Every year, between Turkey Day and the most wonderful time of the year, small businesses nationwide gird themselves for the last-minute holiday rush. It's fitting then that today, Nov. 24, the Saturday following Thanksgiving, should be dubbed Small Business Saturday.
Small Business Saturday is focused on supporting local small businesses, encouraging consumers to do any of their unfinished holiday shopping with the entrepreneurs that drive the bulk of the U.S. economy. Not to mention it's also a great chance for small business owners to rake in some last-minute profits before the year's end.
Founded by American Express in 2010, this annual shopping day supports independently owned businesses that create jobs and make local economies thrive. The U.S. Small Business Administration says that an estimated 108 million consumers nationwide "shopped small" on the 2017 Small Business Saturday, spending a combined $15.4 billion at independent neighborhood retailers and restaurants. Is your business prepared?
"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 of global experiential marketing and talent management and the head of Small Business Saturday at American Express.
To help small business owners, American Express offers free business boot camps, online "SBS 101" education content and customizable print and digital signage. Items such as event flyers, posters, save the dates, and social media assets are available for business owners to customize and download for free to promote their business.
Tips for Small Business Saturday success
Below are some tips to help make Small Business Saturday a success for you.
- Embrace Small Business Saturday. "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. Embrace the day by doing something unique and tell your existing customers about the day through email, mail, and social media.
- 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, chief marketing officer at Neat. 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.
- Stock up on potentially popular items. The last thing you'll want is to run out of your most popular merchandise before the season is over. That's why it's critical to understand your product or service demands during the holiday season, said David Gilbert, CEO of small business lender National Funding. Plan strategically in advance, he said, and stock up on popular items.
- Offer special discounts and offers. 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.com found that the most popular Small Business Saturday promotions in 2015 were limited time offers (24 percent), free gift offers (21 percent), coupon discounts (20 percent) and buy one, get one free offers (19 percent).
- Reinvest in social media. When your small business gets busy, social media is often the first thing to get pushed aside. But it should be critical part of your marketing plan. Mattingly suggests creating a story on social media with pictures that speak to the purpose of your business. "Creative and purposeful content can capture the attention of consumers, which, in turn, creates shares and engagement," he said.
- Boost your other marketing strategies. Aside from social media, take the time to rethink your marketing strategy and increase your advertising plans, said Gilbert. He recommends that business owners create a comprehensive marketing campaign that will draw customers to their store.
For more tips on creating a great holiday season marketing plan, read our small business marketing guide for the holidays.
Additional reporting by Adam C. Uzialko, Brittney Morgan and Jennifer Post. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.