Brown paper package wrapped with red and white twine

Some Thanksgiving holidays we travel.  This isn’t always my favorite thing to do for the holiday, but sometimes it’s the best way to see family and celebrate together.

We usually come back, though, on Small Business Saturday.  I don’t usually think about it too much.  Our shop hosts a sale for most of the weekend to kick off the holiday season.  But, on Small Business Saturday, the shop and sale really run itself.

Then, one year we stopped in Corning, NY.  (If you haven’t been to this adorable small town, I truly recommend it.)  They were having an amazing Small Business Saturday promotional event.  

There is one thing you might not know about Corning, NY.  It is FULL of small businesses.  Some of my favorites.  There are unique restaurants, artist’s galleries and an amazing kitchen shop.

On Small Business Saturday, the town turns into a celebration of their small business culture.  There are bands.  Balloons.  Free reusable shopping bags to use.  You need to put all of your purchases somewhere.  

All of these fun promotions made me start to rethink small business Saturday altogether.  Maybe there was more that my creative business could do to honor the day.  Even though we were just an online shop.

Christmas tree cupcake with the text overlay "How to make Small Business Saturday successful for your creative business"

Small Business Saturday was an idea created by American Express in 2010.  With the big box stores taking over America’s small business roots, American Express wanted to create a celebration of America’s small businesses.

Black Friday, the day before, is usually a huge shopping event for big box and large commercial shops.  Small Business Saturday is a chance to recognize the little guys and encourage shopping at smaller establishments.

It’s also a chance to remind communities that shopping local matters.  Money spent at local stores stays in the community more and helps them grow.

Although your small business may not be truly considered local since it’s online, it’s still important.  I’ve always felt like I didn’t fit in the Black Friday sale crowd and Cyber Monday seems to be focused on the bigger online retailers (aka Amazon). 

Even though my stationery shop is located on the Internet, we’re small and independent.  And proud of it.  I’m not going to start selling my designs on Amazon tomorrow by choice.

Small Business Saturday gives my shop an opportunity to shine.  Even if it’s only on the Internet.

Here are some ways to make Small Business Saturday successful for your creative business this holiday season.

Kick off your 12 Days of Christmas Sale

If you were planning on hosting a 12 Days of Christmas Sale this season, Small Business Saturday is the perfect day to kick it off.  Customers are already excited about shopping special sales.  A 12 Days of Christmas Sale gives them even more to look forward to.

Make your first item of the sale extra special.  Offer customers a two for one deal, a sale on your favorite design or even a special price on a holiday bundle (more on that below).  

After you’ve kicked off your sale, remind customers that the fun continues tomorrow with another special deal.  This is a great way to extend the holiday fun and keep customers buzzing about your business for a week or two ahead.

Celebrate Other Small Businesses

One of my favorite things to do on Small Business Saturday is to celebrate other small businesses.  I do this by going shopping.

Since I own an online business, our shop runs itself during this promotion day.  That frees me up to go visit some of our local shops and share the love.

After shopping, I showcase some of my Small Business Saturday treasures on social media and highlight these local small businesses.  

I also do this with some of my favorite Etsy shops, but I have to plan ahead.  A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I purchase some holiday goodies so I have them for the Saturday celebration.  Then on Small Business Saturday, I share my favorites on social media and showcase their creative businesses.

In addition to sharing my finds with my audience, I share the shop’s special promotions.  Before Small Business Saturday, I reach out to other business owners to find out the deals that they’ll be offering their customers. 

This communication also helps me connect with other shop owners and builds relationships that last for years.

Remember, we’re all in this together.

Host a Special Deal

Everyone loves a sale and that’s what Small Business Saturday is about.  The best part, though, is that your customers aren’t expecting a huge sale or massively slashed goods.  They are looking for a small business sized promotion.

Before the special day, brainstorm some unique deals that you could offer your customers for the day. 

It could be free gift wrap on all orders.  Or a free pair of earrings with a purchase over a certain amount.

Come up with a deal that works for your shop and then promote it.  A lot.  Customers won’t know about it, unless you tell them multiple times.

Give to Charity

The holiday season is all about giving.  Why not make Small Business Saturday a chance to give back to those in need?

Think about a charity that your business could support.  It could be local or national.  Most importantly, you want to support a cause that is near and dear to your heart.

Donate a portion of your sales from Small Business Saturday (or even the entire holiday season).  Showcase the charity on your blog and social media.  Customers are more likely to make a big purchase if they know that some of their sale is going to others.

Pastel balls of yarn on shelf

Stock your Shelves

As a handmade business, this is a big one.  A big shopping day (and weekend really) means a lot of orders.  Be prepared.

Starting weeks ahead of time, stock up on your making supplies or even create multiples of your popular items.  Customers are very happy, especially around the holidays, when you can ship their items quickly.

If you offer customized products that can’t be made in advance, create a plan on how to manage an increase in orders. 

