There’s nothing small about the holiday season when it comes to small businesses.
According to the National Retail Federation, 20 to 40 percent of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers take place within the last two months of the year.
Hopefully you’ve already started thinking about how you’re going to make this year’s holiday season worth celebrating.
As you start your holiday planning, there are a few things you can do that are guaranteed to improve your results:
1. Participate in the “big” shopping days
Aside from the usual rush around traditional holidays, don’t forget the big shopping days that kick off the season:
• Black Friday – November 29th
• Small Business Saturday – November 30th
• Cyber Monday – December 2nd
Bottom Line: As a small business, Small Business Saturday will likely be one of the most important days of the season. It’s a day when people are looking to shop small and discover locally-owned businesses in their area.
But there’s no reason you can’t look for opportunities to take part in all three. Your customers will be looking for great offers throughout the extended shopping weekend, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to fill your store or boost online sales at the start of the holiday season.
2. Go mobile!
Here’s a snapshot of what happened in the world of mobile this past year:
- Smartphone usage in the U.S. increased by 50 percent (Kleiner Perkins)
- The number of emails being opened on mobile increased by 330 percent (Litmus)
- Tablet usage doubled in the U.S. (Pew Research Center)
Bottom Line: More people are using mobile devices to inform their purchase decisions. If a potential customer can’t easily find and consume the information they’re looking for from their mobile device or if you send an email that doesn’t look good on a smartphone or tablet it could cost you business.
3. Pay attention to what people are saying
Over 90 percent of consumers now read reviews before making a purchase. They trust them too! In one survey, 78 percent of participants said they trusted peer recommendations over ads.
Bottom Line: In addition to review sites like Yelp, consumers are also relying on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to help with holiday shopping research.
As the holiday season approaches, make sure to pay special attention to what people are saying about your business on all of these social networks. Look for opportunities to engage with your most loyal fans on Facebook, respond to a customer’s question on Twitter, or thank someone for a positive online review whenever you get the chance.
4. Refresh your online listings
Along with reading reviews and recommendations, consumers will also rely on search engines like Google or Bing, city guides like Citysearch, and mobile apps like Foursquare to discover new businesses throughout the holiday season.
If you haven’t taken the time to review the information that’s available on these sites, now is the perfect time to do it.
Bottom Line: Take the time to identify the places that your target audience is turning to when searching for businesses similar to yours. The best way to do this is to search for your business on a site like Google and see what type of results show up. Be on the lookout for any publishers that specialize in your particular industry, as they will offer the biggest opportunity to reach your next great customer.
5. Come up with a holiday offer
It’s no secret that deals and special offers have become a major part of the holiday shopping season.
With so much competition from the “big guys” and other local businesses, coming up with a compelling offer could be the secret to this year’s holiday success.
Bottom Line: Think carefully about your promotional tactics and the terms of your deal. Just because customers expect to receive a great value, doesn’t mean you need to offer an outrageous discount to get them to act. The key is finding a balance. You can also look for opportunities to offer additional incentives like free shipping, complimentary gift wrapping, or bundle products together and sell them as a holiday set.
Not sure what to offer? Here are 12 great deal ideas.
6. Remember what works best
According to new data from Monetate, email continues to be one of the biggest drivers of conversions for businesses with an eCommerce presence.
The study, which analyzed more than 500 million shopping experiences in the first quarter of 2013, found that the conversion rate for email was 3.19 percent, compared to 1.95 percent for search, and just .71 percent for social media.
Bottom Line: While social media and other online marketing tools will also play an important part in this year’s holiday promotion, your email contact list will continue to be one of your most valuable assets. Keep that in mind as you start your planning.
Ready to get started?
This fall we are offering a free live webinar, “Holiday Promotions Planning and Design.” Our team of experts will teach you how to plan a successful holiday promotion, and will answer all of your holiday marketing questions.
Grow Your Business with Email Marketing.
- Free, award-winning coaching that’s just a call, email, or online chat away.
- Templates that ensure your emails are beautiful, professional, and sync with your organization’s colors and logo.
- Real business results with a tool that reaches your customers where they are everyday: their inbox.
I speak with a lot of business owners and managers as I travel to present seminars on using Email and Social Media to grow your business. The largest contributor to failed Social Media efforts is their LACK of establishing measurable goals and objectives. This is the foundation of using any Social Media channel (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.) successfully.
