive offers, and then following a formula that allows you to work on this one hour a week and get 8 campaigns going a year. And if you are able to access a technology solution and collaborate with other businesses that are of your business type, there are ways to save a lot of time and to cut down on how long this takes you. That's what my recent work and our work at Fanbank has been all about.

It's finding ways to save time using technology and using community collaboration -- because the really awesome thing about being an independent small business is that once you get 10 or 25  miles beyond where you are located, all of the other small businesses that are in your same category, with your same style of business, you can work together to be active online, looking for ideas -- obviously we (Fanbank) provide 100+ events throughout the year -- but keep your eyes out there for opportunity to use technology and use ideas and creative that come from other sources so that you can save time with technology and collaboration.

Before we wrap up, I just want to emphasize that this is all about follow through. This is the kind of thing that is going to help your business -- find the time. It’s Small Business Week right now and it would be great to be using that as a reason to attract the first-time customer to generate interest in your business. You can use gifts with purchase for that first-time customer. You can use sweepstakes as a way to gather emails and continue to build the fan base that you have in your community that you can engage with.

Use all the different content angles. Use social media. Use your instore real estate or every time you’re interacting with a customer, it's great to get something in their hands. Use email and just follow through on these basics. I know that for the vast majority of people on this phone call, this is the kind of thing that you're doing at 11 o'clock at night and it sort of drops to the last thing on your list. Really try to avoid that, if you can, and set a habit for yourself of making this much higher on your list and something that you just commit to getting done every week.

If you want to learn more about seasonal sales events, we have a blog post that talks about a lot of things we covered in this webinar. Any of our members -- if you have questions -- you can always message connect@fanbank.com. If you're not yet a member and would like to reach out to us, you can reach out to us at join@fanbank.com. We really have a deep passion for all of you and what you do -- we want to help in every way we can -- so please let us know anything that we can do to support your business and we're happy to be here and keep working with small businesses -- not just during Small Business Week -- but every week. Thanks so much. 

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