The approaching holiday shopping season means local businesses have an opportunity to compensate for our sluggish summer tourist season. With the advent of Small Business Saturday–falling on November 24th this year–consumers are encouraged to “shop small” on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. With a little planning and effort, small business owners can use this day to grow their customer base this season and beyond.

Small Business Saturday was started by American Express in 2010. It followed the long-standing Black Friday, which has become known as the busiest shopping day of the year, and the more recent Cyber Monday, which was started by in 2005 after consumer studies showed the Monday following Thanksgiving to typically be the biggest online shopping day of the year. Now celebrating its 3rd year, Small Business Saturday is expected to bring 100 million shoppers flocking to small businesses throughout the country.

For many consumers, the approach of holiday season means they automatically start planning their yearly trips to the overcrowded malls, superstores and big-box retailers. While it may be difficult to completely alter the holiday-consumer paradigm that has become entrenched in our culture over the past sixty years, small businesses can do their part to offer an alternative.

The idea is to build a strong connection with customers over the course of the year, so when it comes time to shop–whether for holiday gifts, special events, or whenever they have a need or desire for your offering–they think of your business. The following marketing tips will help small business owners capitalize on Small Business Saturday.

Instore Promotions

Educate your customers. Promote Small Business Saturday in-store and online by utilizing free resources from American Express. You can download free Small Business Saturday resources from American Express such as web banners and logos, instore posters and even email and social media templates. You can also get free resources by “liking” Small Business Saturday on Facebook.

Play upon the local. If you have any products that are locally crafted, point them out and promote them. People love sampling local crafts and cuisine because it is something special and unique to the area. Offering gift items and products that are unique to your location is a great shopping incentive.

Highlight gift items. Think of which products would truly make great gifts, and promote the gift concept like crazy. Arrange special “gift displays” or create custom branded signage to showcase gift-y items. Make sure your gifts are original and not things people could find anywhere online.

Make a day of it. This is the chance to celebrate your business for all that it is. Put up some balloons, hire a solo musician to perform live music, offer coffee, snacks and goodies–make it a party!

Grow your list. On Small Business Saturday, ask visitors to sign up for your mailing list so you can notify them of future special offers and events. Continuing to engage your customers will make sure you aren’t forgotten once Small Business Saturday comes to a close.

Online Promotions

Rally the troops. In order to maximize your reach, be sure to employ all your online platforms including email, website or blog and social media accounts.

Create specific Small Business Saturday messages. Emphasize the benefits of Small Business Saturday for your customers as well as its impact on small businesses in America.

Present a great offer. Don’t just expect consumers to visit your business on Small Business Saturday, give them a great reason to make your store a must-visit location. Compelling offers can range from free gift wrapping to stocking stuffers or a percentage off future purchases after spending a certain amount.

Trending topics. If you use Twitter and other social media, include the hashtag #SmallBusinessSaturday in your tweets and posts.

Worth a thousand words. Post photos of your best (local, unique) gift items to your Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest accounts.

Worth a thousand words II. Take photos throughout the day and post them to Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. Make sure people know you’ll be posting the pictures—that way they’ll visit and tag themselves later.

Engage your audience. Conversation is a key part of successful social media strategy, so be sure to ask questions, encourage feedback and craft messages that prompt likes, shares and retweets.

Become a movie star. Post a video on Youtube about what makes your store special. Make it fun and personal, or add a human, emotional element by sharing how pursuing your entrepreneurial dream has impacted your life.

Blast off. Send email blasts to your mailing list about Small Business Saturday and why it’s important to support local business. Be sure to send a follow-up “Thank You” email after the fact to show your appreciation.

In the run-up to Nov. 24th, your goal should be to associate your store with Small Business Saturday by reminding customers about the holiday at as many customer touchpoints as possible. According to the Small Business Saturday Consumer Spend Survey 2011, 61% of consumers plan to shop at locally-owned clothing and accessories stores on November 24, so you should think of a creative way to draw them in and return the favor.

Make sure customers have a fantastic shopping experience and then ask permission to maintain the connection via e-mail or social media. By capitalizing on Small Business Saturday, but also thinking beyond that one day (the above strategies can be customized to apply year-round), local businesses have an opportunity to develop lifetime customer relationships.

Working harder to engage your local community will help alleviate the strict dependency on tourist traffic as the sole lifeblood of your business.