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Big business jumps on small-business bandwagon

9:51 AM, Dec 5, 2012   |    comments
A Sam's Club in Palmdale, Calif.(Photo: Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY)
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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.

While 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 Independent Business.

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.

"It 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.

"Seeing 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.

USA Today

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