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10 Ways to Prepare for Small Business Saturday The time is now to beef up your presence online and otherwise for this popular annual retail event for the little guys.

By Connie Certusi Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Small Business Saturday, happening this year on November 28, started as an American Express initiative to encourage consumers to shop small and local during the holiday season, but it is now a key piece of the major holiday shopping day trifecta. Eighty-eight million people have shown up to "shop small" since 2010.

Personally, I think small businesses should be celebrated every day of the year, but Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity for small retailers to gain exposure, capitalize on increased sales potential, and foster a sense of community.

Related: Entrepreneurs, Ready to Capitalize on Small Business Saturday?

A record number of neighborhoods celebrated Small Business Saturday in 2014, with local people and organizations pledging to support the day as Neighborhood Champions. Small Business Saturday also receives government support, with representatives across the country -- including the president -- publicly promoting the day each year.

These tips can help your business cash in on Small Business Saturday, but many of them can help you grow your business throughout the entire year.

1. Start now: Major retailers waste no time promoting holiday shopping, and you shouldn't either. American Express provides free, personalized resources and advertising tools at www.shopsmall.com. To further support and promote Small Business Saturday, download the Shop Small logo to display on your website and use as signage to hang in your front window.

2. Prepare your website: Online shopping reached an all-time high last year. Small businesses with successful online storefronts can have a distinct advantage. Make sure your inventory has been updated online and special promotions are prominently displayed. Also, cater to the busy shopper by ensuring your website is fast, processes transactions quickly and is optimized for mobile phones.

3. Prioritize customer service: According to a study of last year's holiday trends, shoppers care as much about the shopping experience as they do about the gifts they buy. Small businesses have the ability to really connect with their customers -- it can be a huge advantage for them over their larger competitors. Do your best to differentiate the in-store shopping experience for each customer.

4. Make your website mobile-friendly: According to Google, 74 percent of people say they're more likely to return to a site if it's mobile-friendly. Keep the user experience a priority and ensure a successful shopping experience for your customers through a website that's optimized for mobile phones. You can put your site through a simple test here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/.

5. Don't ignore social media: Between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media tools, it's hard to keep up. But don't despair; social media can be your greatest asset, if used correctly. The Small Business Saturday page on Facebook has more than three million fans, making it a great resource. Always use the #SmallBizSat or #ShopSmall hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to highlight special offers or discounts when the topics are trending.

Related: Shoppers Spend $5.5 Billion on Small Business Saturday

6. Beef up security: Your customers need to know their personal and credit card information is safe when purchasing from your business. There can be no loyalty without trust. Take every precaution to ensure all payment data is as secure as possible. A few safeguards every small business should have in place include: compliance with payment card industry (PCI) standards, end-to-end encryption, properly trained employees and no storing of credit card information.

7. Stand out with customers: Your customers will likely be inundated with marketing ploys during the holidays. To avoid getting lost in the pack, be deliberate and specific with what you post on your website, social media and in traditional marketing for Small Business Saturday. Avoid broad statements such as, "Come check out our deals this Saturday!" Rather, tell customers what's on sale and offer suggestions on which products or services make great gifts.

8. Get your piece of the pie: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are still an opportunity for small businesses. While the big box stores are promoting deals and savings around every corner, you can reach out to your local customers in a more personal and direct way. Again, make sure that your site is ready for Cyber Monday. And remember, just because you're smaller doesn't mean you can't get in on the action.

9. Advertise online: Update your Adwords by optimizing or adding keywords to match whatever deals you're running for the big shopping days. These strategic changes, while minor, can really help you attract customers come Small Business Saturday. In addition, consider using geographic targeting. Geo-targeted messages on Twitter and Facebook will help you attract customers on the go.

10. Communicate: Customers want to see promotions and discounts from their favorite stores, so make sure you're reaching out directly to existing customers. Segment your customer list to make the most out of your communications. For instance, send a Cyber Monday offer to customers that primarily shop online with your business. Email, or better yet, make a quick phone call to let your customers know about special deals or a complimentary item they'll receive in your store on Small Business Saturday.

Implement some of these tips right away to take advantage of Small Business Saturday -- and every day.

Related: Restaurants Ask Customers to #DineSmall on Small Business Saturday

Connie Certusi

Executive Vice President at Sage Business Solution

Connie Certusi leads the startup and small-business-solutions business, encompassing Sage One, Sage Accountants Network and Sage 50 Accounting. With more than 20 years of experience in the technology market serving small businesses, she has a passion for helping entrepreneurs and small business owners succeed.

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