Joe Kukura

Small business owners may have heard about Small Business Saturday, a localized response to the Black Friday big-box retail binge of the coming holiday weekend. Small Business Saturday, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 24, encourages consumers to spend their dollars locally at brick-and-mortar businesses and support local entrepreneurs. While there are no "business days" left between now and Small Business Saturday 2012, you can still take advantage of free materials to promote your business and participate in the increasingly lucrative Small Business Saturday effort.

Small Business Saturday is actually a promotion engineered by American Express, who may not strike you as a particularly small business. The reach of their branding, and the success of the Small Business Saturday campaign, are beyond comparison. AmEx estimates that the 2011 Small Business Saturday effort turned out 100 million local shoppers, with American Express card holders being offered a $25 credit when spending $25 or more at a participating small business.

In other words, it pays to be a participating small business on Small Business Saturday. Here's a rundown of the "Shop Small" materials available for use for this year's Small Business Saturday and which promotions you'll want to plan early to participate in next year.

Participate in Small Business Saturday

If you have not yet enrolled your business with American Express for this year's Small Business Saturday, you won't be able to get your customers the $25 cash back for using their AmEx card Saturday. It is also too late to sign up for free online ads or get your business listed on the American Express Small Business Locator for this Saturday's campaign. Make a mental note of these for next year, and let's move on to what your business can do to increase the value of Small Business Saturday.

You still have a free toolbox provided by American Express, including storefront signage, website widgets and social media tools to heighten your visibility for Small Business Saturday.

Free Small Business Saturday Signs

On the Small Business Saturday web page, local merchants still have access to free, downloadable Small Business Saturday marketing tools. These include color storefront signs with the Small Business Saturday and Shop Small branding, free to print and use in your business Saturday. You can even customize a sign displaying the name of your business.

These materials are free to download -- even if your business does not accept the American Express card. Just choose the option "No thanks, I'll only need one-time access to my materials," and you'll be able to download a zip file with Small Business Saturday color signage in PDF format.

Small Business Saturday Social Media Tools

That free zip file also includes templates for social media and online campaigns to put your business' name on local shoppers' minds this Saturday. Whether you prefer to market your business through a website, email campaigns, Facebook or Twitter, the Small Business Saturday marketing kit has a free template for you.

The promotional kit contains sample email templates to promote Small Business Saturday to any email lists your business may maintain. There are also sample blog posts, in both short format and longer form. The kit additionally includes sample Facebook posts, Twitter posts and free banner ads for use on your business' website.

You're not just promoting your business with Small Business Saturday branding, you're promoting the "shop locally" ethic that many consumers appreciate and abide by whenever possible. Your business' brand becomes part of a consumer's local pride and loyalty. Even if you're late to the game in promoting Small Business Saturday, these free and easy online tools will attract the eyes -- and dollars -- of the millions of buyers looking to spend locally this Saturday.

This article is part of the Drive Your Business Forward series. Check out for more tips and advice on how to succeed as a small business. This series is supported by Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.