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How to Make the Most of Small Business Saturday

Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski
Staff Writer

Small Business Saturday is a great way to build up your business and your local economy.

  • Small Business Saturday is an opportunity for shoppers to support small businesses and boost their local economy.
  • Now entering its 11th year, Small Business Saturday has seen over $120 billion in spending in the decade since it started.
  • As a small business, you can do many things to make the most of the day, like getting the word out about the event and offering special promotions.
  • This article is for small businesses looking to take part in Small Business Saturday 2020. 

Sandwiched between the frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to celebrating small businesses and encouraging consumers to shop at local establishments.

Small Business Saturday lands on Nov. 28 this year. According to a recent Groupon survey, more than 75% of American consumers plan to support small businesses in their communities that day. Small business owners should start thinking about how to get the most out of the increased traffic. Here are some tips for making the best of Small Business Saturday – even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is Small Business Saturday?

American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010 to give small, locally owned businesses a boost amidst the hustle and bustle of Black Friday.

The movement gained significant traction in 2011, when the Senate unanimously passed a resolution supporting the day. Since then, Small Business Saturday has grown into a national movement, with over $120 billion in spending reported over the last 10 years.

"Our ultimate goal is to help small businesses do more business, and for Small Business Saturday, that includes arming them with the tools to help make the day a success," said Amy Marino, vice president, head of global social media and head of Small Business Saturday at American Express.

American Express provides many resources for business owners, including event ideas, business boot camps, "SBS 101" online content, marketing materials, checklists, and customizable print and digital signage such as event flyers, posters, save the dates, and social media assets. Be sure to check out the site for ideas and support when planning out your Small Business Saturday.

Key takeaway: American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010 as a movement encouraging consumers to support small and local businesses.

Why is Small Business Saturday important?

Small businesses have long been considered the backbone and heart of the American economy. Successful small businesses bring a community together, increase real estate value and help keep local money local – which directly benefits their towns' economies. Small businesses pay local taxes, which means any money spent there flows back to their communities, supporting things like parks, schools and emergency services.

Small Business Saturday is also a great chance for small business owners to rake in some last-minute profits before the year's end. Roughly 110 million consumers nationwide "shopped small" on Small Business Saturday 2019, according to the Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, spending a combined $19.6 billion at independent neighborhood retailers and restaurants.

Key takeaway: Small Business Saturday encourages support for the businesses that form the backbone of the economy and their local communities.

When is Small Business Saturday 2020?

This year, Small Business Saturday takes place on Nov. 28 – between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This year is the perfect opportunity to drive sales and recover from losses you've experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the Groupon study shows, more consumers are willing to shop local and support small businesses this year. As a business owner, you likely know firsthand that smaller companies took the biggest hit when COVID-19 first became an issue. Thankfully, you can take advantage of this day by ramping up your marketing efforts and reaching out to your loyal audience. You'd be surprised how many people are in the spirit of giving this time of the year – especially in 2020.

Key takeaway: Small Business Saturday 2020 falls on Nov. 28.

Tips for Small Business Saturday success

1. Do something special.

Small Business Saturday is a big day, so you should do something to mark the occasion and entice more customers to stop by. You can offer special promotions, host an event (like a kid-friendly activity, a shop-and-sip or a food tasting), bring in local performers or artisans, or add an extra incentive to shop, like offering discounts or donating a portion of the day's proceeds to a local charity.

2. Get the word out.

Now that the movement is in its 11th year, most Americans are aware of it, but your community may not know that your store is participating in the day.

"This is one day out of the year where you can tell your story and harness the publicity that naturally surrounds the day," said Brian Mattingly, CEO and founder of Welcomemat Services.

Even if you're not offering any special discounts or events, you can share your business's story on Small Business Saturday. Post on social media with the hashtags #SmallBusinessSaturday or #SBS, send out flyers or newsletters by traditional mail or email, or post an ad in your local paper. Let people know you're there, tell them what products or services you offer, and mention your excitement for Small Business Saturday.

3. Treat it as the beginning of your year.

The start of the calendar year is a hectic time for small businesses. Use Small Business Saturday as an early opportunity to assess the state of your business, said Kevin Miller, director of product marketing at Cherry Road Technologies.

Do you need to hire seasonal help? Is there new technology you can implement to streamline specific business workflows? Use Small Business Saturday to complete a holistic assessment of your business operations, Miller said. This can help you prepare for the next wave of big shopping holidays and the actual start of the calendar year.

4. Stock up on potentially popular items.

The last thing you'll want is to run out of your most popular merchandise before the season even begins. That's why it's critical to understand your product or service demands during the holiday season, said David Gilbert, founder and CEO of small business lender National Funding. Plan strategically in advance, he said, and stock up on popular items. Look at the purchase history for your biggest shopping days to get an idea of what customers want, and place them in easily accessible areas of your store.

