No-one cares what your small business is selling this Christmas

Small business owners across the UK will be flying the flag for independent shops on Saturday 2nd December.

Small Business Saturday is a yearly celebration of all things independent. And with the number of companies going bust this year on track to be the highest since the financial crisis, small businesses certainly need all the support they can get.

But financially squeezed customers won’t shop small out of the goodness of their hearts, no matter how much love small brands pour into their products. Independents need to give customers more, otherwise price (aka Amazon) will always win.

So, what do customers really care about?  In a nutshell, customers want stories. A gift with soul. Something to connect with. They want to know that its hand-squished by Suzie, locally brewed by Bethany or taught by ex-triathlete Tim in Tanzania. 

Stories help small business stand out from larger competitors, they help founders hit end-of-year targets and cement meaningful long-term relationships with customers.

So, the question small businesses need to ask themselves this Christmas is not WHAT am I selling but WHAT is my story. Gifting is always more than the gift itself. Insights agency The Decision Lab explains: “A gift has several objectives: to satisfy the recipient, to signal their own status, to represent the status of the relationship and so on.”

Let stories guide time-poor shoppers to all the wonderful gifts small businesses have to offer this Christmas.

Five top storytelling tips for your small business this Christmas

  1. Get clear on your small business story:

Every small business owner has a story. It might feel boringly familiar to you but it’s brand new to your curious customers. Ask yourself three questions to shape your story: 1) What was your journey from launch to the present? 2) Why did you set up this business? 3) Why should customers care? Think about how you can bring this story to life across all of your owned media (website, social channels, and emails) and in store if you have a physical presence. Consistency is key. 

Pothies, an independent business in Wales, make hot water bottle slings with pockets (aka ‘Cosymajigs’). They regularly sell out of their products and founder Belinda weaves storytelling about her family, customers, craft, and the great outdoors into everything they do.

  1. Weave in threads you and your customers care about:

People buy from people so find common ground with your customers – this might be sustainability; ethical and organic products; mental health; parenting; locally produced; pre-loved or DIY. Talk about these topics to show customers that you’re invested in these areas and find ways to bring them on the journey by asking questions and sparking conversations. Incorporate these elements into your product descriptions and packaging. 

Who Gives A Crap is a toilet paper brand that does this excellently. They’re a B Corp who incorporate sustainability and ethics into all aspects of their storytelling, along with a healthy dose of (toilet) humour.

  1. Be mindful of you customers’ stories.

2023 won’t be an easy Christmas for a lot of people and they won’t welcome added guilt for not supporting small businesses. Many families are financially squeezed so shopping independently for ALL presents may not be achievable. Don’t lecture, empathise. Give them permission to do what’s achievable by launching a more thoughtful campaign like ‘buy one independent gift this Christmas’. Or use ‘buy less, buy better’ messaging.

  1. Be the thoughtful, human choice.

Make life easier for busy customers and keep the positive story around your brand going. How? Introduce initiatives like limited-time free postage; free returns; no hassle exchanges; wish lists, thoughtful packaging, and gift cards with soul.  Have a quieter shopping evening with softer lighting for neurodiverse customers and avoid stereotypical ‘him/her’ gift categories.  Create a personalised customer experience and show them you understand their needs and challenges. 

Gifting brand, Don’t Buy Her Flowers, offer highly unique and bespoke packages (like ‘The Break Up Care Package’, ‘The Sleep Well Gift Box’ and ‘The Stand Up to Cancer Care Package’) tailored to specific needs. The team handwrite every label for a more personal touch.

  1. Show your personality.

Show your personality with copy and signage that reflects your values.  If you’re a physical store, avoid stern ‘You Break, You Pay’ style messaging and opt for a friendlier tone like ‘Our staff have test products for you to touch, please don’t hesitate to ask’.  

It’s never too late to tell a good story this Christmas. Small businesses, we are all rooting for you.