With Thanksgiving nearly here, businesses throughout the country are ramping up for what should be a memorable start to the holiday shopping season.

While the big-name retailers are focused on Black Friday and fighting over which store can offer a more outrageous discount or whether to open at 11:59 p.m. or 12:01 a.m. — small businesses have their sights set on Small Business Saturday.

And this year, Small Business Saturday should be bigger than ever — with small businesses expected to see between 20-40% of total sales for the year take place between the months of November and December.

That’s why we decided to take another look at Small Business Saturday and let you — the small business owner — know exactly what you need to do before the big day.

How to put together a last-minute Small Business Saturday promotion

The first thing to remember is that it’s really not too late. Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and up until that day, it’s really not too late to do a promotion. Even if you haven’t been planning things out weeks in advance, you still have time to get something together.

If you’re a Constant Contact customer, we have great templates that you can throw a promotion into. The templates are readily available in your account and branded for Small Business Saturday — so come up with a great offer, come up with some content to put in there, and send it to your list.

Need some help writing your email? Here’s How to Write an Effective Holiday Marketing Email.

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If you’re not a Constant Contact customer,
you can try out our templates by signing up for a 60-day free trial.

It’s really a great time to do it because right now everyone is talking about Black Friday and starting to get their shopping plans together for what should be a crazy shopping weekend.

Also, if you send something out right before the Thanksgiving holiday, there’s a chance that people will be talking about your business when they’re gathered together and mapping out their holiday shopping plans. Take this opportunity to offer people a much more enjoyable shopping experience than they’re likely to get on Black Friday.

And it’s a great opportunity for your social media marketing as well. So right now, even if you don’t have anything specifically planned out yet, throw a question out there on Facebook and see; “Is anyone thinking about Small Business Saturday?” or “Are you interested in Small Business Saturday? Are you planning to shop local?”.

Tip: To increase the buzz, include the hashtag #SmallBizSaturday in your posts.

Maybe you’ll get a response from people and maybe you won’t, but it’s a great opportunity to start getting people to talk about it, and to drive some good business to your store.

How to be ready for Small Business Saturday

The biggest thing that businesses need to know is how important it is to be ready for those new and repeat customers when they come into your store. Make Small Business Saturday an occasion — not just another average day in your store.

Decorate your store in the Small Business Saturday blue and white theme. Think about putting out some refreshments and having instore-only flash sales throughout the day — promote these on your social media platforms to drive additional foot traffic into your store.

Tip: Create a special contact list and automated Welcome Email for the contacts you obtain during Small Business Saturday. That way you can use this group for future, targeted, email campaigns.

So, people are coming in to take advantage of your special offer. Maybe their friends are already customers of yours and they’re bringing them, or their families are in town for the holiday and they want to come shopping for the weekend. Once you get those people into your store to see everything you have to offer, you want to make sure you’re able to stay in touch.

The number one thing you want to do in order to increase sales is to get people to join your list.

I was actually talking to a business owner recently and she told me that every year they do a holiday event and have refreshments out and right on the same table, where they have cheese and wine samples, they have their email sign-up sheet. Which is great! They’re offering you something you’re going to really like and chances are, you’ll want to join that list.

One of the easiest ways to get people on your contact list is to use Text-to-Join, which people can use to text right onto your list. You can put up signs in your store encouraging shoppers to text-to-join to receive additional offers throughout the season. Or, if you have a tablet or other mobile device available, use Constant Contact’s List Builder App at your check-out stand, and your new contacts will be added to your contact list as soon as the “submit” button is hit.

There are other things you can do as well. You could print out a copy of your email newsletter and have it there for people to take and go. So, not only are they going to sign up for your list but they’re going to be able to see exactly what you have to offer, which will get them excited about what you’re going to be sending in the future.

And finally, it’s a great chance to promote anything you have going on after that day. Small Business Saturday is really only the start of the holiday shopping season for most small businesses. Use Small Business Saturday to start getting people excited and talking about any events, or future sales, you might have planned.

Make sure to take advantage of having all those people there. Get them to join your list, let them know how to find you on Facebook or Twitter, or any other social media platform you’re on. Don’t be afraid to ask them for a good review on Yelp, and suggest they follow you on social media for updates on new inventory, special events or whatever else you may have going on. Once they’ve signed up to get more information from you, make sure to stay in touch; send out regular emails, and post to social media on a consistent schedule, so you can keep people excited about sharing the shopping season with you.

What to do after Small Business Saturday

So, you have this great day where all of these people are coming in; you collect all this contact information — now what?

The biggest thing you can do is to get that information into your database right away. Don’t wait until after the holiday season.

If you used Text-to-Join or the List Builder app, your new contacts are already in your Constant Contact account and should have already received a Welcome Email from you.

If you’re using a signup sheet, you want to make sure and add all the new contacts into your account within a few days. This ensures they’ll receive their Welcome Email in a timely manner, and that they don’t get lost in the holiday shuffle.

No matter how you gather new contact information, you want to get that contact information in there right away, so you stay top-of-mind by reaching out to them again to say, “Thank you” and “It was great to see everyone at Small Business Saturday, hope to see you again.”  And again, it’s another opportunity to come up with an additional offer, or to create another special shopping day at your store. Small Business Saturday is a big event, but you can always hold an event of your own to get people excited about the season — and shopping at your store.

The biggest thing is to stay in contact so you can turn one great day of sales into an event that can really help you grow throughout the entire year.

Get the most out of the holiday shopping season

Small Business Saturday is just the start of what should be a memorable holiday shopping season. When you do it right, you’ll get your business on your customers’ to-do list, and get people coming back to, and talking about, your business throughout the entire year.

Editor’s Note: This article was previously part of our “Ask an Expert” series, but was modified and updated for relevance and accuracy on November 7, 2019.