Small Business Saturday: Marketing and promotion ideas for business owners

As the owner of a small business, you know the holiday shopping season is vitally important in two key ways — helping your customers find just the right gifts and helping you reach year-end sales goals.

Taking part in an annual event called Small Business Saturday, both in-person and online, can help you accomplish each goal. That’s especially true when your physical store and your business website are working in tandem to create an experience that keeps customers coming back.

With some creative thinking and a bit of advance planning, you can make Small Business Saturday a big success that day and going forward as loyal shoppers visit your physical store as well as your website.

Here’s how.

What is Small Business Saturday?

For more than 10 years, the Saturday after Thanksgiving has been designated as Small Business Saturday to spotlight small businesses like yours and let shoppers know about the unique products and services right in their community. That day falls between the two biggest shopping days of the year — Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving).

Small Business Saturday was started in 2010 by American Express to support small businesses and help their communities thrive. The next year, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution about the day, and officials in all 50 states took part, including a shout-out from the U.S. president. As even more support, a Small Business Saturday Coalition of business associations, nonprofit trade groups, municipalities and public officials formed up to keep the day in the spotlight every year. 

Small Business Saturday has grown steadily to say the least. Over the last 11 years, shoppers have spent nearly $140 billion, according to surveys commissioned by American Express. To help keep that momentum rolling, American Express promotes "Shop Small®”  that encourages consumers to shop and eat at local small businesses all during the year.

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Small Business Saturday 2022

This year, Small Business Saturday is Nov. 26, 2022.

Any small business, including yours, is welcome to participate. Many communities make the day a fun, festive occasion by having activities and events that draw shoppers to their business districts and encourage them to stop into stores, restaurants, and boutiques of all types.

Through Small Business Saturday marketing efforts, many businesses have one-of-a-kind promotions, special discounts or exclusive offers just for that day. Small businesses use the occasion to introduce local residents to what they offer, then take the opportunity to meet-and-greet folks, both long-time shoppers and those stopping in for the first time.

Tip: Make sure your website and store work in harmony

By integrating your in-store experience and your company website, you can build awareness of the products and services you offer and make sure customers know you can serve them in person or online. Make sure the store highlights the website and the website highlights the store.

How to get involved with Small Business Saturday

To get involved, find out if there’s any organized promotion in your town or community. Check with the local merchants association, chamber of commerce or business group to ask if they have any Small Business Saturday marketing efforts in the works that you can be part of.  You’ll want to be on a list or map of participating businesses, whether it’s on a special website or fliers handed to shoppers on Nov. 26.

If your business is online only, you can still be listed in the community where you’re based by giving your website address instead of a street address so people can visit your small business online.

You’ll also want to decide what your special offer or promotion will be that day, whether it’s a giveaway, an activity, or an exclusive offer just for Small Business Saturday. Make your offer something unique that only your business can extend, so you stand out from the competition and make a lasting impression on customers.

Tip: Make your customer service shine

Whether you’re interacting with customers in person or online, it’s important to offer excellent customer service to make the best possible impression. Train your team to be helpful, friendly experts who can guide customers in making a selection rather than coming across as a salesperson eager to close the transaction.

How your business can benefit from Small Business Saturday online marketing

The original idea behind Small Business Saturday marketing was getting shoppers to visit local businesses in person, and that's still a major goal. As people increasingly go online to research what to buy and then make purchases, a new opportunity has emerged — and that’s to encourage customers to shop small businesses online as well as visit the stores in person. Marketing tactics are now aiming to bring shoppers to small business websites, where they can browse, learn about new products and services, buy stuff, and stay in touch from anywhere, anytime.

Customers love the options. The annual Local Consumer Review Survey found that in 2020, 93% of consumers searched online to find a local business. Of those, 87% read online reviews for local businesses, up from 81% the year before. In a study from SEO experts Moz, 67% of consumers reported that online reviews influenced their decision to make a purchase.

As a business owner, it’s critical for you to realize that online shoppers are not just making purchases from home. They are using their smartphones right in your store to look up product features, compare prices, search for special offers, and browse options. And all of that can help boost sales.

Tips for a successful Small Business Saturday, online and in person

To make the most of Small Business Saturday (November 26th this year), you can take steps now to make sure your physical store and your small business website give shoppers a seamless, integrated experience, then add your Small Business Saturday promotions and offers in both places. That way, new shoppers you meet in person on Nov. 26 know they can also find you online and make purchases however and whenever they’d like. 

