Now that Halloween is past us, it’s time to look forward to the holidays. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and retailers know that there’s more to this holiday than turkeys, football, and disagreeable in-laws.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are holy days for major businesses and online retailers, but small businesses often get left in the dust. Well, small businesses, don’t despair—you have a day of your very own! Smack between Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Small Business Saturday on November 26.

This week is starting to get crowded.

Small Business Saturday began in 2010, and despite being a holiday created and promoted by American Express, there is some real social media momentum with this, and you’ll be smart to grab on to some of the trajectory.

Why Supporting Local Business is Important

In a country that is finally starting to get fed up with Wal-Marts and McDonalds, people are really coming to appreciate the value of small and local businesses and how they play a huge part in communities.

Boston is one city that has shown they are eager to promote Small Biz Sat. The Boston Gov site notes:

“Mayor Menino signed a proclamation formalizing November 27th [in 2010, it’s the 26th this year]– which falls between what is traditionally two of the busiest shopping days of the year, “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” – as Small Business Saturday.”

While I’m not sure that you can just “proclaim” a day and wish it into reality, we should all welcome Small Business Saturday with open arms. There’s an “International Pie Day” (not to be mistaken for “Pi Day”) and a “Talk Like a Pirate Day” after all. It’s really important to support local businesses.

Stephanie Meeks, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, notes that:

“When we invest in small businesses, we are investing in places that give our towns and cities a unique sense of place… By celebrating Small Business Saturday and shopping at independent businesses, everyone can play a part in strengthening our economy and supporting revitalization on our Main Streets.”

Prepare Your Store for Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday (or as I am dubbing it, SBS) is snuggled tightly between two other super shopping days, so people will be coming to your store in a full-blown shopping frenzy. Give the people want they want – gifts for their family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and pizza delivery guys (if you order pizza as much as I do).

Here are some tips for preparing your store for SBS:

  • Think of how your products can be great gifts, and promote the gift concept like crazy.
  • Offer unique items. Try not to have things people could find anywhere online—make it original.
  • Play upon the local. SBS is about small, local businesses, and so the people visiting your store are probably all about the “local.” If you have any products that are locally crafted, point them out and promote them. People love sampling local cuisine while traveling because it is something special and unique to the area. Having gift items and products that are unique to your location is a great incentive.
  • Put signs up promoting Small Business Saturday. People who see the signs in your store are obviously already shopping in your store and are more likely to come and support you later. American Express offers some free (albeit a bit bland) posters you can print out.
  • Make a day of it! This is the chance to celebrate your business for all that it is. Put up some balloons, offer some goodies, make it a party!

My hometown Newburyport hosts “invitation nights” every few months, in which nearly all local businesses in the downtown area stay open late, offering treats and adult beverages to visitors (one place even has tequila shots). These nights are HUGE hits in town and create a lot of business for local stores. Consider taking a similar approach with Small Business Saturday.

Preparing For Small Business Saturday With Social Media and an Online Presence

When using social media, you’ll want to promote Small Biz Saturday itself, so that people know it’s a great day to support local businesses like you. You’ll also want to give additional incentive for people to visit your store on that day.

Small Business Saturday

  • Promote the in-store special offers you’ll have November 26th via Twitter and Facebook.
  • Post on Facebook about SBS and how you are preparing. The Small Business Saturday Facebook Page also offers a cute little “shop small” badge you can post to Facebook or your website.
  • Take some photos of your best gift items and post them on your FB wall.
  • Remind fans that they can get $25 for signing up for Small Business Saturday. They’ll be grateful to you and may even spend some of that cash in your store.
  • Post a video on Youtube about what makes your store special. Make it yourself, or use the templates SBS offers on their Facebook page.
  • Tweet about #SmallBusinessSaturday, and remind folks of all the cool stuff you’ll be offering that day. Maybe some free pins or stickers?
  • Send an email to your mailing list about Small Business Saturday and why it’s important to support local biz.
  • Blog about the big day as well and explain what it’s all about.

Using PPC for Small Business Saturday

  • Create a “Small Business Saturday” campaign, tailored for this once-a-year-day. WordStream offers free Google keyword generator tools that can assist you.
  • Enable location targeting for your PPC ads so that they’ll show up for local searches.
  • Implement negative keywords to stop wasted spend and redirect those funds to your Small Business Saturday campaign. Negative keyword tools can help you do this.
  • Use the AdWords Performance Grader to get your AdWords account into tip-top shape before Small Business Saturday. Take action on the suggested changes to save money, or consider hiring a PPC agency to do the work for you.

Hanging On to Those New Visitors

Make sure you aren’t forgotten once Small Business Saturday comes to a close.

  • On Small Business Saturday, ask visitors to sign up for your mailing list so you can notify them of future special offers and events.
  • Take photos throughout the day and then post them to Facebook later. Make sure people know you’ll be posting the pictures—that way they’ll visit and tag themselves later.
  • Continue the conversation by asking for feedback. Conversation is a key part of keeping happy Facebook fans.

These tips will help you get the most out of Small Business Saturday, and will transform the success of a single day into long-term benefits for you and your business.

Do you have any other ideas about how to take advantage of Small Business Saturday?