Small Business Saturday Success: What You Can Learn from Butter Lane

by Michelle Seekamp on November, 18 2013 in Marketing


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In 2010 the future of Small Business Saturday was unclear. In its inaugural year it generated significant social buzz, and certainly captured the attention of the media. What was less certain was whether small businesses and consumers would get on board again to make it the annual event American Express was hoping for.

Butter Lane, a cupcakery - and Swipely merchant - with two locations in NYC, emerged as an early champion of Small Business Saturday success. In the first year they reached an impressive 400% increase in sales and the day surpassed Valentine’s as their top sales performer. Co-founder Pamela Nelson became a go-to spokesperson for #SmallBizSat making an appearance on Fox Business News and receiving a profile on the Shop Small site.

As it turns out, the bakery’s success wasn’t a fluke; they’ve continued to rack up impressive sales on Small Business Saturday in the last 2 years, proving that involvement in the promotion can hold long-term benefits for merchants.

We had a chance to speak with Pam recently and asked her what merchants can do to replicate Butter Lane’s Small Business Saturday success. Here are the 5 winning strategies you should try for your business.

Gotta have a Plan:
If you wait for the day-of to make your move, it will be too late. Butter Lane gets out ahead of the event by promoting early and often, starting approximately two weeks before the event. They activate their existing marketing channels as well as their staff:

  • Hold a meeting with managers to discuss how they can improve on last year’s event

  • Send emails that include a digital postcard for pre-orders

  • Creating a landing page on the website and share across social media channels


Come up with a Smart Offer:
Butter Lane came up with their “Free Dozen” concept by taking the $25 incentive that AMEX offers cardholders and combining it with a $9 discount on their regular pricing. Brilliant! It’s very attractive to their customers… who doesn’t want 12 free cupcakes?

This year AMEX is offering a reduced $10 incentive to their cardholders and Butter Lane is responding by allowing customers to use the credit toward one of their cupcake classes

  • What can you combine with AMEX’s incentive to make a “free” offer?

Cost Effective Promotions:

AMEX provides a robust set of Small Business Saturday marketing materials to participating businesses. Take advantage of these offerings to offset your costs and simplify your promotional efforts.

  • Butter Lane uses the free postcards AMEX provides as well as an online form to collect orders before the event. This not only allows them to keep promotional costs down, but lets them handle logistics ahead of time.

  • They also activate marketing channels like Facebook and their newsletter to spread the word to existing customers.

  • They use Swipely to track metrics associated with campaign performance including: revenue, number of visits, return on spend, and even cost to acquire a repeat customer.

Think About Logistics:
By collecting orders ahead of time, Butter Lane is able to increase the volume of sales they can actually process day of. This helps to ensure the customer experience is a positive one. By collecting pre-orders they can:

  • More accurately project food costs based on volume of pre-sales

  • Increase staff productivity by preparing and packaging orders in advance

  • Save customers time at the register and process more sales faster

Get your Employees Involved:
A good operation is nothing without a motivated staff, and Butter Lane knows it. They get their employees psyched about their biggest sales day of the year and it’s paid off for them in the form of increased sales. 

Here’s how they do it:

  • Hold a managers' meeting before they begin promoting your deal. Ask them about what they see working with customers day in and day out and make sure your offer is a match.

  • Motivate employees by running a contest to see who can make the most pre-sales, wait on the most customers, wrap the most packages, or whatever you want to optimize performance around.

Not tracking the return on your marketing efforts? Try Swipely’s Campaign Monitoring features to identify what marketing efforts bring in the most revenue and drive repeat business.

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