In a recent article, small business expert Gene Marks shared the unconventional argument that Small Business Saturday is unimportant at best, and insulting at worst. I respect his position and can certainly understand the underlying argument he was trying to make. Unfortunately, I believe his approach is overly cynical and misses the mark. As the CEO of a company whose sole mission is to educate, encourage, and support small businesses, I must take this opportunity to present a counter-argument.
Argument 1: Small Businesses Demand Attention On Small Business Saturday
This point is valid. It is also the point of marketing to attract the attention of potential customers. Admittedly, Small Business Saturday was not created by small businesses. In truth, it was created by American Express for a number of PR and marketing reasons. AMEX’s motivations aside, this shopping holiday directs focus onto small businesses and the local communities they serve during the busy holiday shopping season.
If a small business seeks to take advantage of the rare opportunity for free advertising bankrolled by a major corporation, who are we to stop them? As a company who provides small businesses with access to financial resources, I have to get behind a holiday (artificial though it may be) that brings attention to small businesses.
Perhaps small businesses truly are demanding attention on this one day of the year devoted to the value they bring to their communities. But is it really so troubling that small businesses make a momentary appeal for support amidst the suffocating din of holiday advertisements from their larger, more resourced counterparts? Why not make the most of the opportunity?
Argument 2: Small Business Saturday Is Just Another PR Ploy For American Express
PR gets a bad rap, especially during the holidays, but PR isn’t all bad. PR can be (and often is) a vehicle for good, bringing attention to worthy charities, nonprofits and social issues. As a very prominent SMB expert who makes the most of PR exposure, Mr. Marks knows this better than most. In the case of Small Business Saturday, I would have to agree with Mr. Marks—the PR man or woman who came up with the idea is a “friggin’ genius”.
Small Business Saturday is a phenomenal PR move, not just for American Express, but for all small businesses who choose to participate (and even those who don’t). PR is an expense that is often difficult to justify for small businesses. It requires a large amount of time and effort for sometimes fleeting returns. When it is done properly, however, it provides a huge boost for business. A mention in a major publication or television program has been known to increase sales by huge percentages. Consider the incredible impact that Guy Fieri’s “Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives” has had on small restaurants nation-wide.
By offering to do the PR legwork and effectively bring the unique value of small businesses to the attention of the masses, American Express is doing the right thing in my book.
Argument 3: Small Business Saturday Is Insulting To Business Owners
This is where I have the biggest issue with Mr. Marks’ argument. Small Business Saturday is not about showing pity towards poor, ignorant small business owners struggling to survive. Most small business owners aren’t so naive to think that a single day’s sales will make or break their business. Small Business Saturday is more about building long-term awareness than trying to salvage holidays sales numbers. Sure, the idea of a manufactured holiday may seem trite, but as with most things in life, awareness is half the battle. Small business owners are smart enough to know this, and that’s why most embrace Small Business Saturday with open arms.
At BodeTree, my team and I have worked to develop a financial management system that helps small businesses organize their financials, connect with partners and build a financial strategy for success. Our business model is built around the idea that success is a journey, one that we choose to take alongside our clients. We know how savvy small businesses can be when they have the right tools in front of them. Small Business Saturday is just another one of those tools that smart business owners use to their advantage.
There is no question that Mr. Marks knows small business better than most. I’ve met him personally on a number of occasions and have always been impressed by his knowledge and sincere devotion to helping fellow entrepreneurs. Still, I believe that he missed the mark with this particular article. The path of the cynic is an easy one to take. Sure, there are elements of Small Business Saturday that come across as cheesy. However, I know for a fact that small business owners are a smart and battle-hardened bunch. They’re bright enough to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way, and Small Business Saturday is no exception. It’s about awareness, free marketing, and opportunism, not pity, insult, or manipulation. No matter how you slice it, it’s a good thing for our entrepreneurs and the communities they serve. So don’t be a cynic. Get out there this Saturday and support your local small businesses. You won’t be sorry you did.
This article was written by Chris Myers from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.