How to prepare for Small Business Saturday 2016

Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday is a nationwide event that happens once a year. It usually falls on the first Saturday in December and this year it falls on December 3rd.

The idea behind the event is to inspire the British public to shop at small, independent businesses, rather than large chains for at least one day.

The day introduces the locals to new, small shops whilst giving the smaller businesses a boost in revenue in the lead up to Christmas.

Last year, customers spent £623m with small businesses on Small Business Saturday, this was an increase of £119m, or 24%, compared to 2014. With the potential to rake in some serious sales, and possibly some new loyal customers, it is vital that small businesses are well prepared to take full advantage of this opportunity.

Here are some ideas to help small business owners get ready for Small Business Saturday this year.

Start Now

As late as October is in the year, the thought of December is still far from the forefront of people’s minds. It seems like a long time in the future but in reality it is just a few weeks away and approaching fast.

It is never too early for businesses to start their Small Business Saturday preparations. Take into account printing times if you are having material made for the event. Also, consider your suppliers’ turnaround time as you may want to get extra stock in for the potential uplift in customers. The last thing a business needs is to run out of stock on their busiest day of the year.

It is also a good idea to start dropping hints to existing clientele, the idea behind the day is to introduce new faces to independent businesses, but keeping your existing contacts up to date with your plans for the event may encourage them to pay the business an extra visit, further increasing revenue. Start dropping the idea of Small Business Saturday into newsletters and social media updates immediately, gradually giving more away closer to the day itself.

Social Matters

socialSocial media is a powerful tool for small businesses which can help them be a part of a wider conversation for national events such as this.

Due to its popularity, Small Business Saturday is in the unique position where it already has a well-established, popular, hashtag that is used each year. According to the Small Business Saturday official website ‘#SmallBizSatUK trended at number 1 all day on Small Business Saturday with over 100,000 tweets sent in support of the day, reaching more than 25 million people’. Using this hashtag leading up to and on the day itself will let customers interested in the event know that your business is taking part, as well as potentially attracting retweets from other users of the hashtags and local supporters.

The people behind Small Business Saturday also encourage businesses to tag their official accounts in any posts regarding the day, this may result in the posts being shared by their social media pages to thousands of followers.

Not only can the hashtag and tagging of official accounts help your post’s reach, it also allows you to see the conversations going on around you, what other businesses are doing and what questions people may have that need answering as well as businesses looking to partner with others for the day. Engaging with these posts will benefit your business, as again, you are increasing your reach as well as conversing with new people and potentially making important connections.

Social media shouldn’t only be used as a preparation tool: ensuring there is plenty of content going out on the day is just as important. Take masses of pictures, particularly of when the shop/premises is busy and upload them to your social media account(s). Encourage customers to take selfies when visiting the business and tag the business’ social accounts into their posts, this will hopefully attract the attention of people out shopping as well as the followers and friends of your customers.

Go the Extra Mile in Store

Don’t treat this day like every other day. Use it as an excuse to go the extra mile with your offline efforts. You are likely to be one of many businesses taking advantage of the event, the key is to stand out.

Consider extending your window of opportunity to attract customers by staying open a little later, or opening a little earlier. Even if a few businesses do the same, the big chains definitely won’t alter their opening times, this makes your business appeal to those that aren’t quite done shopping and could help you to reel in a few shoppers from the streets.

Those who have yet to engage with the digital world may not be aware of Small Business Saturday or which businesses are taking part. This is why it may be worth investing a little more on printed marketing materials.

This can range from leaflets offering a discount, which can be handed out in the street or placed in local bars, community centres and pubs, with permission from the landlords/owners to unique posters, these are costly but if they attract the attention of passers-by and increase the foot traffic into the business the cost may be worth the investment.

If you struggle to find immediate funds weigh up the pros and cons of getting a cash boost. Alternative finance options, such as an unsecured cash flow loan, give the borrower the option to pay back the loan through a percentage of their card takings, which is helpful for seasonal businesses who struggle to pay back lump sums through quieter periods.

You can also think outside the box with your ideas, such as getting in some fun props to inspire selfies: set aside a space and encourage clients to take selfies holding up a branded speech bubble or something similar.

Gimmicks can seem unappealing, however, for one day of the year they can actually go down really well and provide a little extra advertising for the business on the streets.

Branded balloons are normally associated with fast food chains but they do get noticed when you see them in the street. Having a few branded balloons to hand out to children in the street will not only give you a bunch of free advertisers walking around your local area but the balloons are likely to spend a few days kicking around the homes of the parents as well, reminding them of your brand long after the event is over.

Partner with Other Businesses

Not all local small businesses should be considered competition, only those that offer a similar product or service should fall into the category of competitors. Those that offer something different, but complimentary, should be approached as potential partners to help promotion.

Consider businesses that will have a similar clientele to your business, for example, if you are a women’s clothing boutique target a local hairdressers and/or beauty salon. An arrangement could be made where you swap discounts, for example, if someone purchases from your business you give them percentage off vouchers for the other two businesses and vice versa. When the other businesses do the same, this will give their clients an incentive to visit your business and as their favourite hairdresser or salon is recommending it you already have a good chance of converting them into a paying customer.


Competitions can be a great way to rustle up interest in the lead up to an event and an excellent way to gain some social followers at the same time.

The idea behind the competition is to inform your business’ following of the existence of Small Business Saturday whilst building hype around it. The prize should also inspire immediate action from the winner, for example, the first prize could be a £25 voucher and two runners up could get 25% off their orders, however to ensure they don’t just sit on these prizes, a sense of urgency should be implied. The prizes could only be valid on Small Business Saturday itself, forcing them to come into the shop and ‘cash in’ their prize.

The competition will benefit from being hosted on social media: you can share the link on other social accounts and even submit the competition to free competition websites which will widen your reach and increase participant involvement.

Make your online presence work for you

There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than an out of date website. They can see you are active on social media but your last blog post or news item was some 18 months ago. Part of the preparation for Small Business Saturday should be to ensure that, if you have one, your business’ website is up to date, and more importantly, that it works.

You don’t need to be an ecommerce business to ‘sell’ your products online. If you are an independent boutique you should ensure that you have a gallery of your latest collection on your website. This will allow potential consumers to see, prior to the event, what type of clothing will be on offer in your store..

Use the time leading up to the 3rd December to flood your blog, two posts a week would be sufficient, with interesting, up-to-date content. This will push your ancient ones down the list making it seem as if you are extremely active. It will also help your search engine optimisation (SEO) in the long run to have an active blog section, allowing you to add keywords naturally into posts, helping your business be found for relevant search terms.

The countdown to Small Business Saturday has begun, will you be a part of the biggest independent business event of the year?