Small Business Saturday = Smart Sustainable Success


We’ve just witnessed America’s most intense mega-shopping weekend of the year, with the spectacle of Black Friday starting a super sale-driven spending spree that culminated in Cyber Monday. Yet sandwiched in between was one of the more remarkable days on the economic calendar—a clever combination of savvy marketing execution and, it seems to me, rather well-targeted community service.

Small Business Saturday (SBS) is the brainchild of American Express. Started in 2010, it’s a now-national push to get people out spending at the little guy’s place throughout the local community—indy stores, restaurants, and even small online merchants.

My admiration for this is two-fold, starting with the astute marketing plan that created it. Amex simply branded and developed its own holiday. It provided another implied reason why its customers should go out and put more on their charge cards, though of course there’s no restrictions on customers—or affiliated businesses, for that matter—having to use Amex on this day at all.

But Amex did get it started among its customers six years ago by offering statement credit, and did so for a couple of years. Now it gives bonus points and has also developed a program to help the businesses themselves market the day, with well over a million participating.

What I also like about this is that, though it certainly hopes to profit from SBS, Amex is also leading a somewhat noble endeavor. There’s a lot of good that each business and customer can garner from SBS, and many might not be experiencing it without the help of Amex.

This to me is another great angle on sustainability—namely finding ways in which one’s business actions and transactions can be of greater benefit beyond the boardroom.

And in my eyes what makes this a genuine sustainable practice is that the success brought forth to those recipients—the small businesses and communities at large—in turn, invites more success for the founding company—Amex.

Further, the benefits in advertisement and general loyalty for something like SBS are far-reaching, despite the fact that all the company really did was strategically execute a program that was hypothetically going to bring in more business. In other words, it kept its own interests central and yet found something to bring to the community in the process.

This is a lesson to every business—big and small. Look for creative opportunities to sync your business interests with what possible needs might exist in the community at large.

The symbiotic relationship created is true sustainability in practice. Everyone benefits and you position your business for ongoing success.