With “Black Friday” fast approaching, most businesses are eagerly looking for ways to increase their own holiday sales. So, we have reached out to the CarolRoth.com contributor network of entrepreneurs and experts to find out their best business advice for increasing holiday sales. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar concepts, but I kept the insights separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Be Where They're At!
Last year, I was perplexed by this problem. Then, I realized that the majority of my target market was online, checking prices and doing shopping! Nowadays, we can talk to them right in the middle of their shopping through Twitter, G+ and Facebook. Go social when everyone else goes shopping!
2. Thank Them
Send a thank you message for Thanksgiving. This will not only show your appreciation, but will also say "hello, I'm still here". It may also remind them that the year is almost up and they need to buy your product or use your services before the end of the year. Or it will remind them to include your business in their plans for next year. If you offer end of year sales, include them in this thank you message.
3. Simply Show Your Gratitude
Simply show your gratitude by sending out not a Christmas card, but a New Year's card. Reconnect with old, current and potential new customers by welcoming them to the New Year and thanking them for their past business and support. Use a P.S. as a call to action for your January special offering.
4. Be Giving!
In light of the "giving" season, sales can easily be increased by offering something more to the buyer. You can offer a dollar amount or percentage from sales to be donated to someone else's needs (i.e. low income families, the homeless population, etc.) for a day, a week, or a month. Or you can invite a guest to appear at the business that will be a treat for the kids, mom or the whole family to see when they visit (i.e. Santa, author, TV or Sports celebrity, etc.). Or just give a gift with purchases.
5. Popular Bloggers Holiday Lists
Offer freebies to popular holiday bloggers who print gift suggestion lists in your field - we push kids books for Christmas with Mom bloggers who agree with us on the importance of promoting kids' early love of reading to fight illiteracy.
6. The Gift of Social Media
Since more and more of your customers are online and visiting social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, why not take advantage of this increasingly important marketing medium to promote your goods and services, especially any holiday specials you may have. Service-based businesses can generate even more sales by adding an online scheduling component to their social media site, making it easy for customers to book their services right then and there.
7. Add a Sense of Urgency Early
Email, direct mail and promotional campaigns must start early and persist. Set a need to buy now with a one day sale promotion, followed by your direct mail and more email promotions to your customers.
8. Be Merry, Make More $$
One of my more creative, and effective, ways to generate more sales is to go through your mailing lists (email and snail mail) and send everyone a Holiday well to do ~ Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, etc...
DON'T sell anything in this (give a ways are encouraged) and then 2-3 days later, follow up with your special or sale. This has always worked for me and my clients. You can offer a new product or breathe new life into an old one effectively like this. Happy Holidays!
9. Events & Contests Incr. Sales
A great example is KooKoo Bear Kids, who run contests & host events during the holidays to increase sales. For the contests, people have to come into the store to enter, so this helps increase traffic. Usually the contests involve $500 - $1K gift certificates. One contest involved people buying the KKB sock monkey, taking it to places & photographing it. The money for the monkeys went to a charity. For events, they host kids' authors reading their books & Santa visits.
10. You're Special!
Incentives provide value. After a challenging 2011, reward your clients with a lunch at a local causal restaurant where they are given recognition and applauded by the staff for being a successful entrepreneur!
11. Give it Away
This is the season of giving. Give graciously and your customers will remember.
12. 'Tis the Reason to Be Jolly
You'll be sending out holiday cards. Include in each a coupon for your product or services and say that a portion of the proceeds from sales will be donated to the Salvation Army (or your favorite charity). Thus, you'll be increasing sales, but--more important--you and your clients will be bringing holiday cheer to the less fortunate.
13. Holiday Guide
Lots of people have Gift Guides now and people are tired of seeing Guides that simply list products down the page. Consider creating a more professional Guide and selling spots inside. If you design a flip-book or catalog look, you'll be more likely to sell spots. Use some of that money to promote and advertise in various locations, so that your Guide participants get their money's worth. Tweet, Facebook, etc. By helping OTHERS sell, you'll also earn some income.
14. Bundle with Christmas Gifts
People are always trying to figure out what to give people for Christmas and how to avoid going broke in January. Help them by having a "Buy one, get one free for a Christmas gift" sale or a "Buy three and the one you wrap for somebody is on us" offer.
15. Giver's Gain
There really is no magic bullet to getting more sales during the holidays. Much depends on type of business, product life cycle, purchasing cycle of clients and what else has been introduced into the market at the same time by your competition. The only advice I can give is Giver's Gain. The more value you can show your clients (notice that I did not say discounts) the better chance you have of gaining market share. Provide value add, differentiate yourself & have a happy and prosperous year!
16. Holidays are for Teleseminars
Common wisdom says the holidays are a time when business shuts down. The reality is it's THE best time to make money. People are more relaxed, in a good mood, more willing to spend, and have TIME. Teleseminars are a perfect way to tap into that. Participants can take part wherever they are located and are open to new ideas they might not ordinarily consider. One teleseminar guru had his best sales ever by holding a teleconference on December 27th.
17. Get Products Endorsed by Mom!
Moms are a dynamic and powerful market force. If you want to increase your visibility and grow your sales, put your products in front of the people who hold the pocketbooks - moms. Moms trust other moms for credible and reliable information about products that are good for them, their families, and their wallets. If you want to grow, partner with a mom and let her be your brand ambassador.
