After all, most people don’t think of a car dealer on small business Saturday, do they?  They often think of their local boutique, or local restaurant down the road.

But what if there was a way your dealership could participate in this growing trend of hyper-localism?  The key is to think of this day as a shopping day, rather than a buying day.  The appeal of outdoor malls (like Bridge Street in Huntsville, AL) is that people can walk and talk and shop while enjoying the outdoors and some relaxing time with friends or family.  So how can you bring that experience into a dealership?

There are a number of options, and there is still time to pull something together for Small Business Saturday if you have a motivated sales staff or general manager.  Here’s a list of 3 promotions to get you started:

  1. Host a few small businesses in your show room that are not in an outdoor mall space or walk-able space and promote it on all the participating businesses’ social media channels. For example, if you are a Toyota dealer (which has several models that are female-friendly) your dealership could host a “Small Business Saturday Fair” inside the dealership and invite several female friendly businesses to come and provide samples for women to check out as a way to partner with other businesses in your community.  Every person that swings by and ‘checks in’ on Facebook would be eligible to win a gift card of $100-$200 that will be given away at the end of the ‘fair’.  There are plenty of local coffee shops, bakeries, Rodan + Fields distributors, and Mary Kay distributors that would love to set up for a Saturday in a location that has an event they are promoting! The dealership also could give away small promotional items like key chains or screen cleaning cloths, or even free car wash coupons to the first 50 people to check in that day!  I know with Covid-19 guidelines in place, this may seem like an odd suggestion, however dealerships often have very large show rooms that allow for plenty of spacing.  Plus, they are often less crowded than malls or small boutiques.  Plus, dealerships have often been considered “Essential Services” so many of them are still open and have experience implementing the safety standards.
  2. Offer to set up one of your vehicles with balloons tied to it outdoors at a local retailer that is hosting their own event and provide a gift card courtesy of your dealership to help the retailer/boutique promote their event and promote your dealership at the same time. The dealership’s car is locked up and left at the retailer/boutique in a place that it can be seen when customers come by for curb-side pick up. Then add a special incentive on the vehicle window to take a test drive (or virtual test drive on-line) with the dealership within the next 14 days- wherein the Small Business Saturday shopper will get an exclusive freebie!  The customer can share their receipt via a photo or scanning app from the retailer/boutique they shopped at on November 28th.
  3. Use your own dealership’s blog space to promote Small Business Saturday by writing an article mentioning 5-10 local businesses that will be running Small Business Saturday promotions this year. Most dealerships get ten to twenty times the website traffic that a small restaurant or boutique website will get.  By writing an article that features other retailers in your area your dealership is providing valuable PR that helps everyone in your community, provides good will, and also provides valuable content for the ever-active Google and Bing bots!  Then promote your blog post via your dealership’s social media channels. Sharing is caring and people love content that is informational and timely.  Someone at the dealership will need to contact or call several retailers to find out what they have planned for November 28th to get a list of at least 5 worth writing about.  And when a dealership person explains the reason for the call and offers to share the blog post via email when it’s published, these local retailers will most likely want to promote the blog post as well. Everybody wins with this approach and it should only take a few hours to make the calls & write the blog post.

Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses and communities across the country. Founded by American Express in 2010, this day is celebrated each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Taking advantage of this special day at the end of the year is a great way for local car dealers to generate goodwill and get some additional exposure with shoppers that may be in the market for a car in the near future.

Be sure to visit American Express’s Small Business Saturday Resources webpage to register and get supporting materials.

This blog post was updated 11/6/2020.