It’s that time of year boys and girls. Time to make a list and check it twice? Yes, that too, but for the small business owner, more importantly, it is time to gear up in earnest for the holiday selling bonanza.
According to the National Retail Federation, the average American plans on spending almost $1,000 on holiday goods this year – for presents, decorations, food and so on. Forty-one percent have already started shopping while the total amount expected to be spent during this holiday season is $678 billion.
That said, there will be more competition than ever for those Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping dollars. But don’t fret. Here are a dozen ways to jump to the front of the holiday shopping line:
1. Spruce up the stores, physical and virtual alike: With the influx of traffic that will soon be visiting your online and offline stores, it is incumbent upon you to make a great impression. Online, add new content and products. Offline, deep clean, add new displays, and so on.
2. Utilize your e-newsletter: Your opt-in list is amazing because it is a list of people who literally give you permission to market to them, who want to hear from you. The secret is to not abuse that privilege, especially before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The old 80-20 rule comes in handy here: 80% of your content should be things that help your holiday customers and 20% should be your own marketing and advertising.
3. Check out retargeting: How many times has this happened to you? You go to a site, check out some shoes (or whatever), and then for the next few weeks, all you see online are ads for those shoes. That is retargeting. It is a simple, affordable advertising cookie. By some estimates, only 2% of website visitors convert on the first visit. Retargeting is an inexpensive way to target that other 98%.
4. Have a contest: There will be sales galore in the next few weeks and you should definitely partake (see below), but it would also behoove you to get in the holiday spirit and use your e-newsletter and Facebook page to promote a holiday-themed contest. Have a “guess the weight of the giant pumpkin” contest or maybe a pie eating contest. The winner could get free products, or a donation made to their favorite charity.
5. Show your appreciation: Have an invitation-only sale or event for your best customers to say thank you.
6. Have a different kind of sale: Everyone will be having Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. You should do something different. How about a Terrific Tuesday sale or a Wacky Wednesday sale? Be different to stand out in a crowded market.
7. Create a loss leader: A loss leader is a product you sell at or below cost to attract attention and customers. It gets people in the door. You take a loss on that item but it leads to other sales.
8. Sell gift cards: Did you know that gift cards have become the most popular gift in America? The National Retail Federation study indicated that 6 in 10 people would like to receive a gift card as a gift, so you need to sell them online and off. Bonus: Gift cards are great word-of-mouth advertising as it is one customer telling someone else that you have great merchandise.
9. Show Amazon who is boss: People shop at Amazon for low prices. But what you can do that the online giant cannot is offer a physical experience. Create a kid space in your store. Serve hot cocoa. Offer parents a free gift-wrapping station.
10. Team up: Team up with other local businesses in the area for mutual success. You can cross-promote each other, have a joint event, offer discounts to each other’s business, that sort of thing.
11. Give: Donate to a local charity. Give employees time off to volunteer. Earmark a portion of all Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to a good cause. And of course, it doesn’t hurt to let people know what you are doing.
12. Schedule time off: Find out when your staff would like some time off – to shop, for family commitments, and so on. Similarly, you should schedule some time off for yourself. Even though this is likely the busy time of year for you, don’t be a turkey – we all need a break, especially during the holidays.
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Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss
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