When American Express announced its very first Small Business Saturday back in 2010, I, for one, didn’t think much of it. As usual, I was wrong.

You can’t blame me for being skeptical. The idea was just a marketing campaign at the beginning. There was a recession going on and Amex wanted to try and do its part to help its small business customers. So it started a day to honor them and handed out credits for customers who shopped at qualified small businesses. Not a bad idea.

Actually, it was an unbelievably great idea! Since that very first Small Business Saturday, the event has grown into a national event for millions of U.S. consumers. Nestled in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November, this day that celebrates small businesses attracts presidents, politicians, celebrities, and big brand names as sponsors and shoppers.

The ninth annual Small Business Saturday in 2018 reached an all-time high, with a reported $17.8 billion in spending at small businesses, ranging from retailers to restaurants. Amex also reports that 96% of consumers who participated in Small Business Saturday say that the day motivates them to “shop small” throughout the year—not just for the holidays.

So, no, this is not hype. It’s for real. It’s a day that truly gives small business owners the chance to remind the rest of the country just how important they are—both to the economy and to our culture.

If you’re a small business owner, particularly a merchant, this is not a holiday you should ignore. Small Business Saturday needs to be on your marketing calendar. You should embrace it. You should be making it a priority event, one that kicks off the all-important holiday shopping season. You should make it your goal to give your customers the chance to support not only your business, but also the 30 million small businesses that employ nearly half of the private workers in the U.S.

So, how do you do make the most of Small Business Saturday for your business? Just make sure you’re doing these three things.

1. Come up with a special promotion.

Small Business Saturday falls right after Black Friday on what is the biggest shopping weekend of the year. People are ready to buy and they’re looking for deals. This is not a time to nurture. It’s a time to sell.

Even if you don’t like giving discounts, this is a day that cries out for them. So come up with specials that will be available that day—in store and/or online. Maybe it’s a storewide sale. Maybe it’s a just a few select items. It could be a buy one get one free or an across-the-board price cut.

You will want to have a very loud sales promotion on that day as your way to say “thank you” to all the customers who will be supporting your small business.

2. Plan and budget accordingly.

Small Business Saturday could be a very big day for your business, so treat it seriously. Your planning needs to begin months in advance—not the week before.

Will you have enough stock? Will you be fully staffed? Have you put money aside for special marketing? Are you tricking out your store with special posters, signs, flags, or tables? Will you be giving away special promotional items that may need to be purchased up front? Should you consider a layout change to put certain items near the register or build special displays?

The smartest business owners I know are always planning ahead, and the ones who will profit the most from this November’s Small Business Saturday have already started thinking about it.

3. Finally, play the longer game.

Now is the time to get your database and technology together: Invest in a good customer relationship management system. Upgrade your point-of-sale software. Equip your staff with mobile apps. Get a loyalty app or start a VIP club.

Respect your customer’s privacy and show that you value what they’re sharing by offering them something—a free product or discount—in return for this information. Then plan your post-Small Business Saturday reach-out! If people came into your store and liked what you sell—whether they bought this time or not—they’re certainly prospects in the future. And so are their friends and family. Now, you can begin the nurturing!

Small Business Saturday isn’t just a one-day event. It’s a day that takes months of planning and then subsequent follow-up to really maximize its many opportunities. As we all know, with anything in life, you get out of things what you put into them. If you put a lot into Small Business Saturday, you will likely enjoy significant returns.

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