Small Business Saturday: A Small Business Owner’s Guide

Here’s how to make the most out of the biggest shopping holiday of the year.

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Our top considerations for having a successful Small Business Saturday, including tips on forming partnerships and tracking success

What if you could reach out to more customers, make more sales, and create long-lasting partnerships all in one day? Small Business Saturday has become a staple holiday for local shops across the nation and for a successful run, it never helps to start early.

In this guide, we’ll cover all the nitty-gritty details of Small Business Saturday — how it began, if you need to register, and how to make the most out of the biggest shopping holiday of the year.

What is Small Business Saturday?

Started in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday has become one of the most successful holidays for local businesses — outperforming Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which largely cater to big-box retailers.

Since the initial event, the holiday has been officially recognized by the Senate and is celebrated in all 50 states, bringing in over $19.6 billion in revenue in 2019.

What Small Business Saturday can mean for your business

Not only did the holiday outperform the sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined in 2019, but Small Business Saturday has also helped bolster local businesses in the long term. It’s clear that as a small business owner, there are plenty of reasons to get involved in the holiday:

  1. Reach more consumers
  2. Raise short-term revenue
  3. Establish long-term relationships with consumers and partners
  4. Better understand your local demographic’s needs and wants
  5. Advertise upcoming promotions

Studies from the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express have confirmed major gains for small businesses that participate. Not only does the amount spent every year increase, but as of 2019, 70% of American shoppers are aware of the day and 95% of shoppers said that the holiday prompted them to buy locally year-round.

Since the initial event, the holiday has been officially recognized by the Senate and is celebrated in all 50 states, bringing in over $19.6 billion in revenue in 2019.

When is Small Business Saturday 2020?

Small Business Saturday begins on November 28, 2020. 

While it’s not mandatory to register for the event, you can get more involved in the movement through signing up on the American Express Shop Small website. When you sign up, you will receive complimentary marketing materials. You can also search for other involved small businesses in the area — which can help you discover potential partnerships and see if your competition will be participating.

You can also choose to host a Small Business Saturday event, such as a food festival or a pop-up market (dependent upon your state our county’s local ordinance). Through American Express’s Shop Small initiative, they provide numerous materials to help you plan successfully.

One example is their Event Checklist — making it easy to understand everything you’ll need to get started.

How to build a successful strategy today

To have a successful Small Business Saturday, it’s important to have a solid strategy. Before the big weekend, you should know:

  • Whether you plan to participate in a larger event or organize one yourself
  • What your long-term goals are
  • How you plan to track your success
  • How you will market your business leading up to the date

Since Small Business Saturday is not a centrally organized event, every business can participate in its own available capacity. In other words, you can use whatever strategy makes the most sense for your particular business.

To make things easier, here are our top considerations for having a successful Small Business Saturday.

1. Lay the foundations with clear goals

To set your goals, it’s important to look holistically at your annual marketing plan and budget to see where Small Business Saturday can give you a boost.
Before anything else, you need to establish your long-term goals for the holiday. Do you want more online sales or more foot traffic? Would more customer feedback and data help you fine-tune your business? Will your main focus be to promote your Christmas and New Year deals?

Once you establish what you would like to accomplish, it becomes easier to figure out:

  • Your marketing strategy
  • What materials you’ll need
  • If you can incorporate other businesses into your plan
  • If you can mobilize your customer base ahead of time
  • How you will track success

To set your goals, it’s important to look holistically at your annual marketing plan and budget to see where Small Business Saturday can give you a boost.

2. Promote, promote, promote

Marketing is the key to success; after all, how else will you be able to reach your potential customers? We suggest registering with American Express so you can use their free resources as a starting point.

In terms of marketing, you’ll need to ensure that every material you have is updated in time for the event. This means cleaning up your web presence and investing in new physical materials if necessary.

When it comes to web cleanup, it’s not just your website. Ensure that your address and phone numbers are correct on Google Business, Yelp, and your social profiles. If possible, keep your accounts active with new posts, especially leading up to the date. This can include business news, team photos, or discount and event information. If you stay active on social media prior to Small Business Saturday, your followers will be more likely to see your posts when you start advertising your event.

You will also need to decide if you plan to use paid advertising. One benefit of advertising for Small Business Saturday is that you can keep costs down by limiting your ads to your city or region. Since the holiday isn’t dominated by large chains and you’ll only be bidding against local competition, the general cost of advertising online is bound to be lower.

Leading up to the holiday, you may also decide to have physical marketing materials like flyers and cards. If you begin to cultivate business relationships in preparation for a specific event — like a food festival — you can also advertise at your partners’ shops.

Planning ahead, you may not need extra manpower to assemble all of your marketing materials. The best part? There are plenty of free or low-cost tools with inbuilt templates so you don’t have to start from scratch.

3. Foster partnerships and long-term relationships

Relationships not just with your customers but with others in the local community can help keep you afloat.
Forming relationships not just with your customers but with others in the local community can help keep you afloat. Not only can you organize larger events, but you can cross-market each other’s businesses, provide discounts and special products, and brainstorm strategies to boost spending and reach new long-lasting customers.

You may even be able to rope in a local celebrity, official, or charity depending on your business model and strategy.

Whether you are speaking with business partnerships or customers, make sure to add a touch of personalization whenever possible. Some examples here:

  • If you have amassed an email list by the end of the day, don’t settle for writing generic emails. Make sure to use names when contacting them and try to offer them related products for a discount
  • You can send customized thank you notes to event organizers, officials, customers, or partners to strengthen the relationships and stay in their memory
  • Offer special discounts or free invitations to upcoming events like classes, concerts, or seminars
  • Make suggestions on related products as your customer shops
  • Create a custom map or guide with your partner’s shops and possible discounts
  • Donate a certain amount of sales to a cause to a local charity that resonates with you and your target demographic

When it comes down to it, shopping local is as much about growing revenue as it is about nurturing a community.

4. Get in-store ready

Once you’ve planned your day — including deals, discounts, events, marketing, and advertising opportunities — it’s important that you amass the resources necessary to make it a success. This can be hiring extra manpower for the day, keeping your inventory stocked and updated, ensuring that your payment portals are working, and reviewing basic training with your staff to make sure they won’t feel overwhelmed.

In addition to keeping everything in order, you may want to offer special services, such as:

  • Gift wrapping
  • Shipping discounts
  • Concierge services
  • Extended hours

Small Business Saturday can also be an excellent time to kickstart December holiday sales and events. Make sure to place any marketing materials related to future promotions in your store or online so that customers have an incentive to return soon.

5. Track success

Finally, it’s critical to have a way to track your success in achieving your long-term goals. This can be as simple as tracking sales, taking customer feedback on a product, or a lower cart abandonment rate for e-commerce sites. Depending on your business and marketing models, this can mean setting up analytics funnels like Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, and Google Adwords.

If the results come back lackluster, you can find out what to tweak for your next promotion. But be aware that the benefits may come long after Small Business Saturday is over. For example, customers from a partner’s business may wander in a week or month later.

It’s critical to have a way to track your success in achieving your long-term goals. This can be as simple as tracking sales, taking customer feedback on a product, or a lower cart abandonment rate for e-commerce sites.

You may want to get together and have a post-holiday meeting with other local businesses — even if you didn’t collaborate on an event — to review your results and brainstorm ideas about how to optimize the experience next year.

However, that’s what makes Small Business Saturday such a big opportunity. You have the ability to expand your business into the local market and create a long-term market for the year ahead.

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