Small Business Saturday is a significant marketing opportunity for independent businesses. Last year an estimated 108 million people, or 43% of all Americans, shopped at locally owned businesses on the day, dropping nearly $13 billion into neighborhood cash registers.


That doesn’t include the goodwill and long-term community benefit that an effective Small Business Saturday promotion can generate, says Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder and publisher of Retail Minded. “Small Business Saturday brings attention to consumers about the importance of supporting local businesses and applauds small businesses for the strength and stability they bring to their communities,” she says.


So how can you get your message heard above all of the holiday hype and turn first-time shoppers into loyal customers?

Start with these six steps:


1. Team up.

Partner with other small businesses in your area to create a community event that will pull more people through your doors. Last year, for example, 90 small businesses in Appleton, Wisconsin, participated in a citywide Small Business Saturday event that included a Shop Appleton First Passport. Shoppers who collected at least five stamps from participating businesses that day were entered into a drawing for more than $1,500 in prizes. You can create your own passport and download other free marketing materials at, a site created by American Express—the founder of Small Business Saturday—with resources for business owners.


2. Leverage social media.

Millions of people talk about and search for Small Business Saturday information on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, using hashtags such as #shopsmall or #smallbusinesssaturday. It’s easy—and free—to jump into the conversation with your own message. Reyhle recommends starting a countdown calendar leading up to the big day. Each day you can highlight a different product or promotion, building excitement and anticipation among your followers. Then encourage all of them to share your promotions with their social network.


3. Give stuff away.

T-shirts, shopping bags, umbrellas—everyone loves freebies. In fact, the Advertising Specialty Institute reports that people keep promotional materials for an average of eight months. The good news is that giveaways don’t have to cost a lot of money. For example, you can order reusable tote bags with your company logo and advertise that you will be handing them out to the first 30 (or 100) customers. Or you can get free merchandise promoting “Shop Small” simply by registering at


4. Make it a celebration.

Get your shoppers into the spirit of the day by creating a party atmosphere in and around your business. Balloons and signage are a good start, but also consider bringing in some entertainment or offering refreshments, such as hot cider and cookies. Weather permitting, set up a display on the sidewalk. If you own a day spa, put out a massage chair and offer free neck-and-shoulder massages to shoppers.


5. Leverage your customer base.

Don’t ignore your existing customers while you’re focusing on attracting new buyers. Use your email list to entice loyal customers with unique incentives to shop with you on Small Business Saturday, and then encourage them to bring a friend with targeted incentives. For example, offer a 25%-off coupon for every new customer an existing customer brings in that day.


6. Bring ’em back.

Remember, it’s cheaper to keep customers than to attract new ones, Reyhle says. So stay in touch with your new buyers by asking them to opt in to an email or social media campaign. Then give them a reason to come back after the holidays are over, such as handing out a coupon for a deep discount on one item after January 1. “Make sure their enthusiasm extends beyond the sales,” she says.

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