6 ways to make the most of Small Business Week

Celebrate the small businesses that comprise the bulk of local employers and the workforce during Small Business Week, Sept. 12–18.
Feature Smallbusinessweek Panel

Wisconsin small businesses may not, by definition, be large, but their economic impact is. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are 461,525 small businesses in the Badger State, representing 99.4% of all Wisconsin businesses. Those small businesses employ 1.3 million Wisconsin workers, or 49% of the state’s workforce.

All those small businesses will be front and center during National Small Business Week, Sept. 12–18. Since 1963, National Small Business Week has celebrated the contributions local entrepreneurs make to our communities all year long. The SBA will host a free, three-day live virtual summit from Sept. 13–15 featuring educational workshops and networking, but there are a number of things you and your small business can do to join the celebration and promote your business at the same time.

No matter if you own a small business, work at one, or just love supporting them, here are six ways you can take part in Small Business Week this year:

1. Share your story

No one else knows your business’ story like you do, so make sure you share it with your customers, partners, and clients. Make the most of your print and email mailing lists to send a note of thanks to your clients, and share some previously unheard nuggets about your business’ origin story and your motivation for running your operation. Utilize all of your social media channels — don’t forget to use the hashtag #SmallBusinessWeek — to share behind-the-scenes photos and videos that show your customers the heart of what you do.

2. Celebrate your customers

You wouldn’t be in business without them, so be sure to recognize the clients and partners who help keep the lights on. If your business has branded swag, give it away, and make sure to include a label denoting that it’s Small Business Week. Offer special discounts and promotions all week long, and consider launching a customer loyalty program, if you don’t already have one.

If you have the capability, provide offer codes for your most loyal customers, those on your email list, for example. Not only will you be able to track who uses the codes, you’ll have some valuable data for future promotions to your best customers. Give some special recognition to long-time customers who have stuck with you through thick and thin by way of a handwritten thank-you note.

3. Celebrate your employees

Next to you, your employees are the lifeblood of your small business. Make sure you take time out this week above all others to reward your hard workers. Arrange an impromptu happy hour or picnic to show your gratitude to your employees. Close the office early one day to host a company party or treat your team to an adventure. Provide your staff with paid volunteer time to give back to a cause close to their own hearts, or simply offer a paid half-day off to use as they please. You can also take this opportunity to solicit positive comments from your customers on why they love and appreciate your employees so much, and share those with your staff and other clientele.

4. Invest in education

All week long, the SBA will host free webinars to help small business owners learn new skills and improve their operations. But your learning opportunities don’t need to stop there. Make a commitment to continuing your own training, as well as your staff’s. Sign yourself and key staffers up for local seminars and presentations that will strengthen their understanding of your industry and their roles. IB offers a calendar of local events for business professionals, as well as several business seminars throughout the year designed to educate and entertain, from our Icons in Business breakfast series to our annual IB Expo and Conference, which includes an insightful keynote presentation from Ken Schmidt, Harley-Davidson’s former director of communications.

5. Host a business networking event

Sometimes you’re so busy running your business, you don’t have time to get out and meet other business owners and workers like you. Networking events don’t have to be complicated. Open your doors and show off your space to other business leaders and professionals around town. Put the word out via your email list and social media to attract a large, diverse, and targeted crowd, and then be sure to take lots of photos at the event and share them during and afterward to create even more buzz for your next get together.

6. Collaborate with other small businesses

There’s power in numbers, and you can benefit from joining with the other small businesses in your area or local industry to attract customers for everyone. Consider the businesses in your area that have a similar clientele, and reach out to them to see if you can offer shared promotions during Small Business Week. You can also spread the love by sharing social media content from neighboring small businesses or giving a shout out to the small businesses you love to patronize.

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