With the holiday season right around the corner, small business owners know it’s time to kick things up a notch. Especially with Black Friday and Cyber Monday only weeks away, this time of year is simply much too lucrative to do things halfway.
Consider this: according to the National Retail Federation, the average American consumer plans on spends 4.1 percent more this year during holidays – and that is on top of the extra they spent last year.
People are getting ready to shop, and so we need to make it easy for them to do so at our businesses.
One way to do that is to get in on the Cyber Monday frenzy, which is the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday. That is the day Amazon and all other big online retailers pull out the stops.
For the small business owner, the “holiday” presents a golden opportunity.
It is kind of like this: Back in the day, my sweet dad owned a chain of carpet stores. His favorite place for a new location was across the street from a mall (like I said, this was in a different era!) Dad figured he could get the benefits of the mall traffic and buzz without having to pay the mall prices.
Cyber Monday is like that. There will be a lot of buzz, and with a little preparation, some of it should lead people to your online hive.
Here’s what to do:
Step 1. Prepare your loss leader:
The Internet generally, and Cyber Monday specifically, is about discounts. That’s the game. If you want to compete on Cyber Monday, you have to play by those rules, and that means offering something or some things at a greatly discounted price. In the world of business, this has traditionally been called a “loss leader.”
Essentially, a loss leader attracts customers to your business by offering them steep discounts on particularly popular items. As such, it is a strategy that involves selling goods or services at, or close to, a loss. Often, the sales price won’t even cover the costs of the product, what with advertising, overhead, cost of the goods, etc. You take a loss on the sale, hence the name, “loss leader.”
But the thing is, by offering a fantastic bargain on a specific item (or items), you lead customers to your website, with the intent of having them buy, not only the bargain, but other things from you that are not as deeply discounted. It is when they buy those other things from you that you make up for the loss you are taking on the sale item.
Step 2. Give your site a makeover:
Updating your website is part of why sufficient preparation time is necessary. You need to create specific web pages for the loss leaders (as that is critical to both good SEO and sales), and you must highlight the sale on your homepage.
Step 3. Make the most of your e-newsletter:
Take advantage of the fact that you have an opt-in list of people who have already given you permission to market to them. Begin to tease the sale now and get people ready for the big day. Be a player. (That said, what you cannot do is bombard inboxes with promotions as that will only lead to an influx of unsubscribe requests.)
Step 4. Advertise and market the heck out of the upcoming sale:
There is going to be a lot of noise in the next few weeks, what with everyone competing for eyeballs. Simply put, and frankly, getting noticed above the din will not be easy. But the good news is that you have a list and a name and a brand and a clientele that is all yours. Market to that.
Step 5. Sell and deliver:
Be ready on Cyber Monday, have enough inventory, have any customer service tools you use at the ready, and sell, sell, sell. Aside from the loss leader and related items consider selling gift cards. Why? Because gift cards are the most popular gift in America. Because about 6 out of 10 people prefer to receive gift cards as gifts, it would behoove you to also advertise and offer them.
Finally, the next day, on Tuesday, begin to fulfill your orders. Remember – that is also the beginning of the busy shipping season, so be prepared for that as well.
About Steve Strauss
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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