Help Customers Avoid the Holiday-Shopping Blues. The holidays are billed as the most wonderful time of the year. However, many last-minute holiday shoppers may beg to differ.

If you own a business and are looking to attract shoppers short on time and gift ideas, we’ve got some simple hints to allow you to do just that. Here are some ideas on how to attract harried shoppers and help everyone get back into the holiday spirit:

1. Keep it simple. The one thing last-minute shoppers really want is more time. If you own a brick and mortar store, display gifts at the front of the store and separate them according to recipient. For example, you could have a display of gifts for teachers, gifts for kids, gifts for the person who has everything. The idea is to get people in and out as quickly as possible. If you have a website, its homepage should be set up in a similar fashion.

2. Maximize mobile. Where do most shoppers turn for ideas on what to buy? Their smartphones. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and uses keywords that are popular with Google right now, including “cool gifts” and “best gifts.” It also is important that your listing on local search directories has your holiday shopping hours listed.

3. Remember that communication is key. Since shoppers are on their smartphones a lot this time of year, sending emails and texts with special coupons or one-day sales promotions are a great way to get customers in the door.

4. Consider social media giveaways. Contests always boost social media engagement, especially this time of year. Ask followers to post their favorite holiday cookie recipe or a picture of their ugliest holiday sweater. At a certain time each day pick a winner and award that winner a coupon or free gift card from your store.

5. Don’t forget the gift cards. Fifty percent of shoppers say they will buy gift cards for presents. Sweeten the pot by having cute packaging for those gift cards or offer a discount when multiple gift cards are purchased.

The holidays should be a time to concentrate on family and friends, not to worry about getting everything crossed off a massive to-do list. When you make the season more pleasant for stressed out, last-minute shoppers, chances are these same shoppers will become loyal customers all year round!

Marketing a Small Business? Don’t Play the Imitation Game! Your mother was right. You shouldn’t try to be something you’re not. This is an important lesson for small businesses, as well.
Many small businesses believe that in order to be successful, they need to do things like much bigger companies. However, the companies they try to emulate usually have much deeper pockets.

When it comes to successfully marketing your small business the key is to accentuate the fact that you are a small business. By capitalizing on this fact you will be much more successful than if you try to be something you are not!

What follows are five ways to make the most of your status as a small business!

  1. Dive into direct mail. With more and more big companies using email marketing, consumers’ regular mailboxes aren’t as crowded as in the past. This means your direct mail campaign will stand out more. Further, research shows that direct mail has a higher response rate than email marketing. Combine your direct mail with email marketing and your response rate will increase even more.
  2. Implement a customer loyalty program. Customer loyalty programs are easy to set up and are a great way to track and reward your customers. Further, since retaining current customers is more cost effective than finding new ones, these programs pay off in more ways than one.
  3. Purchase Facebook ads. Facebook allows you to target your ads to reach an audience based on a variety of demographics, including age, gender, interests or geographic location. These ads are a cost-effective way to get your small business in front of those most likely to do business with you.
  4. Engage the media. Establish a relationship with your local media outlets so that when reporters are looking to do a story on holiday shopping, for example, they turn to you. You also can send a press release to media outlets to announce new product launches or other events that the public may be interested in.
  5. Engage in complementary advertising. Joint promotional campaigns allow you to partner with another business to boost sales for both of you. For instance, if you own a pet boarding business you could partner with a local pet shop and each of your businesses could give away coupons for the other’s products or services. The possibilities are endless and by adding another business to your marketing mix your reach can be dramatically increased!

Instead of trying to compete with national companies that have resources you can’t match, take advantage of your status as a home-grown and local business. After all, this is something much bigger companies will never be able to do as well as you!

Five Holiday Gifts that Show Clients You Really Care. The holidays are just around the corner and if you are like most business owners, you are scrambling for ideas on how to thank your customers for their patronage. Sure, you can send them a tin of cookies or a desk calendar, but are you really going to stand out from the crowd that way?

Instead of the usual (and, frankly, boring) holiday thanks-for-your-business gifts, we’ve come up with a few ideas that are sure to get you noticed and make your customers thankful to be doing business with someone who really gets them.

1. Make a charitable donation. This is an especially good idea if you know a charity near and dear to a client’s heart. If they support a particular cause, for example the local animal shelter, send a donation in their name to that particular charity.

