Alright, it’s that time of year again. The end of the year is quickly approaching, and the holidays are upon us. Most likely that’s both a blessing and a curse. Sure, there is a ton to look forward too. Good food, catching up with friends and family, the sense of cheer that only seems to come around as winter starts up. You know, in that nice grace period where the cold weather is a novelty rather than a nuisance.
On the flip side of the coin, there are gifts to buy and plans to make, and everything just seems to have an extra edge of stress, thanks to living these last few months in the year 2020. All of that can be compounded even further if you run a small business. But never fear, these last three weeks we’ve been talking about methods to grow your business online, and today I’ll be covering the final part of that series. Rising above the noise of holiday marketing might seem impossible, that the odds are stacked against you. But with some proper planning and a few helpful tips, you’ll make it through this.
So let’s get started.
Leveling the Playing Field
We talked about it last week, but I want to bring it up again because I think it’s one of the more interesting things to come out of the business world this year. The events of 2020 super-charged the already rising rate of online shoppers to a degree I never thought possible.
Take Black Friday weekend, traditionally one of the biggest shopping periods of the entire year. Traditionally, ambitious folks wanting to get a head start on their holiday shopping, along with some amazing deals, head out into the bitter cold of winter right after Thanksgiving dinner settles in their stomach. This year? Foot traffic to physical stores that night was reduced by 95% compared to last year. On Black Friday itself, those stores saw a decrease of 52% in shoppers over last year. Meanwhile, online sales over that same weekend actually increased, anywhere from 15-30%.
Obviously this year came with its own unique challenges, but I wouldn’t discount the possible lasting effects either. Millions of people around the world just experienced a version of Black Friday where they avoided crowds, awful weather, sacrificing sleep, and even having to get dressed. I think those physical sales numbers will go up next year, but I’m not sure I’d count on them ever getting back to where they were.
What does this mean for the small business owner? It means for the first time in decades, small businesses have a real chance at competing with larger corporations. Location is no longer a factor, you know the customers are out there, and with a bit of creative thinking, you actually have a few advantages over those bigger businesses.
Any Way You Want It
It’s important to note that while large retailers and big corporations may have larger numbers, they also have massive amounts of red tape to cut through. I’m not even saying that’s a bad thing, appealing to the largest possible audience is what got them substantial growth in the first place. But once a company gets big enough, there are cons to those pros. For example, having so many ideas that they start to spread themselves thin.
Lucky for the small business owner, they don’t have to appeal to the widest possible audience. Tailor your ads and marketing campaigns to exactly who you want. If something’s not working? Pivot to another idea on a dime. One of the most valuable things you can do as a small business owner is to spend a little time to find out what tactic is going to work best with you. And believe me, there are a ton of things to try (https://www.cleverism.com/25-ideas-for-small-business-holiday-marketing/).
But once you know the kind of campaign you want to run, what do you do next? While your ads do the work bringing in new business, you can rely on your established customers to increase sales and hopefully expand your reach.
Forming a Community
I know for some of us it’s been a while, but do you remember taking a trip to one of those massive shopping centers during the holidays and being met by an enthusiastic greeting by one of the workers by the door? There’s a reason that position exists. It might even be obvious to everyone reading this right now, but I just realized it as I was preparing to write this article, so please take pity on me.
People like to socialize! That’s really it. We like to connect with people, to feel like we’re included and welcome. Now, I know what you’re going to say, because I feel the same way. I actually hate being approached in stores like that. It annoys me to no end, but there’s a reason for that too. We’re really good at identifying fake emotion. If someone doesn’t genuinely want to meet you, or isn’t enjoying the conversation you’re in...most of us can tell. And when you hire someone to act like they want to talk to you, it’s just going to feel weird. Because it is.
But, you’re a small business owner. Well, you personally might not be, but go with me on this. You probably appreciate when someone comes in and wants to buy something. You’re probably knowledgeable on the products you offer, and can start a genuine conversation about them. Now when that customer who tried their luck at a larger retail outlet finds themselves at your store, they have a much better experience. You’re not trying to get anything out of them because they’re already there to buy something. You’re just sharing your passion and trying to help them find exactly what they’re looking for. That’s real, and most people can tell the difference.
The cool thing is, there are ways to do that online. You know those little chat bots that pop up when you’re browsing a company’s website? “Hey! How can I help you today?” That’s them. That’s the same people who stand right next to the store entrance in digital form. And you can kind of tell they’re being fake in the same way, right? Because it’s trying to replicate the experience of a real conversation, while you can provide the real thing. That’s what people want (https://www.canva.com/learn/building-community-and-business/).
Running a website to sell your products? Write personal descriptions recommending them. Introduce yourself to your potential customers with a video. Create an email marketing campaign giving your thoughts on certain products (along with special deals to promote them). We’ve seen small businesses have a big boost in sales from hosting a live selling presentation on verbLIVE, take a look at the results for yourself. Just give everything a personal touch. Don’t be overbearing, don’t be robotic, just be yourself. It takes passion to start a business. Share yours with your customers.
I’m not saying it’ll be easy. I’m not saying you have every advantage. But small business owners are people, and every person is unique. Use that in your marketing, use the fact that you can freely appeal to your niche audience, stay ahead of the game as you pivot from idea to idea to see what sticks. Small businesses have the luxury of the shotgun approach, of a close community of customers, and a vast online consumer base who are just begging to support local businesses. Rise above the noise and take your sales to the next level this holiday season.
Okay, that last part sounded a little too much like a marketing pitch. But seriously, Happy Holidays.