5. Offer special discounts and promotions.

Like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday is a great day to offer special deals to entice customers. A 2016 survey by Infusionsoft and Pollfish found that the most popular Small Business Saturday promotions in 2015 were limited-time offers (24%), free gift offers (21%), coupon discounts (20%) and "buy one, get one free" offers (19%).

6. Reinvest in social media.

When business gets busy, social media is often the first thing to get pushed aside. But you should consider it a critical part of your marketing plan, said Mattingly. "Creative and purposeful content can capture the attention of consumers, which, in turn, creates shares and engagement."

Ideally, you should come up with a plan to promote your Small Business Saturday offers two to three weeks before it happens. (It's not too late if you haven't started yet, though!) Decide which platforms you want to post on, what you will post, and what you hope to achieve by posting. Are you trying to drive more traffic to your store? Are you trying to increase awareness of your product?

Continue to post once or twice a week leading up to the day, making sure to include all necessary information, like your location and any relevant promotion or event details. [Read related article: How to Be Successful at Social Media Marketing]

7. Boost your other marketing strategies.

In addition to your social media marketing, take the time to rethink your overall marketing strategy and increase your advertising efforts, said Gilbert. With Black Friday marking the official start of the holiday shopping season, now is a good time to beef up your marketing strategy and make sure it maximizes your chances of success. 

Gilbert recommends creating a comprehensive marketing campaign to draw customers to your store. In all your marketing materials, be clear about what you offer and why those offerings are unique to your store.

8. Partner up.

Do any other businesses near you offer products or services that are complementary to yours? For instance, is there a cheese store near your wine shop, or an outdoor gear retailer near your boat trip company?

If so, consider a partnership for Small Business Saturday. You could offer special discounts for shopping at both stores, sell product bundles, or sponsor crossover events – like wine tasting while shopping for cheese. This is a great way to build relationships with other small business owners in your area and strengthen your sense of community.

9. Extend your hours.

If you have the staff available, consider extending your hours on Small Business Saturday. This can increase traffic by giving customers more time to come in, making it easier for them to stop by before or after they meet their previous obligations or complete their regular shopping.

If you do decide to extend your hours, make sure you put the word out along with the rest of your Small Business Saturday marketing materials. Include it in your social media posts, newsletters, emails or newspaper ads.

10. Personalize your customer experience.

Your company isn't the only one on the market on Small Business Saturday. To earn the support of your audience and keep up with your competitors (including larger corporations, which tend to be more convenient options for many shoppers), you'll have to find ways to personalize your customers' experience.

Ask yourself why consumers should choose you over similar businesses, then use that as leverage to attract customers. For instance, add a personal touch to your packaging, extra treats in customer orders, a handwritten thank-you note, customized items or special deals.

11. Support your customers so they support you.

Good customer service is crucial – especially for small businesses looking to make a lasting impression. Make sure you have a solid team of workers to help take phone calls, address questions or concerns, offer live chat support, and provide guidance when placing orders. By prioritizing your customers this way, you'll show them you genuinely care and appreciate them, which is much more than most large businesses offer. Additionally, most sales will take place digitally this year, so it's important for your customers to feel as much support from you virtually as they would in person.

12. Tweak your SEO strategy.

Search engine optimization is one of the most important strategies for a small business to implement, as it helps consumers find your website and learn more about your business. Without good SEO, you won’t be as visible to your audience, which can hold you back from making many sales. SEO is especially important this year, as many consumers are going to shop online rather than in person. In other words, a large chunk of your sales will rely on your SEO practices.

To improve your chances of showing up in search results, focus on using the right keywords for your business, publish blog posts with relevant content, create promotional content, and make sure Google shows where you are located so you can recruit members from your community. 

13. Take advantage of resources from American Express.

American Express provides various resources to help small businesses gain visibility. For instance, its Shop Small Studio offers free materials to help you create posters, social media graphics, email newsletters and more. Then, you can use your creations to promote your business across all channels, such as Instagram, Facebook, email and your website. American Express also lists other resources, such as participating businesses where you can save on shipping and other services, and a PDF e-book with advice to help your customers practice pandemic safety.

Key takeaway: There are various ways to improve your chances of garnering support this Small Business Saturday, from good marketing and SEO to joining forces with other businesses in your community. 

For more tips on creating a great holiday season marketing plan, read our small business marketing guide for the holidays. 

Sammi Caramela, Saige Driver and Adam C. Uzialko contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Image Credit: LightFieldStudios / Getty Images
Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski
Business News Daily Staff
Kiely Kuligowski is a business.com and Business News Daily writer and has written more than 200 B2B-related articles on topics designed to help small businesses market and grow their companies. Kiely spent hundreds of hours researching, analyzing and writing about the best marketing services for small businesses, including email marketing and text message marketing software. Additionally, Kiely writes on topics that help small business owners and entrepreneurs boost their social media engagement on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.