2. A handwritten note. When was the last time you received a handwritten note from someone you do business with? The fact that such notes are so rare is why this gesture makes such an impression.

3. A funny, festive video featuring you and your staff. Shoot a short video thanking your clients for being the best of the best, upload it to social media and tag your clients. All you need is a smart phone and some creative staff members to produce it. The best part is, if it’s especially creative or funny, you might find yourself with some free publicity if it gets liked and shared by the recipients!

4. A bottle of wine from the year their company was founded. A bottle of wine is always a nice gift and the year on the bottle shows you did your homework. Add a note saying what a good year it was for wine and business!

5. A credit with Uber or Lyft. Include a note saying something along the lines of ‘tis the season to be jolly and safe! This shows you really care for them and want them to be safe!

Whether you use one of the ideas listed above or come up with something different, the key is to make it as personal as possible. After all, the best way to build strong relationships with your clients is to make sure they know you understand and value them. Therefore, if you take the time to choose a gift that really speaks to them on a personal level, you will accomplish much more than just thanking them for their business!

No one goes out of their way to lose a client. However, it is surprisingly easier than you might think. What’s worse, you may be undermining yourself without even knowing it.

If you want to keep your clients (and unless you have a really troublesome client, we know that you do), it is important that you avoid certain behaviors that you may not even realize are driving customers away. Here are the five biggest customer faux pas:

1. Talk about yourself (all the time). Sure you want your customers to know what a great business you have but it is much more important that you concentrate on their business and what they want and need from you.

2. Communicate exclusively by email (unless that is what they want). It is important that you communicate with clients in the manner that they prefer. However, if you don’t ask and only use email, most customers will pick up on the fact that you are avoiding taking the time to have a real conversation with them. Picking up the phone and meeting them face-to-face shows that you value them enough to take time out of your busy day to talk with them.

3. Only get in touch with them when you want their money. Nothing will alienate clients faster than only approaching them when it’s time for them to pay a bill or when you want to sell them a new product or service. Avoid this pitfall by periodically checking in to see how business is going or pass along something you read that might be of interest to him or her.

4. Always be billing. If you bill clients every time they call you, you can bet they won’t reach out to you very often. And soon they won’t reach out to you at all! While you should be paid for your time, don’t go overboard. Instead, see these communications as ways to build a personal and professional relationship—something that is sure to pay off in the long run.

5. Ignore problems. Ignoring problems that have already occurred or that may occur, is an excellent way to lose a client. Clients are surprisingly understanding if something goes wrong provided you take responsibility for it or alert them to it beforehand. While it is a difficult conversation to have, it always pays off. It also helps to build trust.

We all get busy. However, if you don’t treat clients the way they deserve, they probably won’t be your clients for very long.

why-persistence-is-the-key-to-selling-success

Identifying the target audience for a particular product or service your company is selling takes a lot of time and money. After all, you want to make sure that you are marketing to exactly the type of customers who are most likely to buy what you have to sell.

If, after going to all this work, you approach a prospect through email, direct mail or any other marketing technique and they fail to respond, you just spent a lot of time and money for nothing. Or did you?

We’ve all heard the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” In the case of marketing your business, adhering to this adage is essential to success. Here are three important follow-up tactics to employ so that never miss out on a sale because you gave up on a prospect too soon:

  1. Repeat yourself. If you made an offer that your prospect isn’t responding to, restate the same offer but in a new way. In other words, emphasize different selling points. Many prospects may be on the fence about whether or not to buy. Highlighting some additional benefits can tip the scale in your favor.
  2. Create a sense of urgency. If you didn’t get the reaction you had hoped for the first time around, consider offering a bonus offer if a prospect acts in the next 24 hours, for example. Free shipping is another offer that buyers often respond to. You also can try offering the product or service at a discount for orders placed within a certain time frame.
  3. Present another option. Maybe the reason your prospect is not biting is because your product isn’t exactly what they are looking for. As a salesperson, your job isn’t to sell the product you want to sell, it’s to sell the product that your customer wants or needs. If a prospect has made it clear that they aren’t buying what you are initially selling, it’s time to give them another option.

While it can seem fruitless at times, continuing to follow up with prospects will in many cases be rewarded with a sale. At the very least, prospects will appreciate your persistence and likely remember you in the future when they are ready to make a purchase.