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Got a Small Business? It's Not Too Late to Prepare for Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday is a billion dollar boon for independent shops, but less than half are fully online. Here are four programs to help out.

As small businesses ready themselves for the holiday shopping season—including Small Business Saturday—it's important to note that many are missing out on the gains of an online presence.


Of 306 surveyed small businesses across the United States, less than half reported having their own dedicated website—even less said they used technology to manage customer relations, point-of-sale systems, or to draw in a broader body of customers, according to Yodle, a local online marketing company.

Last year, U.S. shoppers spent $5.5 billion during Small Business Saturday and projections for total online sales during this year's holiday season look to top $61 billion, with 16 percent coming from shoppers on mobile devices.

The move towards online sales makes being visible on the web all the more important for small businesses. Nowadays, social media campaigns and email blasting loyal customers are essential techniques in the holiday sales kung fu. Depending on a single Facebook page or a virtual shop on ecommerce sites like Etsy or Shopify to fill the gap simply won't cut it anymore.

Here are a mix of startups and services that can help small businesses as they fight for their market share this holiday season.

Onepager

New York City-based startup, Onepager, provides intuitive, simple website building for companies without the resources to build one on their own. Co-founder and designer Matthew Moore told Mashable:

“We get a lot of request from small business owners and people who didn't really have the budget to work with us,” Moore explains. “They wanted to have a nice website created for themselves, so we go to thinking about doing a product.”

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Onepager provides small businesses with basic e-commerce, newsletter, and search engine optimization (SEO) tools for their customized website, everything needed to bring services under one roof.

Signpost

Signpost tracks where customers are coming from and helps small businesses decide where to focus advertisements or marketing campaigns. Stuart Wall, founder and CEO of Signpost, wrote in a blog post for the Huffington Post:

“As an entrepreneur, I know that running your own business is challenging and sifting through a barrage of marketing options is the last thing that any small business owner wants to do.”

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By filtering out the incompatible marketing options for those small business owners, Signpost points to the best sites or apps to place advertisements and target new or returning customers. Since its formal launch last year, Signpost has netted over 10,000 small business clients and continues to grow.

Web Services for Small Business Saturday

American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010 to support independent stores during the holiday shopping season. For this year's event, the credit payment company is continuing its support by giving small businesses the option to build their own marketing campaign and business page, free of charge. Each entry, which can also be padded with suggested social media templates and an easy-to-use logo-making tool, is then filed into a searchable small business-sourced map to be used by would-be customers.

Unlike Onepager and Signpost, which offer long-term solutions, American Express's Shop Small service is a quick and easy entry for those lacking an online model.

Equally as easy to use (though not quite as robust as American Express's map) is the National Federation of Independent Business's (NFIB) collection of Small Business Saturday deals--a member-sourced list of local businesses organized by state. Members can submit a basic profile of their company, including existing social media pages, and briefly explain to consumers why they should patronize the small biz.

Small businesses return about 65 percent of revenue to their surrounding communities (compared to 34 percent for large retail). And though behind their big business brothers, the emerging effort to catch small businesses up to speed is reason to feel optimistic about their futures.

Photos via (cc) Flickr users miss karen and Mike Licht

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