Following up on the Entrepreneurship Endeavors column, we’re beginning a new chapter for Silicon Bayou with Financial Fridays, where we’ll cover a different financial or sales-related topic every Friday to help Louisiana businesses.
The Holiday season is quickly approaching, which means stores all across America will be flooded with customers looking to find the perfect gifts for their loved ones. If your business isn’t getting in on the action, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity.
The Thanksgiving to Christmas marathon seemingly becomes more and more intense every year. With the advent of the internet and social media, businesses have been able to connect with customers in a more intimate manner than ever seen before. People line up to get that special gift while new “consumer holidays” have been created to facilitate the demand. In short, if you’re not cashing in, your competitor is.
Despite that, many businesses are cutting back due to difficulties from a still-tough economy. You may not think you can afford to market yourself during the holiday season, but with some careful planning and intelligent strategy, you can. Here are a few budget-friendly ideas to get you started:
Get in on the action
Small Business Saturday (happening tomorrow), Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just three of the many opportunities to draw customers into your store. Capitalize off the major nationwide push that American Express and smaller organizations like Stay Local do for Small Business Saturday by having your own special deals to attract people from the many big-box retailers. While Black Friday is the biggest in-store shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday gives online shoppers the chance to spend their money without leaving the comfort of their own home. Make a point to create and promote some deals that you know people will be interested in. Create signs, get the word of mouth going, and you’ll have a powerful marketing funnel bringing back revenue to you before the end of the weekend!
Update your (mobile) website
Last year, according to CNN.com, over 139 million adults visited store websites over the four-day weekend after Thanksgiving. That number is almost guaranteed to increase this year. Consumers spent $59 billion over the long weekend, an increase from $52 billion the year before. More and more of that number, though, is going towards online shopping. If you are a small business, not only should you have a website that promotes your product and illustrates your services, but it should also have a good e-commerce page that enables you to sell any product online.
Of course, many businesses have heard “build a check-out page” for years. A new detail this year is the importance of making that page work on mobile phones. Research indicates that total mobile revenues may finally cross the $10 billion mark in Q4 of 2013.
Expand your hours
Last year over 10 percent of shoppers that spent money during the four-day weekend were in and out of the stores by the time that many people were just finishing Thanksgiving dinner. 28 percent of shoppers were finished by midnight. Whereas people used to think of turkey and football on Thanksgiving, they now think of shopping carts and food courts. If you aren’t adapting to the consumer tide you’re losing out on potential business.
Get creative with social media
If your business doesn’t have social media by now, you should seriously consider creating at least a Facebook & Twitter. Having a promotion for the shopping weekend won’t do any good unless you actually figure out how to spread the word and one of the best ways to do so is through Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels.
Consider a Loan for Bigger Strategies
Perhaps you want to buy a set of billboards along I-10 for your massive holiday push. Maybe you’d like to push $10,000 towards Google display advertising in the next month. Or maybe you think sky-writing advertisements are making a comeback. No matter what the strategy is, sometimes, the sky really is the limit. But not every organization has the cash on hand for a quickly-produced marketing strategy. In these cases, your best bet is to seek a local financial institution, whether it’s one of the Baton Rouge, New Orleans, or Metairie Banks. They’ll also be able to offer you a little more expertise, which you might not have, on how well your bigger-than-life strategy may work.
Take advantage of online advertisements
Traditional advertising can get very expensive very quickly. Even worse, there’s no way to track the results other than to ask each customer how they figured out about the store. Online advertisements, such as Google or Facebook ads, on the other hand, are relatively easy to track, and if you do it right, can cost as little as a few dollars.
For example, if you want to spread the word on Facebook about a great deal you have for Cyber Monday, promote the post, pick which demographic you want to target and set your price. You can spend as little as $5 and get huge results. The more money you spend, the more of your chosen audience will see your post. You can also use Google Keyword Planner to set up paid advertisements.
Holidays can be magical, especially if you run a struggling business and do the necessary work beforehand. Your customers clearly don’t think it’s too early to start planning for Christmas. Your business shouldn’t either.
This guest post was written by Patrick Rafferty in association with Hibernia Bank. The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of any financial institution or bank. This article is intended to provide those reading it with information about matters of current interest. It should not be construed as legal or financial advice concerning a specific topic and should not be acted upon without contacting the appropriate professionals.