Time to start planning for Small Business Saturday, November 30.  The annual event encourages holiday shoppers to give back to the community by spending on neighborhood stores and services rather than piling in to the big box chain outlets.

This is your opportunity to take advantage of a wave of promotion coming from American Express (founder of the event) and other big companies, plus local governments and business associations. This year, AmEx offers card users a $10 bill credit on one transaction at any number of small businesses on November 30.

Here are some first steps you can take to get your local business ready for the big day of shopping small.

Plan an in-store event or special offer for Small Business Saturday.  Now is the time to line up caterers or entertainers to give your store some extra-festive appeal on the 30th. And settle on discounts or giveaways you’ll offer to pull in shoppers already on the lookout for small businesses. See the AmEx site for videos about creative ideas tried by local businesses last year.

Start your community outreach.  Coordinate with other businesses in the neighborhood on signage, sidewalk events and special offers. See American Express’s list of 10 ideas for neighborhood promotion.  One idea: Each shop agrees to give a discount to any customer who shows a receipt from another neighborhood shop. Find other interested businesses in your area on the Mightybell community website.

Take advantage of early-bird American Express offers. If you do accept their card, register here  by November 4 to be included on a map of SBS-participating merchants that AmEx will promote to cardholders. Also register by the 4th and AmEx will run online advertising for your store – for free. Act now to get a $50 ad credit on Foursquare while the promotion lasts, too.  And keep an eye out for more Small Business Saturday offers in the near future: Last year, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Federal Express all chipped in with giveaways for small businesses.

More Small Business Saturday info.