It does not matter if you have been using a Social Channel for years, just created one and are not happy, or have finally decided to take the plunge and join the digital world. Let’s go through the first foundational steps to create a successful Social Media presence.
Step one. Establish your goal(s) and objective(s). Do you want more customers? More leads? More donations? More people to attend your next event? Better customer service? These are GOALS and they are important, but we need to get a little closer and more specific. We need OBJECTIVES. And objectives are specific and measurable over a fixed time period. The more specific the better. 20% more attendance at the next pancake breakfast. 15% more leads from the LinkedIn account. Raise 50% more donations to the house project over the next three months. The more specific, the better. This is the beginning of your strategy and every business should have a well-developed Social Media strategy.
Step two. Decide on what you want the person on the other side of the internet to do. This is the specific call to action. In a lot of cases, you will need to TELL the person what to do. The call to action you want to contribute directly to the objectives that you already established.
Okay. Now you can decide on Step 3. Which Social Channel(s) you should be using. The short answer is, be where your customers/prospects are.
Now the buzz word. Engagement. Ugh! I hate the word, it is so over-used now. But the concept is important. Be active on the channel(s) that you choose to use. And be patient. It’s going to take a while to see results. 6-12 months of patience.
And through all of this, you need to be continually monitoring and managing your time. There are a lot of tools available such as Google Alerts, HootSuite, etc. Here is a list of tools I recommend.
The size of your business does not matter. The traditional marketing rules still applies for all your Social Media efforts. Every business should spend some time developing their Social Media plan and then implement it. Remember. . . Social Media, properly done, will definitely benefit your business. Social Media done wrong, can also damage your business. Take the time to do it right.
I am part of a team of local small business marketing experts that host educational, marketing-focused seminars across the nation. Click here to find a seminar near you and take advantage of our expertise to help you grow your small business or nonprofit.
This is a common question I get from new and prospective clients. The easiest way is to just give me your Gmail password and let me add myself to your Google Analytics account. But that should be your last option, not your first. Easier is not always better. Protecting your password is a pet peeve of mine and you should hardly ever share any password with anyone. So you have decided to do this yourself. Get ready, this will take you a lot less than 5 minutes to complete.
Here is the quick step-by-step tutorial to give people access to your Google Analytics account safely.
1. Login to your Google Analytics account. http://www.google.com/analytics/ and click on the “Access Google Analytics” button in the top right corner.
3. Click on “User Management.” You have three choices.
4. This page lists people that already have access to Google Analytics. At a minimum, your email address will be listed as a current account user.
A. Enter the email address of the person you want to have access. Please note, the new address must be registered as a Google Account. All Gmails are registered by default
B. Select the level of access you want to share. Be careful giving out top “Manage Users” access as then they have the ability to remove you or anyone else from the Google Analytics account. For most professional consultants such as me, please give “Edit” level access. Here is a break down of what each level offers:
- Manage Users: Can manage account users (add/delete users, assign permissions). Does not include Edit or Collaborate. Be careful sharing at this level.
- Edit: Can perform administrative and report-oriented functions (i. e. add/edit/delete accounts, properties, views, filters, goals, etc.) Can see report data. Includes Collaborate. Can NOT manage users.
- Collaborate: Can create ‘personal’ assets, and share them. Can collaborate on shared assets, for example, edit a dashboard or annotation. Includes Read & Analyze.
- Read & Analyze: Can see report and configuration data; can manipulate data within reports (i.e. filter a table, add secondary dimension, create a segment); can create personal assets, and share them, and see shared assets. Cannot collaborate on shared assets.
C. Check the “Notify this user by email” box so they will know when the access has been shared.
D. And now click on the “Add” button.
5. Congratulations. You’re done.
Now if you can think of a way to make this even easier, please comment below. And if you like it, then share it.
Answer: They’re both valuable.
The main goal of marketing for every business or organization is to get your message out. And even better to have that message ACTED upon. This is marketing and the idea of marketing, at its core, is to create a RESPONSE to your message. You want someone to do something . . . Like you page, Download a paper, Donate to your cause. Or how about actually buying a product or service?
