Staff Writer

2020 marks the tenth anniversary of Small Business Saturday. American Express created the holiday in 2010 while the country was experiencing the effects of the Great Recession. As the economy struggled to rebound after 2008, mom-and-pop stores weren’t getting the same attention as big-name brands during the holiday shopping season. In a bid to encourage consumers to head back into the small business sector that makes the economy thrive, Small Business Saturday became a national holiday in 2011.

The holiday has only grown, with 2019 marking the largest year on record. Shoppers supported local small businesses with an estimated $19.6 billion poured back into their neighborhoods.

Clearly, shoppers are ready and willing to support small local businesses in their communities. And in a year like 2020, local shoppers matter more than ever. Many small businesses were forced to temporarily — or permanently — close their doors as the coronavirus pandemic, social movements, and other forces swept the country. This year, Small Business Saturday could be a key step on the road to recovery.

How to make Small Business Saturday 2020 your best day of sales yet

Whether your company participates in-person or online (or does a mix of both) on Nov. 28, Small Business Saturday can be an excellent opportunity to drive traffic to your store. Every year requires preparation, but 2020 means you might have to work extra hard to get your offerings in front of customers. Here are six ways to make the most of your Small Business Saturday ideas this year:

1. Advertise to reach your customers.

Promoting your store ahead of the holiday is a great way to encourage customers to add your store to their local shopping lists. Think about how and where your customers are finding out about businesses in your community, and try to reach them there. If that’s social media, great! Get tweeting. If that’s in the newspaper, on community bulletin boards, or through local groups, then start there. American Express offers a free Small Business Saturday kit of customizable marketing materials to get you started.

No matter what, the best way to advertise Small Business Saturday is through social media. Start sharing content a few weeks in advance using strategic hashtags such as #SmallBusinessSaturday, #ShopSmall, or local hashtags specific to your community (Marlin will be using #marlinlovesSMB). Post a couple of times a week leading up to the big event, making sure to include any special deals or perks you’ll offer on the big day.

2. Offer curbside pickup or contactless delivery.

Your consumers will not want to shop if they don’t feel safe, and they might be planning this trip in advance. So make sure you can offer touchless transactions such as curbside pickup or contactless delivery. Outline step-by-step processes and train your staff, especially if you anticipate the day to be busier than normal. You can set minimums, limitations, or small fees on these services if necessary.

But more than offering this service, you have to make it clear to customers that those options are available to them so that they feel confident. Some customers might do research in advance before they decide to make an in-person trip or purchase from your store, so don’t make them hunt for that information. Clearly explain the procedures on your website, social media, and signs around your store.

3. Plan special deals.

You will be competing for customers’ attention and purchasing power against Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so planning special deals and promotions is a must. Think about what customers might be most interested in when it comes to holiday shopping in 2020, and plan a few enticing deals around that to draw customers in. These deals might include partnerships with other companies, which we will discuss in the next step. Of course, don’t forget to advertise those deals before and during the event!

4. Collaborate with other small businesses.

In the spirit of the holiday, think about ways to work with other companies to support each other. It’s a great way to get some free advertising for your small business. For example, perhaps a restaurant or brewery can pair up with a store to offer 10% off coupons with proof of purchase. Or you could coordinate a scavenger hunt or draw a map that loops in lots of local stops in one area. Big-brand companies just can’t replicate the feeling of supporting small local businesses.

5. Embrace virtual events.

If your community is still struggling with social-distancing requirements or if you don’t feel confident you can draw an in-person crowd, plan a virtual event on Small Business Saturday. Even if you do plan to host an in-person event, think about pairing it with a virtual component so people who don’t feel comfortable in crowds can still show their support. You can get creative with virtual events by sponsoring online auctions, hosting a virtual raffle, or inviting local community leaders to speak.

6. Ask for reviews.

Make Small Business Saturday keep working for you long after the holiday ends by asking customers to leave online reviews. With an increasingly digital world, online reviews are becoming more important than ever. But how do you get customers to leave reviews? It can be awkward to ask, yet Small Business Saturday is a great time to do it because customers are already investing their time and wallets in your company.With a little bit of transparency, you can have fun with the ask. Provide small cards or fliers by the cash register or leave signs up around your store explaining how much it helps for customers to leave reviews. Write a blog post on your website that transparently explains why reviews matter to local small businesses and link to that blog post in some of your Small Business Saturday content. Customers will appreciate your authenticity and will hopefully do what they can to support you.

Small businesses have been put through the wringer in 2020, but it’s certainly not the first time that small businesses have had to prove their strength — and it won’t be the last. Small Business Saturday was created during the Great Recession, and it can be used now during the Great Pause to help your business recover and grow into the new normal.


Marlin is ready to help small businesses overcome, grow, and thrive after 2020. Talk to a representative today to find out how we can help.