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AmEx OPEN helps small businesses ring up sales

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Few b-to-b marketers have the power to create a national day to recognize and celebrate their key customers. But American Express OPEN does, and that's exactly what the American Express Corp. small-business unit did during the recent holiday shopping season. American Express OPEN declared that the Saturday after Thanksgiving would be “Small Business Saturday.” Falling in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the day was designed to drive shoppers to local merchants across the U.S. American Express OPEN announced the Small Business Saturday promotion in a press conference that featured New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and American Express Corp. Chairman-CEO Kenneth I. Chenault. In addition to a nationwide advertising campaign, American Express OPEN promoted the program by offering a $25 statement credit to 100,000 of its card members who registered their card and used it to shop on Nov. 27 at locally owned, independent small businesses that accept American Express. American Express OPEN also directly supported small-business owners by offering $100 of free advertising on Facebook to 10,000 business owners who registered at Facebook.com/smallbusinesssaturday. It also said it would donate $1 to Girls Inc., a group fostering entrepreneurship among young women, for every person who “liked” Small Business Saturday on Facebook. American Express OPEN didn't go it alone with this promotion. It enlisted a number of groups to help promote Small Business Saturday. In addition to Girls Inc., the coalition included the 3/50 Project, Facebook, the National Association of Women Business Owners, Yelp and a number of local business organizations, such as the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau, New York City Department of Small Business Services and San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau. In a statement announcing the Small Business Saturday program, Chenault said that small business is an engine of job creation in the U.S. “It is also among the sectors hardest hit by the recession,” he said. “By spreading the word about Small Business Saturday, we can help raise awareness about the critical role small businesses play in cities and towns across the country at a time when they need support the most.” American Express OPEN said 1.2 million people “liked” Small Business Saturday on Facebook, which resulted in a $1 million donation to Girs Inc. Almost 30,000 tweets were sent by both consumers and business owners using hashtags created for Small Business Saturday, according to American Express OPEN. Additionally, the company said that small retailers accepting American Express cards reported sales on the cards increased about 27% on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2010 compared with the same day in 2009. American Express OPEN said more than 100,000 small-business owners downloaded promotional materials from the Small Business Saturday Facebook page. “I was fascinated with the American Express promotion as it happened,” said Jim Gregory, CEO of branding consultancy CoreBrand. “I thought it was innovative and interesting, but concerned that it would not be sustainable. I really like the idea that American Express is doing something like this for its small-business customers.” American Express OPEN believes the idea is sustainable. “Based on the success of Small Business Saturday, we are already looking at how we can do more for small business in 2011,” said American Express OPEN spokeswoman Rosa Alfonso.
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