Create a strong small business website

If you don’t already have a website for your small business, now is time to create one. You’ll want to provide the basic details customers need to know — the type of company you run, the products and services you offer, your location, hours and how they can reach you. Launching a website has some important steps you need to follow — including securing a domain and picking a web hosting solution that fits your needs — to ensure you’re covering key elements and requirements for a smooth launch.

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If you already have a website, there are a few key steps to take to ensure you’re ready for customers to visit you online on Small Business Saturday.

  • Click through all the pages and test each link to make sure everything looks great and functions as it should.
  • Freshen your pages with new photos or add a special promotion to let customers know the website is up-to-date and has valuable offers.
  • Add online shopping to your website so customers can browse what you offer and make purchases directly online. Setting up an online store has specific requirements to ensure a smooth experience for customers and safe, secure transactions. This guide covers the basics of setting up an online store.
  • Make sure your website and online store are mobile-friendly so customers can browse and buy right on their cell phones and tables. This is essential for online-only businesses!

Reach out to customers with Small Business Saturday email marketing campaigns

One sure way to encourage your customers to shop online is reaching out to them through email marketing. You can invite in-store and online customers to sign up to hear from you about new products and services, special offers and promotions, and events you’re planning. You’ll want to use a reputable email marketing provider and be sure to follow any laws in your community or state for inviting customers to opt in to your email list or unsubscribe, and for handling personal data such as names and email addresses. When you have news to share, you’ll know your email messages are going to people who want to hear from you. It’s a great way to promote Small Business Saturday deals, and then follow up to reach new customers you meet that day.

Build customer-friendly social media channels

In addition to having an engaging, well-designed website for your small business, it’s vital to have friendly, welcoming social media channels to continue building strong relationships with your customers. You have many social media options, including TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. You’ll want to research the most important social media platforms to determine which are the best fit for your type of business. 

Whatever social media platform you pick, be sure to complete the profile for your business, including a location tag so customers can find where you’re located and easily get directions. The location tag will also help you show up in search results for your town or community.

Once your social media channels are launched, add the logos and links for those platforms to your website with wording that invites people to follow your accounts for news and updates. Be sure to keep your social media channels lively and fresh by posting updates regularly to share information, answer questions, and start conversations.

Blend your online presence with your in-person store experience

So your website and social media pages are up and running? Great! Now you’re ready to bring your online presence right into your physical store. Here are some Small Business Saturday promotion ideas to integrate your website with your store: 

  • Mount a large-screen monitor in a very visible place in your store to show your small business’s website, with beautiful photos or video demos of the top items you sell, along with pictures of customers enjoying what they bought from you. Add an on-screen message inviting shoppers to submit their own photos to show on your website. Short quotes from happy customers can make the presentation even more personal.
  • Set up a self-service tablet that shows your website so customers can browse additional options (different color? another size?), then place their order right there, with an option to ship or pick up in-store (giving you another chance to chat with them in person).
  • To encourage customers to connect with you on social media, set up a fun photo station where they can take selfies to share. For example, a surf shop could create an Instagram frame with a tropical theme as customers pose with their new surfboard. Make sure your social media handles are visible as part of the photo station so it’s easy for customers to tag your business when they post their picture.
  • At your service counter and right inside the main door, lay out attractive printed materials, such as cards, fliers, brochures or coupons, with basic details about your business, including your website address and your social media handles.
Tip: Invite customers to hear from you

Don’t forget to use language inviting customers to sign up for your email list and follow you on social media. When you have an event or special offer to tell them about, you’ll know the folks on your list would like to hear from you.

Small Business Saturday marketing and promotion ideas for online-only businesses

If your small business runs entirely through your website, with no physical location, you can still take part in Small Business Saturday. In that case, your marketing approach will need to focus on creative strategies to reach customers via digital channels, such as search engine optimization, paid search advertising, email messages, and social media posts. All these channels will bring shoppers directly to your small business website to see full details about your offers and promotions.

Every business can benefit from digital marketing, but these tactics are especially important if you have an online-only company, starting with your website content: 

  • Make your Small Business Saturday promotions very prominent on your home page, with a clear link to more details and an easy way for customers to make a purchase or accept your special offer.
  • Go through your website to make sure the wording clearly describes your business and what you offer so people searching for your products or services on the web can find you.
  • Promote your Small Business Saturday offers on your social media pages ahead of the date, so customers know when to return to your website and grab your special deal.
  • Share advance word about your special offer via email updates for customers who have signed up to get messages from you.
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