5 Reasons Why Small Business Saturday is the Ultimate Content Marketing Strategy

There are a lot of made-up days this time of year.

Black Friday gets people spending money while their bellies are still full of Thanksgiving dinner. Cyber Monday brings out all the online deal hunters. There’s also the anti-overconsumption reaction to all this called Buy Nothing Day.

My favorite has to be Small Business Saturday, which falls right in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday on a weekend when holiday shoppers go berserk crossing names off their lists.

It’s not just because we love small business owners here at Copyjuice. It’s also because this is a brilliant example of effective content marketing.

Small Business Saturday is “big picture” content marketing. Perhaps a little too often, we become over-focused on the individual pieces of content rather than the whole content machine. We think about our blog, our social media, our email marketing and our videos as separate instead of creating a cohesive plan.

Want to know how to do it right? Look at what American Express has done with Small Business Saturday.

The event started in 2010 and it has grown impressively since then. Today there are more than 3.1 million people following Small Business Saturday on Facebook. American Express estimates more than 100 million people participated in 2011.

Here are five reasons why it works so well as a form of content marketing…

1. Giving Stuff Away for Free

American Express engages both small businesses and consumers by giving away free stuff.

During the very first Small Business Saturday, AmEx bought Facebook advertising and then offered it up to small businesses around the country. They still provide the chance to be part of a geo-targeted online advertising campaign at no charge (offer is now over).

Plus, American Express gives away free marketing materials like posters and web graphics s0 business owners can promote the event locally.

They also give holiday shoppers who use American Express cards the chance to get a $25 credit on their statement when spending $25 or more at qualifying small businesses.

What Can We Learn?

Giving away free material or even discounts can help you promote your business. Loss leaders are nothing new, but American Express took it to another level with Small Business Saturday. Don’t be afraid to give away valuable content. The rewards can be well worth it.

2. Building Natural Links

The devastation that Google’s Panda and Penguin updates caused many websites has solidified the need for natural link building in SEO. It is certain to become even more important over time.

An event like Small Business Saturday is a genius way to build links. I guarantee you I am far from the only blogger writing about it this week. There are probably thousands of articles being published this year alone. All those blog posts will no doubt link back to the web page promoting Small Business Saturday.

Social media also plays a big role in the promotion of Small Business Saturday. Many believe social signals are a quickly becoming another crucial aspect of search engine optimization. When millions of people are sharing and tweeting your content – that’s a pretty strong signal.

American Express also has tons of advocates and sponsors – from AARP and politicians to big businesses like Verizon  Wireless, FTD and UPS. All of these organizations are also promoting Small Business Saturday – and undoubtedly creating links.

What Can We Learn?

Want to create content that builds natural links? Make it something that people will want to talk about. The same old thing isn’t going to do much for your link-building efforts. Then – don’t forget to look for the right partners.

3. Promoting a Cause People Believe In

The fact that so many people believe shopping at locally owned business is a good thing makes Small Business Saturday something almost everyone is eager to get behind.

It also has great storytelling potential!

Rescuing local shops and restaurants is the mission.

Big box retailers and chain restaurants are the enemy.

The hero…is the consumer.

American Express plays the role of the wise mentor (ie Yoda from Star Wars, Morpheus from The Matrix or Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid). The company gives the heroes the tools they need to save the day. AmEx calls the average holiday shopper to go on an adventure and rally their community to do the same – like William Wallace rallying Scottish rebels against Great Britain in Braveheart.

They also turn small business owners into heroes. You can even watch inspiring videos on YouTube and see the results of  it all through small business success stories.

What Can We Learn?

Your prospects are yearning for adventure and a chance to make a difference. Figure out a way to give it to them. You may not create a massive event like Small Business Saturday, but you could find ways to support local charities or take a stand for something you can connect to your industry.

A landscape company could have an Arbor Day Event. A book store could promote literacy. A women’s clothing store could host a Breast Cancer Awareness party. You get the picture!

4. It Happens Online and Offline

Content marketing is certainly taking the digital marketing world by storm. But it doesn’t have to stop (or start) there.

The beautiful thing about the content marketing strategy surrounding Small Business Saturday is that it’s more than pushing people to “Like” and “Share” content. It’s more than getting people to watch videos or

It gets them off the computer and into the real world. It happens inside all the little mom and pop shops and corner cafes in towns across the country. There is something extra satisfying about that for people.

The call to action isn’t just Buy Now! Click Here! Download This! It encourages a change in the way we think about shopping. People leave their homes and meet colorful characters in their community. They discover unique destinations and places to shop. They build real relationships.

What Can We Learn?

As important as online marketing may be, don’t limit your content creation ideas to the internet. Build a bridge between our digital worlds and the physical world with your marketing.

5. It Boosts Business

American Express probably wouldn’t continue Small Business Saturday if it wasn’t a good thing for its bottom line.

Let’s not forget, part of the motive behind this whole thing is getting people to use their American Express cards or to sign up for one. Credit card companies make money every time you swipe that little piece of plastic.

While we’re being honest, I should mention we don’t often hold credit card companies in the highest regard. But an event like Small Business Saturday creates a positive association with the American Express brand. They’re not just a bunch of greedy guys in three-piece suits with offices overlooking giant metropolises.

Instead of pushing the commercialization of Christmas. They seem to be preaching a different message.

The effect is a bit like when the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day. Or when Ebeneezer Scrooge got a second chance at having some Christmas spirit. People eat that up!

What Can We Learn?

In the end, it’s all about creating effective marketing. Before you take the leap and create something like Small Business Saturday, make sure you have a solid strategy. Think about what sort of brand awareness it could build and how your company will get a return on this marketing investment. Think about what stories you can tell.

The key to all of that? Make it something where everyone wins!

Kasey Steinbrinck is a co-founder of Copyjuice specializing in copywriting and creative content marketing. Need ideas for content you can create for your small business? Contact kasey(at)copyjuice.com. He’d be happy to shoot you some free consultation!


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