Whether we get a prospect to click Like, Opt-in or any other interaction, you are priming the pump on engagement. But to do this on a regular basis you need to create an organized strategy. The best strategies start small. You need to create a specific and measurable objective. Do you want to sell 40 widgets this month? Do you want to increase attendance to your Lunch-and-Learn by 25%? Do you have a specific target level for donations?
Now to the real challenge. You need to create the campaign. Are you going to do an Email campaign or a Social Media campaign? Trick question. You use them both. Email & Social Media Marketing go hand-in-hand. They should each support the other. Email campaigns are amplified by Social Media support. Social Media campaigns drive people back to grow your email list for future deals.
Picking the right Social Media channel is important and is a blog by itself, but in short, you select the Social Media channel based on what you want them to do and where most of your customers happen to be. However in the end, email is still the best way to get your message heard and Social Media is the best way to get your message spread.
And the final part? Measure your results. Look at the data at the end of the campaign. If you had the ability to do A/B testing, what worked and why? What was your open rate? How many people shared the message? How many new email subscribers did you get? How many new Likes? How close did you come to your objective? What worked? What didn’t work? Now make adjustments and try again.
There are a lot of tools out there to help you with each of these aspects. Some are free, most have some sort of fee tied to it. There are also multiple classes and seminars available from the Small Business Administration, SCORE, and your local Small Business Development Centers. Constant Contact and I work with all these organizations to offer free seminars on Email & Social Media Strategies, Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Event Marketing, and more. Find a class near you and take some time to learn to grow your business. Here is a link to the next classes I am teaching.
After you have tried a class, come back here and leave a tip on what you learned for the next reader. Oh, and be sure to share this blog on your Social Media channels. I sure would like to grab a few more Likes and a half-dozen Opt-ins.
Social Media Marketing Specialist
Connect: Discover Service Through Rotary
I write this in the wake of additional recent revelations regarding the federal government attempting to get everyone’s password from various internet companies. Thankfully, they have been successfully rebuffed, but the article made a strong point on how easy it is to crack MOST people’s passwords. At a recent password security conference last December, a custom built computer didn’t “just crack passwords; it literally obliterates them. The system can crunch through 348 billion NT LAN Manager (NTLM) password hashes every second. In the real world, this translates into being able to break a 14 character Windows XP password in six minutes.“ Please note that was a 14 character password. Most people use 6-8 characters.
The one tip that I do want to emphasize is that you really should NOT use the same password in more than one location. Each program that you need to access should have its own unique password. This is a vital point. If someone were to hack Twitter’s account database, and they get your password that you use everywhere, now the hackers have access to your entire digital life. This includes your bank, Facebook, work, etc. And if you have a password that needs to be changed every 30-90 days, keeping track of them is a challenge.
So what is the average computer person like us supposed to do to protect our passwords that protect our digital life? Instead of just recapping all the traditional rules (click here to read them) that everyone usually writes about, I am just going to go straight to the easy solution. Get a password management program. Check out the most recent review of the top ten programs here. After researching a lot of the programs out there, it was easy for me to choose Roboform. So much so that I became an affiliate partner.
I want to focus on the password generation feature. In the Advanced Settings area, you can set the number of characters to use in your password. You can also decide to used capitals, lowercase, numbers, and special characters. In fact, you can even decide what special characters can be used. This is important as some programs do not allow some special characters in the password. And a bonus feature is it states your bit strength at the bottom.
There are plenty of other features that you can read about on their site. Whatever program you end up choosing, you need to choose something and start diversifying your passwords. And then after you fix your passwords, share this posting with your friends and protect their digital life too!
YouTube Video: Password Security: Now More Important Than Ever
Bonus: Check out how strong your password is here and then change it to a stronger one. HowSecureIsMyPassword.net/
There are so many Social Media platforms available to businesses that it can make your head spin. However, it does not matter if you are posting in just Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or 30 other channels, if your content is weak and stale, you will not be doing your business any favors. In fact you may be creating some harm. One point on a marketing plan. Your use of the Social Media platforms should be integrated with your other marketing. It is important to create one master brand image, both online and offline that support each other. Jay Baer makes a great point about the need to Market your Marketing.
Every posting for your business should follow a strategy or calendar. The quantity of posts will vary greatly based on your marketing plan, goals, amount of resources available to create or find the content, and the Social Media platforms that you choose to use. Each one of these influencers can be a blog post in itself. Today, we are looking at the content.
