Saturday 6 December is the now annual event of Small Business Saturday, that encourages people to support small businesses within their community. Here, Graham Robb, senior partner at Recognition PR and Chairman of the Institute of Directors in the North East, says that the B2B sector also has a role to play in supporting smaller companies.

Small Business Saturday has changed remarkably since it began four years ago. As Susan Sobbott, President of Global Corporate Payments at American Express, told this year’s Institute of Directors Annual Convention, the scheme was launched on the heels of the financial crisis as a way of boosting sales for independent high-street stores. Since then, the campaign has taken on a life of its own.

By the time the initiative leapt across the pond last year, Small Business Saturday had become a lens through which customers, businesses and politicians looked at the whole landscape of small business in the UK – the health of the sector, the challenges they face, and the opportunities which lay ahead.

As senior partner of Recognition PR – a marketing and PR agency – it would have been easy for me to hear about Small Business Saturday and dismiss it as something focused exclusively on the high street. But instead, like so many other B2B business owners, I saw the opportunity the day offered not only for my own company, but to help support my local economy.

We’re based in the North East, one of the poorest regions in the country. Yet I know, from living and working in the region, and speaking to fellow employers through the IoD North East network, that we’re brimming with potential and have a great attitude towards embracing new opportunities and ideas.

But it’s still the case that we have the worst record when it comes to business creation in the UK. In London, there’s more than one business for every eight people – in the North East it’s more like one for every 16. In fact, the North East has the lowest number of businesses per person in the whole of the UK.

That’s why on December 6th  I’ll be offering hour-long one-on-one free marketing clinics to five small businesses, where I’ll help them devise a PR strategy, talk about different channels, help sharpen their message and hopefully give them some useful tips they can put into action.

Small Business Saturday doesn’t just have to be about encouraging people to spend a few pounds with their high street butchers, bakers or baristas. It’s also about businesses helping other businesses, working together to sustain and grow local economies and keep money in the region where it’s generated.

And it’s not just my company which is trying to help out. V&A Vigar, providers of business and financial advice with offices in Cambridgeshire and West Yorkshire, are also opening their doors to give free advice to small firms.

I would encourage all businesses, large and small, to think about what they can offer as part of Small Business Saturday. It doesn’t have to take up much time or resources, but it could kick-start great leads and business opportunities, and provide a real boost to the local economy.

For more information on Small Business Saturday go to https://smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com/

You can find out more about the Institute of Directors at www.iod.com and about Graham’s work at http://www.recognitionpr.co.uk/.

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