By Gene Marks
Small business influencer Gene Marks is a guest blogger for CAN Capital. He is a celebrated author, columnist and small business owner.
Hopefully by now you’ve heard of Small Business Saturday. It’s on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 29th this year. The occasion began only in 2010, but it has become a phenomenon. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses are participating this year and companies that cater to small businesses are out in force showing their support. Even the President usually marks the occasion with an annual visit to a local small business. And you have to give credit where credit is due: Small Business Saturday was started as a marketing promotion by American Express and they really have done an incredible job growing it.
The prevailing approach is to advertise the importance of small businesses so that communities appreciate the value they bring to the economy. Most of the small business owners I know use the occasion as their own little marketing event. They put stickers on their shop windows, signs on their counters, and purchase ads encouraging people to “shop small.” They ask the community to buy from small businesses. They use the occasion to boost their sales. This is why Small Business Saturday is smack in the middle between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Why not let small businesses get in on the shopping fun, right?
Maybe. But I’m not sure I entirely agree. I don’t think Small Business Saturday is about selling. I think it’s about something else. I think it’s about giving.
If you’re running a small business successfully then you have a lot to be grateful for. You’re in a country that gives you the freedom to be your own boss. You have proven your independence, your intelligence, your ability to work hard, your grit. And you have provided your community of customers with a good service or product—so good that they keep coming back. And, thanks to all this, you’re truly able to realize the American dream and earn a decent living. So instead of asking your customers to do more, to buy more, to appreciate you more, maybe that day should be about something different. Maybe that day is about you appreciating them. It’s a day for you, the small business owner to say “thank you” to those customers and communities for supporting you and your business.
So, maybe this Small Business Saturday you do something different: you pay it back. You offer steep discounts. You sell things at cost. You hold a nice event at your store where you give away products or at least a glass of wine. You give away some of the profits from the day to an organization in need. You make it a point to use Small Business Saturday as a day to, not only show how important small businesses are to the community, but how important the community is to your small business. That’s the way to really celebrate Small Business Saturday. That, to me, is what it’s all about.
And to put my money where my mouth is, I’ll do the same. Join me for CAN Capital’s Tweetchat with Melinda Emerson on November 19th, where we’ll launch CAN Capital’s “Tell Us Your Story” contest. You’ll be asked to answer this question on CAN Capital’s Facebook page: “What is your small business planning for Small Business Saturday?” The best two answers will each win a $100 gift card and a free consulting hour with me. I’ll get to know your business and promise to make recommendations to help you cut costs, grow revenues and improve your profits. My typical rate for this is $250 per hour.
It’s not much. It’s just an hour. It’s just a couple of hundred bucks. But it’s something. I’d like to give something back to the small business owners, my clients and friends, who have enabled me to pay my mortgage and college tuition for my kids. It’s a way to say thank you. And I can’t think of a better day than Small Business Saturday to do this.