Content can usually fall into 4 categories: About your business (Marketing); About your industry (Informative); Information for your customers (Educational); and Fun-whimsical-misc (Personality of your business). It is also important that you balance the number of posts per category. For example, your marketing posts should be about 10% of your total posts. People do not want to be sold to all the time. Any post that you publish should fit into at least one category. Some posts can fit into more than one.
About your business (Marketing)
- Testimonials from you happy customers
- Employee profiles
- Contests or promotions
- Coupons or Specials
- Upcoming business events
- Awards, or links to independent write ups of your product or company
About your industry (Informative)
- Links to other blog posts from professionals in your industry
- Suggested resources, such as books or technology
- Frequently Asked Questions
Information for your customers (Educational)
- Tips for running their business
- How-to articles or videos
- Reminders about training sessions or deadlines
- Links to specific resources for THEIR business
- Ask for questions for you to respond to with answers or suggestions
Fun-whimsical-misc (Personality of your business)
- National blank week or day (July 23rd is National Hot Dog Day & also Vanilla Ice Cream day)
- Quote of the week
- Opinion – No politics or religion
- Holiday reminders
- Community events
- Humor or jokes
- Gift ideas
And a final thought. You must include a Call to Action (CTA) as often as possible. The Call to Action can be used in almost every post. Tell the reader to Like & Share the post. Invite the reader to post their thought or opinion. Just asking a question is not enough. You need to demand an answer. And keep in mind, you will want to customize your CTA to the Social Media platform. Asking your reader to “Please Retweet” does not work well on Facebook.
So . . . My Call to Action for you is to Sign up for my newsletter for Social Media Tips, Tricks & More. AND . . . Please LIKE & SHARE this blog using the links below.
Social Media Marketing Specialist
Connect: Discover Service Through Rotary
Not only yes, but Hell Yes! Did you know that your business HAS a Social Media profile on the internet even if you didn’t create one? Check the various Review sites. Chances are someone has posted something about your business, especially if there are industry specific review sites that pertain to your business such as cars.com (for vehicles) or Urban Spoon (restaurants). Some of the popular ones are: Yelp, Google Reviews, City Search, Four Square, Angie’s list, Facebook Recommendations, Trip Advisor, Yahoo, Urban Spoon, and there are dozens more. What we are talking about is Reputation Management. According to Wikipedia, Reputation Management is the practice of understanding or influencing an individual’s or business’s reputation. As the online world continues to boom Reputation management will grow as an important tool for your business.
There is nothing more painful to hear than a potential customer “Googled” your business (or your personal name), and decided to not do business with you because of what they read online. If you think you are not “online” this can really put you behind your competitors. Today, you are defined by what appears on the internet. In fact, hundreds of thousands of dollars are lost every day because of false, erroneous or misleading search engine results. The source of the negative listings is irrelevant; the impact on your business is what matters. So, what should you do?
Step 1. Go to Google, Yahoo and Bing. Search your business name and see your future. Now type your business name and/or product and the word “review.” Surprise, surprise.
Step 2. Now the real fun beginns. You create a plan based on the results of Step 1. Do you improve what already exists? Do you need to fix what is out there? Or are you a black hole with no reputation at all? These and other questions will drive the type of strategy you should create and implement.
Step 3. At the very MINIMUM, you should reply to most, if not all, the reviews about your business.
Step 4. Monitor ALL the review sites, so that when the next review is posted by a happy (or not so happy) customer, you can reply quickly. Knowing what is said and responding quickly, protects you from false claims, fixes a problem you might not have been aware of, and more importantly, maintains a professional image in the online world.
Step 36. JK (That’s text for “Just Kidding”). Just checking to see if you are paying attention.
Social Media is evolving as a very powerful opportunity to reach a large number of potential clients, business partners, buyers, and prospects. This is an opportunity to influence them to form a favorable opinion about your business, product or service. Reputation Management is something that EVERY business should take seriously. You can either do it yourself, find a consultant to help you get started, or just hire someone to do it for you. But whatever you do, don’t ignore the comments. You can’t afford it.
A last piece of advice. Do NOT use paid or fake reviews. Misleading the public can only lead to problems.
When was the last time you “Googled” your company? What about a product you produce?
Word of mouth has moved online, it’s time that you join the conversation.
Yours in Service,
Social Media Marketing Specialist
Connect: Discover Service Through Rotary