Small Business Saturday is almost here—is your business ready? Held on November 24, 2012, Small Business Saturday  is now in its third year. The annual event, founded by American Express, encourages shopping at local, independent small businesses on the day after Black Friday.
This year, almost half (47 percent) of small business owners nationwide plan to integrate Small Business Saturday into their holiday marketing strategy, reports the first Small Business Saturday Insights Survey  by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and American Express.
In order to get customers to “shop small,” the majority (67 percent) plan to offer discounts on Small Business Saturday. In addition, 46 percent will create coupons for future offers or discounts; 25 percent will offer free gift wrapping; 23 percent will give away prizes or host contests; and 20 percent will give away free gifts with a purchase.
Small business owners are excited about Small Business Saturday—some 34 percent say it’s the most important shopping day of the holiday season, compared to 24 percent who cited Black Friday and 14 percent who cited Cyber Monday. (Thirty-seven percent said all the days were equally important.) Eight out of 10 expect their sales to increase compared to Small Business Saturday last year.
To further take advantage of Small Business Saturday, 28 percent plan to have more employees than normal working that day, and 87 percent will promote Small Business Saturday through social media. Of those, 96 percent say they will use Facebook, 33 percent will use Twitter, 15 percent will use Google+ and 15 percent will use Pinterest. You can follow the Small Business Saturday Facebook page  and Shop Small on Twitter  (hashtag #SMALLBIZSAT).
There’s still one area with room for improvement, apparently: Some 81 percent of entrepreneurs surveyed say Small Business Saturday would be more effective if their communities came together and hosted events. Is there still time to pull together an event with your fellow small business owners?
American Express is making it easy to promote your involvement in Small Business Saturday. At ShopSmall.com , you can get free tools including customizable marketing materials, geo-targeted online advertising opportunities, and tips from small business owners who participated last year.
One reason Small Business Saturday has been so successful is that it capitalizes on desires that consumers already have to help their communities. Data from American Express  show that 89 percent of consumers believe small business owners contribute positively to their communities, and 93 percent believe it’s important to support local small businesses.
Why not make the most of those attitudes?
In fact, I’d encourage you to keep the Small Business Saturday spirit going all year long. American Express cites data that small businesses in communities with “buy local” initiatives grew an average of 5.6 percent annually in 2010, compared to just 2.1 percent for companies in communities with no such initiatives.
Before the buzz of Small Business Saturday wears off, talk to your fellow business owners, your chamber of commerce or other business organizations, and your local government officials about ways your community can encourage customers to shop local and keep dollars, jobs and tax revenues in the community.