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How to Make the Most of Small Business Saturday

image for LightFieldStudios / Getty Images
LightFieldStudios / Getty Images
  • Small Business Saturday is an opportunity for shoppers to support small businesses and boost their local economy.
  • Small Business Saturday has seen over $103 billion in spending in the 10 years it has been going on.
  • 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.

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

Small Business Saturday lands on Nov. 30 this year. With over 75% of American consumers saying they 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.

American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010 to give small, locally owned businesses a boost amongst 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 $103 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, so be sure to check out the site for ideas and support when planning out your Small Business Saturday.

Small businesses have long been considered both the backbone and the 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. Almost 108 million consumers nationwide "shopped small" on the 2017 Small Business Saturday, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, spending a combined $15.4 billion at independent neighborhood retailers and restaurants.

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.

Now that the movement is in its 10th year, most Americans are aware of it, but they 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.

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, marketing technology advisor at Swiftpage.

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.

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 past 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.

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%).

When business gets busy, social media is often the first thing to get pushed aside. But it should be 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," he said.

Come up with a plan to market Small Business Saturday two to three weeks before it happens. 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 promotion or event details.

Aside from social media, take the time to rethink your overall marketing strategy and increase your advertising plans, 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's doing everything it can to help your business succeed. [Read related article: How to Be Successful at Social Media Marketing]

Gilbert recommends creating a comprehensive marketing campaign to draw customers to your store. Make sure you are clear about what you offer and why those offerings are unique to your store.

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

If so, consider a partnership for Small Business Saturday. You can offer special discounts for shopping at both stores, sell product bundles, or sponsor crossover events like wine tasting while shopping for cheese (or vice versa).

This is a great way to build relationships with other small business owners in your area and strengthen your sense of community.

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.

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

Additional reporting by Saige Driver and Adam C. Uzialko. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Kiely Kuligowski

Kiely is a staff writer based in New York City. She worked as a marketing copywriter after graduating with her bachelor’s in English from Miami University (OH) and is now embracing her hipster side as a new resident of Brooklyn. You can reach her on Twitter or by email.