A Sam's Club in Palmdale, Calif.(Photo: Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY)
Americans are so big on small business that large companies are
launching pro-small-business marketing campaigns in hopes of squeezing
their way into the spotlight.
The latest small-business champion:
Sam's Club. The Wal-Mart-owned wholesale club is partnering with
non-profit small-business counselor SCORE to award $1,000 of free
merchandise to each of 102 small businesses across the country, the
company will announce Wednesday. Sam's Club will also fly the owners to a
small-business conference in Dallas that it's paying $547,000 to fund.
the campaign may draw in consumers enamored of small business, "Mostly
for us, it's about helping small business and making them successful,"
says John Boswell, marketing chief of Sam's Club, which is promoting the
campaign on its website, on social-media channels and with special
videos on its YouTube channel.
Hot on the heels of American
Express' campaign for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24, Sam's Club is
joining a host of big companies, from Google to UPS, who are banking on
small business to score them the same do-gooder image American Express
has achieved by creating the event in 2010 and advertising it every
year. And the same campaign awareness: About 67% of Americans knew about
the Small Business Saturday campaign, says the National Federation of
By championing small business, companies can
win over shoppers gung-ho about small business, as well as
small-business owners themselves.
"If you're a big company, if the
tide is going in that direction," says Barbara Brooks, co-senior
partner of marketing consulting firm The Strategy Group, "you want to be
part of that tide."
The good news: Pro-small-business campaigns
tend to actually help small businesses, either with free marketing, free
merchandise or even funding consumer purchases with free gift cards.
becomes a win-win for everybody," says Brooks. "This is a way to
engender goodwill, and goodwill spreads to good press very quickly."
Playing small-business Santa Claus:
• UPS. The
shipping franchiser has been handing out $25 gift cards for a specific
business to 80 shoppers in a new city nearly every week in a "cash mob"
campaign to prove how much they care about small business. The local UPS
Store owners help run the events and promote them to the community.
the presence of our UPS Store owners helping out makes people think,
'Hey, they're small-business owners too,' " says Chelsea Lee, PR chief
at UPS. The campaign's fourth cash mob will be at the Main Street Market
in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.
• FedEx. Partnering
with American Express on Small Business Saturday, the shipping company
paid for 40,000 gift cards of $25 each and awarded them to Small
Business Saturday shoppers in a random drawing.
• Google. The
search engine giant is offering a two-for-one deal on its AdWords
Express advertising service for small businesses. A business owner who
buys online advertising in December will get the same ads for free in
January. Google is using AdWords itself to promote the offer.