18. Personal Occasion Marketing
The best way to increase sales with your holiday traffic is to capture another personal occasion when they will be buying gifts, for example, a birthday or an anniversary. Money spent on birthdays is like another Christmas season. Response rates for email reminders from someone who bought from you previously can be from 8%-12%. Why? The email is a helpful reminder and it reaches them as they go for their wallets. What husband wouldn't be grateful for a reminder of his wife's birthday?
19. Offer Gift Cards
It never fails, there will be procrastinators and there will be that one person that was left out of the gift shopping list. Offering gift cards that can be bought online means that your store is open, even on Christmas morning, for those last minute sales.
20. Go for Emotion, Not Discounts!
When the holidays approach, stores offer endless sales. Think outside the box and give them a reason to emotionally connect with you. It's not always about price. For instance, the rubber duck was invented in Ohio, but now, all are made overseas. We're bringing the whole industry back to Ohio launching our Made in America ducks hopefully by year end. People love what we're doing. Find a way to emotionally connect with your customers. You might be surprised at how much they will appreciate it!
21. Run a Marathon, Not a Sprint
The holiday selling season is upon us. Or should it be called the holiday sprint? Think about this being the start of a marathon. Add a personal touch to say thank you for every customer you touch, whether they buy or just kick the tires. Capture the customer's contact information and send a small token of thanks and appreciation. It may cause you to be at the back of the pack for a quarter (margins), but it could be the endurance you need to outlast the competition and place in the race!
22. Tweet Your Way to Sales
Keep your customers connected to you through Social Media. Have “tweet specials” that offer a discount on selected merchandise. Run Twitter and/or Facebook contests that keep your customers engaged. Consider having a question of the day. The first person in the store who correctly answers the tweeted question wins a prize or a discount off of merchandise. Most of all have fun!
23. Find a Niche
People often look for holiday gifts in the $50 to $100 range. This is a price most adults are willing to pay, while expecting something that is unique and has value. Offer something that your business makes or a service that you provide in this price range. Consider putting it on "sale" at a discounted price for the holidays. Present something that is a window into your business and when satisfied, the customer or the person who receives the gift will think of you again.
24. Hide your Holiday Gifts Well
Our self storage company offers storage units for people to hide their holiday gifts from snooping loved ones. We always get some new customers with this promotion. Old customers find another use for our service. And it's a fun way to tie the holiday gift buying and giving wave to something kind of dull...self storage facilities. We have fun with it and our customers are happy that the people they buy gifts for are actually surprised by the gift.
25. Capitalize on People's Emotion
Although holiday sales trends differ among different types of industries, all businesses can take advantage of people's tendency to become more emotional and family oriented during the holiday season. Whatever product or service your company sells, you can find a way to market it as a creative potential gift opportunity for your customer's loved ones. "Give the gift of..." is a great marketing tool since people generally start thinking about what to give to their friends and family early on.
26. Holiday Sales Tips
In this economy, there has to be more than one way to increase holiday sales. If consumers do not have confidence in the economy, sales will be down. Offer incentives to buy and have great sale prices, hopefully without breaking the bank. Give excellent customer service. People may tell a few folks about their wonderful service experience, but someone who is disgruntled due to a bad experience will tell about 20 people, including strangers, how they were treated. Don't let bad service get you.
27. Project a Limited Offer
Many retail sales businesses will be promoting "sale items" this Christmas season. Offering another "sale" will pretty much get you lost in the crowd. Couch your sale in term of a limit amount, e.g. the first 200 purchases or a time limit, e.g. 12/2 - 12/9. This will create a sense of exclusivity and urgency in potential customers.
28. Stay in Your Lane!
When planning your holiday marketing and promotions, don't give in to the temptation to include a product or service that is way out on the 'fringe' of what you are an expert at and what you are known for. Keeping your message consistent and recognizable throughout the holidays increases the "know - like - trust" factor for you and your business and helps customers feel secure about bringing you their holiday business. Be creative, yes - be innovative, yes - be authentic, always!
29. Add Value
Consider enticing customers to increase their spending with your products or services by offering valuable incentives. For example, I'm offering clients who schedule a virtual book tour package a discount coupon towards marketing services of their choice.
30. Make 2012 Sales This Season
The holidays are a great time to create new clients for the New Year.
You can accomplish that by selling gift certificates for the products or services you provide.
You'll provide gift givers with something unique, while building sales momentum for 2012 at the same time.
31. Use What You Already Have
Think outside the box in terms of what you offer your customers; make your business relevant to the holiday. Think about what you offer and make it part of the holiday season. Take a close look at your offerings and be creative when you think about what customers do and buy over the holidays. Think about creating a special landing page for how your company relates to the holidays.
32. Don't Leave Home Without Them!
American Express does "Small Business Saturday" the day after Black Friday. You submit your company and they will promote you on their website, as they try to encourage the buying public to support small businesses for the holidays. They provide email support, marketing tools, store signage, buttons for Facebook and Twitter, and telephone support. It costs you nothing, except whatever bargains you offer your customers for shopping with you that day!
33. Fun Street Corner Promotion
Taking a cue from the people who wear the statue of liberty costumes in busy intersections during tax time, we decided to purchase an extravagant Christmas tree costume, a large sign with our website and phone number, and have optimized our website for mobile and it's working like gangbusters!
34. Plan Ahead
As a writer, many of my deadlines are well in advance of when a piece actually runs. For example, I was writing about pumpkin pie and mistletoe back in September. This plan ahead strategy is great for all other facets of entrepreneurship – and then when everyone else is on overload, you’re available to take up the slack for them, generating a little extra seasonal income and actually being able to enjoy the holidays without the hubbub.
Do you know another creative way to increase holiday sales that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!
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