Consider if there are pieces of the making process that you can prep ahead of time or make sure you have enough of.  Having a successful creative business around the holidays includes being prepared for anything.

Let your Customer Service Shine

With all of the new customers at your doors, this is the time of year to make your customer service shine.  Dust off your FAQs and make sure you know the answers to some of the most common questions.

Focus on clear, warm and friendly communication with customers.  Make sure that your answers are timely.  Customers hate waiting too long for a response.  Especially when they are ready to make a purchase.

If you get frazzled when dealing with too many customer questions or requests, create pre-written snippets in Etsy conversations.  This way everyone will receive the same messaging and there won’t be any confusion.

Get the Word Out Early

Promote, promote, promote.  I can’t seem to say that word enough.

Your customers won’t know that you are participating in Small Business Saturday unless you tell them.

Announce it on your Facebook page.  Write it in your email newsletter.  Share it on Instagram.  Even publish a blog post about it.

And do so early and often.  Customers need to know to add your shop to their must stop shop list on Small Business Saturday.

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Leverage your Social Media

One of the best ways to promote Small Business Saturday is through social media.  American Express has even created free marketing materials to help you promote the event to your customers.  You can sign up for these custom marketing materials here.

Use your social media channels to share information about your promotions and the event.  Create shareable photos of your most popular products ready for the holidays.  Share these on your social media channels to get your audience excited.

Also, let your customers know about any sales, special promotions and holiday bundles that you’ll be offering.  Especially if they are limited to that day.

The more information you give customers via social media about how your shop is celebrating, the more likely they’ll be to stop in.

Identify your Hashtag

One of the reasons Small Business Saturday is successful is that it uses social media to find it’s audience.  This is done through a hashtag that connects all of the posts together.  The official hashtag of the day is #shopsmall.

When you add a hashtag at the end of your social media post, it makes your post searchable.  Anyone that searches for that hashtag can locate your post.

Go on.  Try it.  Search #shopsmall in the Search bar of Instagram.  I found over 21 million posts to date.

Okay, so this is a really large number of posts.  You’re probably wondering how your post would ever get found in that pile.

And you’re right.  It’s not going to be found.  At least not very easily.

Your business is going to need to stand out a bit more to make Small Business Saturday successful.

In addition to using the official hashtag, come up with a second (or even third) hashtag that is unique to your shop to use this holiday season. 

One idea is to link your posts to an important milestone or life event that people might shop for.  For example, you could use a hashtag such as #babysfirstchristmas or #engagedatchristmas. 

If an event doesn’t really work with your products, you could also create a hashtag more unique to the products that you sell in your shop.  For example, every year I like to emphasize the importance of writing thank you notes for Christmas gifts.  My shop could use a hashtag such as #thankyousarecool.  Then, customers who are planning to write thank you notes on our stationery can connect their posts back to our shop with that hashtag.

You can also keep your hashtags simpler and use one that features the kinds of products that you make.  Some ideas include #woodworkinggems or #silverhoopearrings.  

Whatever hashtags you choose, just remember to use them.  Hashtags don’t help if you forget to include them.  Just add them to the end of your social media post so potential customers can find you.

Encourage Customer Participation

Customers are the true life of our businesses.  Without them, we wouldn’t have a business.

Encourage your customers to share about your business this Small Business Saturday.  Ask them to showcase their purchases from your shop on social media.  Share reviews that you’ve received recently.  And highlight photos that customers have sent you of your products in action (with their permission, of course).

Haven’t heard positive comments from your customers lately?  Now’s the time to reach out.  Ask customers to share their photos, reviews and thoughts on your products with you. 

They can share them directly in their feeds or submit them to you so you can showcase your shop’s social media posts.

Direct customer feedback is a validation to potential customers that you’re doing a good job.  Shout these positive affirmations loudly for all to hear. You’ve earned them!

Continue Beyond into the Holidays

As wonderful as the buzz from Small Business Saturday is, it doesn’t have to end.  Instead, use the day to kick off your shop’s holiday festivities and continue the holiday fun into the weeks to come.

Plan to host a few more holiday promotions and sales.  Celebrate smaller holidays and milestones in between.   And showcase your shop’s excitement for the holiday season through your social media posts.

Most importantly spread holiday joy all around.  The more your customers are drawn to the look and feel of your shop, the more likely they will be to purchase again and again.  So keep it going.  Until Christmas if desired.

Final Thoughts…

Small Business Saturday is a wonderful chance to celebrate small businesses – big and small.  Use this free marketing tool to your creative shop’s advantage this season.

Showcase your best products.  Share your shop’s preparations on social media.  And stock up on supplies to make sure that you’re ready for orders.

Most importantly, express the holiday spirit through your holiday marketing.  Customers want to feel warm and fuzzy inside even if they choose to shop online.  Give them this and they are sure to choose your creative business for their Christmas shopping this season (and many holiday seasons to come).

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