Donna Fenn has shared expertise and insights from entrepreneurs who’ve seen it and been through it all. From innovation heroes to customer service champions, in her last installment of the Small Business Success Summer Series, she explores holiday planning for the fast-approaching season. In this blog, Donna spoke with entrepreneurs who learned the hard way that it’s never too early to prepare your business for the busy holiday season.
Janet – @jzablock
Holiday Marketing: Be Memorable and Meaningful
By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert
For many small business owners, the upcoming holiday season is the most important time of year, as it represents a huge percentage of annual revenue. While consumers are in the mood to buy, they can be overwhelmed with marketing messages and confused by a huge number of choices. So how do you rise above the noise? At this time of year especially, customers are more likely to do business with companies they like. Don’t wait until the crowded holiday season to start your holiday outreach. Instead, take the opportunity to meaningfully connect with them over the coming weeks and you’ll reap the rewards in the coming months. Here are a few ways you can show your customers that you’re a cut above your competitors:
Be generous on social media. Zady.com is a new, multi-brand online retailer for people who want to be both stylish and socially conscious, says co-founder Soraya Darabi. “We don’t have a big marketing budget, so community is our first priority,” she says. Yes, she wants to drive consumers to Zady, but part of the company’s social media strategy is to be a trusted resource to people, even if it means sending them elsewhere. A woman recently asked Darabi where to find a great pair of boots. Her response: check out the used Ferragamos on eBay. “We want to position ourselves as experts,” says Darabi.
Host a party. At Zane’s Cycles, which has two bicycle shops in Fairfield County, Conn., holiday sales are just between 9- 10% of total revenue. Still, owner Chris Zane leverages the holiday season to thank and connect with a select group of important customers. He hosts a VIP cocktail party with tenderloin, shrimp, and gift bags filled with Zane swag and a bottle of wine for 200 of “the customers who are most intimately involved in our business,” says Zane. “They’re the people who help us clean up after our big spring sale, or who wave the flags at the charity rides that we support. It’s about building community around our space and sending the message that we’re here for them.” He knows that message will pay off when it’s time to shop for bicycles in the spring.
Leverage cause marketing. At Back to the Roots (BTTR), an Oakland, Cal., company that sells mushroom growing kits and aquafarms, founders Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez forged a holiday partnership with Revolution Foods, which provides healthy meals to school children. “For every Aquafarm that we sell at Whole Foods, Petco, and Nordstrom, we’ll donate a healthy school meal through Revolution Foods,” says Arora. The program, which starts this month, is part of BTTR’s philosophy to “partner with cool companies to do good things,” says Arora.
Of course, your holiday marketing should also include more traditional elements, such as email marketing to your most loyal customers and a holiday card. For a spin on that, check out OpenMe.com, a new social greeting card company that allows you to custom create e-cards (free) or physical cards ($4), with multiple pages and signatures, all managed online. Remember, it’s all about differentiating your company to customers in a memorable and meaningful way so that they fall in love with your company, not just what you happen to be selling.
Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.
Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 1, 2013 at 10:05 am