Small Business Marketing for the Holiday Season

By: Eric Giltner, Senior Area Manager
Grand Forks Area Office - North Dakota District Office

The holiday season represents a significant source of revenue for many small businesses. The season brings new customers into the store and is an opportunity to add these shoppers to social media contact lists. Here are some strategies for making the most of the holiday traffic coming to your store this holiday season.

Revisit Your Unique Selling Point
Your Unique Selling Point (USP) represents the one area where your business stands out in comparison to the competition. It is simply an offering or ambience that your customers value and your competitors can’t match. Some examples of what constitutes a USP could be an ideal location, exclusive rights for a premium product, free returns after ninety days, free delivery, free installation, personal fitting for the product offering, or free shipping. Whatever your USP is for your business, it should be the starting point for creating holiday shopping buzz.

Perform a Web Tune-up
Remember that most shoppers will be searching for your business, what your business offers, or even your USP on-line. Take a moment to review how you are represented to the outside world through social media. Three key issues to consider:

  1. Home Page. The home page for your business should be mobile ready (you absolutely must have an exclusive web site for your business) and offer three important pieces of information: What you offer, where you are located, and how to contact you.
     
  2. Business Listing Management.  Enter your business name in a web browser and see what pops up. You invariably will see multiple business listing sites providing information about your business. Take the time to “own” each of these sites and check all the reviews posted about your business. You may need to address any negative reviews with a response. Also, you should register your business with the “Get Your Business On-Line” site offered by Google. Google is the most powerful browser out there and this listing is free. Make sure all the information on these business listing sites are correct.
     
  3. Refresh Your Site.  If it has been awhile since you have made significant updates to your web pages, now is the time to do so. Add holiday pictures, new product descriptions, and updates on your business.

Identify Your Prime Offerings
Based upon your USP and holiday inventory, it is important to identify what items you will feature through your marketing and communication efforts. Remember to focus on a value other than cost that your shop will feature, as the large box stores will be emphasizing low costs.

Keep in mind that many of your customers will shop small to support small businesses in their community. A study by the Atlanta Federal Reserve found that for every $100 spent at a small business, approximately $70 stays within the local community. Only $43 remains when the same amount is spent in a non-locally owned store.

Promote the Purchase of Gift Cards
If you don’t offer gift cards for your store, you are missing out on a great opportunity. Research has shown that 65% of gift card redeemers spend 38% more than the value of their gift card and are more likely to buy products at the regular price. Gift cards recipients are also more likely to be new customers and represent an opportunity for you to win their loyalty.

Prepare a Content and Activity Schedule for Social Media
Savvy marketers use a content schedules throughout the holiday season to keep the interest of their customer base. An increase in content sharing will also boost the chances for a higher placement in web searches. Small Business Saturday is celebrated on November 30th and your activities for this day should be part of your social media message. Look at a national day of the year calendar to see if a day’s designation relates well to your USP and planned offering. Use this information to create content for social media platforms. Make sure your schedule of content sharing not only includes what is going to happen, but also offer updates during each day. You may want to partner with a local charity one day to help support their mission.

Offer In-Store Activities
There are many options for an in-store activity, depending on the products you offer. Some examples could include product demonstrations, free health screening, free jewelry cleaning, personal fitting for clothing, and classes featuring your products. For example, if you sell kitchen items, consider a class aimed for children and alert the media of a photo opportunity.  Also, think about what you can do to encourage your shoppers to post their own in-store experience on social media. Perhaps it could be as simple as a cardboard cutout of a popular holiday character for a fun selfie opportunity. Let your customers know how much you appreciate their business and encourage them to share their experiences. And, make it easy for your customers to enroll as a follower on your social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and email newsletters.

Get Your Staff Ready
If you are going out of your way to make this a special season for your business, make sure your employees are ready to provide the appropriate level of customer service. Remind them to acknowledge each customer as they arrive and leave your store. Have them be alert to aid customers and make sure your employees are readily identifiable to provide service where needed.

Think Next Year
During this holiday shopping season, take time to note what works and what doesn’t and use this information to plan for next year. Hold a meeting with staff after the season to get their feedback as well. In reality, planning for the next holiday season should coincide with the time your business purchases inventory for the season.


Eric GiltnerEric Giltner is a Senior Area Manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). In this role, Eric trains and connects entrepreneurs and small business owners with the services they need to confidently start, grow, and expand their businesses. He frequently speaks at small business events across North Dakota and presents online webinars. Eric writes about small business topics for the SBA's North Dakota District Office newsletter, Dakota Business, and often shares business tips Thursday mornings on KNOX radio. As Senior Area Manager, Eric also works with SBA resource partners, chambers, economic developers, and lenders to support entrepreneurship in North Dakota. Prior to joining SBA in 1998, Eric served as assistant to the dean of the UND College of Business and Public Administration. He received his B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and his Master's Degree in Business Administration from the University of North Dakota. Eric can be reached at eric.giltner@sba.gov