Small Business Saturday is becoming a big day for small businesses across the country. Last year it saw record levels of support as an increasing number of consumers understand the power they have to help their local businesses and communities by keeping the spending close to home.

According to data from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and American Express, total spending among U.S. consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday in 2015 reached $16.2 billion at independent retailers and restaurants on the day, an increase from $14.3 billion in 2014.

In a recent Small Business Saturday survey, Infusionsoft conducted with 4,000 general small businesses across the U.S., roughly half (49 percent) of respondents said their business has never participated in Small Business Saturday, and 18 percent had never heard of the occasion before. These numbers don't necessarily surprise me; I think Small Business Saturday has a little more cache in the media than in the average Joe's business. But it is growing year after year, and I think it's a missed promotional opportunity for those not participating.

Savvy business owners don't miss opportunities for promotion. Promotions create energy and urgency to drive traffic your way - whether online or in person. Here's how savvy small businesses make the most of Small Business Saturday.

1. Promote early, promote often

A big mistake for small businesses is to assume their customers know about Small Business Saturday. Although Small Business Saturday is gaining traction in the public mind, we're still not at that inflection point where customers know on their own to look for deals and patron their local shops on this day. If small businesses expect just to open their doors and watch the crowds rush in, they'll likely be very disappointed.

This is when having an online presence is imperative. The physical location of a store is important, but even if a shop is off the beaten path, by aggressively pursuing customers online, small businesses can drive them to the store more effectively.

Email promotions leading up to Small Business Saturday offering a specific deal can be very impactful. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of our survey respondents use limited time offers as their main promotional strategy. Following that are gift offers (21 percent) and coupon discounts (20 percent). Social media and targeted print mailers can all draw in customers, as well.

2. Think local, act global

Often small businesses will fall into the trap of thinking local and only local. In today's world small businesses need to think beyond their backyard when marketing. Our digital age means it has never been easier to do business outside of your neighborhood.

Advertising in the local Yellow Pages and stapling flyers to telephone poles no longer cuts it. Small businesses should be using modern marketing in an effective way with tools like Google AdWords and geo-targeting through Facebook. After all, just because you cannot see customers in-person, doesn't mean they are not there. Our survey respondents at 21 percent stated paid social media posts provided the highest return on investment from their Small Business Saturday promotional tactics.

3. Always be collecting customer data

While Small Business Saturday is a fantastic opportunity to reward existing customers and attract new ones, it can be a difficult lift if a small business doesn't have a solid contact list of current and prospective customers. Small businesses should work diligently to build a contact database all throughout the year so they can engage the list when relevant opportunities come up. Building a database upfront may require a little extra effort and investment, but any small business planning to stay in business longer than a couple of years would be well advised to take up the task sooner rather than later.

Small Business Saturday can not only be a great day for sales and promotion; it can be an awesome learning experience for small businesses to challenge themselves with marketing in new ways. These suggestions are applicable toward any promotion all year round to help small businesses stand out amongst the giants.

Published on: Nov 24, 2016