Welcome to our October business eNewsletter focused on the upcoming holidays.
Quote of the month:
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevnson
In this Issue…
- Save the Date: SpiritBank Holiday Party
- 5 Things Small Businesses Can Do to Stand Out During the Holidays
- 7 Holiday Marketing Tips on a Limited Budget
- Tips for Black Friday Success, Why Consumers Shop Small and Other Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
- 30 Unique Holiday Promotions for Your Small Business
Save the date for our annual holiday party!
Thursday, December 7, 2017
1800 S. Baltimore, Tulsa, OK
Enjoy hors d’oeuvres and beverages in the community room and dessert in the penthouse.
RSVP early to Tandy Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or (918) 295-7438.
5 Things Small Businesses Can Do to Stand Out During the Holidays
By Bill Brunelle
Experts predict that consumer spending will grow this holiday season by as much as 4.5 percent. If the early forecasts are correct, then holiday spending will top last year’s growth of 3.6 percent, according to Deloitte. The numbers are encouraging, but the results won’t come automatically. For small and local retailers, the key is knowing how overall consumer spending growth can translate to growth for your business.
While consumer spending is expected to grow, the way that consumers spend money may not change dramatically. Online sales will be high, and the season may begin earlier. These are trends that retailers have seen year after year, so retailers big and small should be able to plan ahead. If a strategy worked well last year, assuming it wasn’t 2016-specific, you may consider going that route again this year.
If you’re ready to mix things up, the following tips make for a good starting point:
1. Start Now
Let’s face it: The holiday shopping season hasn’t begun on Black Friday in years. Big boxes and national chains now entice consumers out of their houses on Thanksgiving Day – and in reality, many consumers have already started their holiday shopping by the time they put the turkey in the oven. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), more than half of consumers began researching their holiday purchases in October or earlier. Purchasing still seems to begin for many consumers in November, but 33 percent will begin crossing things off their lists before November. In other words, the time to launch your holiday strategy is now.
2. Prioritize Online Engagement
Whether your business maintains an e-commerce platform or not, it’s important to pay attention to what consumers are saying about it online. Particularly during the holiday season, consumers may try to get in touch with your business through social media, email or elsewhere. Be sure to respond to their comments, questions and reviews, even when you’re busy preparing for the Small Business Saturday rush. Answering a simple question about a product or service your business offers could convert a hesitant consumer into a loyal customer.
3. Give Small Business Saturday Your All
Speaking of the Small Business Saturday rush, it’s important to make the most of this big day. Year after year, consumers spend millions of dollars at small and local businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving – and 2017 should be no different. Snag your Small Business Saturday swag from American Express early and consider applying for an even bigger role as a Neighborhood Champion.
4. Create an Experience
Many holiday shoppers don’t need another pair of shoes to gift wrap. Increasingly, consumers desire spending money on experiences rather than on material items. Consider offering holiday shoppers a unique, seasonal experience that doesn’t require them to walk down long aisles under the fluorescent lights of the big-box stores. For instance, you could host an intimate, after-hours shopping experience for your most loyal customers or a family-friendly shopping day with holiday crafts to entertain the young ones. You may also be able to offer an experience that customers can gift to their loved ones, such as a future DIY class or weekend outing.
5. Promote Your Policies
According to NRF, three-quarters of holiday shoppers checked return policies before making a purchase last year. Big-box stores and national chains can often have inflexible return policies that are hard to find. As a small business, you have the opportunity to make decisions on a local level. Consider implementing a more flexible return policy for the holiday season and promote that policy for all customers to see.
As you plan for the holiday season, keep in mind that you know your local community better than forecasters and big-box stores do. Holiday spending totals could be affected regionally by the recent hurricane activity in the south or by other factors specific to your neck of the woods. Use your familiarity with the community to guide your holiday strategy, so that you can connect with local shoppers for the holiday season and beyond.
Read this article SmallBizDaily.com
7 Holiday Marketing Tips on a Limited Budget
By Caron Beesley, Contributor
When we think of holiday marketing – which can be critical to your business success – we often think only of promotions and discounts. But you don’t have to cut your margins or break the bank to stand out from the crowd any more. Here are seven budget-friendly steps you should consider to promote your small business while meeting the needs of your customers this holiday season.
Host an “Open House”
If you operate a retail business, restaurant or any gift-oriented business, why not plan an open house event in mid-November? Use it to showcase holiday season gifts, menus and merchandise. Offer up a glass of warm cider or mulled wine, and really get people into the spirit of the holidays. This will give customers an opportunity to check out your merchandise or holiday menus in advance. You could throw in a special offer or coupon that customers can redeem anytime up until December 24.
Work the Holiday Magic for Your Faithful Customers
Think of ways to generate repeat holiday business from your existing customers. Special offers, sneak previews, free shipping, or secret sales are all great ways to make your faithful customers feel special without breaking the bank.
Feature Product/Services of the Day or Week
I love this low cost marketing idea from Ivana Taylor at SmallBizTrends: why not create 12 days of “your product” or a product or service of the month? Feature and market a product or service every day or every week during the holidays. Think about focusing on high margin products or items your customers don’t know about. “Companies in the food business use this strategy a lot,” explains Ivana. “Think beer of the month, cheesecake of the month, or coffee of the month… Maid service companies could feature an extra cleaning detail each month, trainers or consultants can offer featured webinars, reports or newsletters.”
And don’t forget to communicate this themed promotion on your website, social media, email, posters, and flyers.
Offer Gift Certificates
Whatever your business, selling gift certificates, gift cards and e-certificates is a great way to give your customers a convenient gift option. They also help you generate sales well into the New Year, with recipients often spending more than the value of the certificate.
Partner With Other Businesses
It’s likely that many of the businesses in your community also rely heavily on the holidays for a good chunk of their income. Is there a way you can partner with complementary stores or restaurants to cross-promote each other’s businesses? For example, a cosmetic store and a hair salon might develop a promotion that offers a time-limited discount off each other’s respective goods and services, if the customer frequents both. SBA guest blogger Rieva Lesonsky offers more tips in her blog: Forget Competition It’s Time for Co-Opetition.
Get Involved in Community and Charitable Events
Getting out there and supporting charities or sponsoring or getting involved in community events is a great way to generate awareness for your business during the holidays. Even if you don’t have the budget to donate large sums of money, think of other ways to get involved, such as offering volunteer services, equipment or even space.
Use Your Website and Social Media to Promote your Holiday Activities
Your online presence, email marketing, and social media networks are a great way to target and connect with local consumers through timely updates and compelling calls-to-action. Develop holiday themes for your email templates and update your website and Facebook profile picture with a festive look.
Then be sure to channel any offers or promotions through social media. You can even offer deals or events exclusively to your social media fans to help drive foot traffic and generate leads. And don’t forget to engage in two-way dialogues. Ask your fans about their holiday activities. For example, a restaurant might highlight a holiday dish of the day on Facebook and ask fans to chime in on their favorite dish or items they’d like to see on the menu.
Read this article SBA.gov
11 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
1 – SMS Rules for Success
With a read-rate of 98%, SMS has long been considered one of the most effective marketing channels. Text messaging is now widely used by small business owners to grow sales.
However, according to the folks at TextMagic, the desired results from a texting campaign can be achieved only by following certain rules. So, they recently created an SMS Marketing Periodic Table – a tool designed to help marketers make the most of their texting efforts.
TextMagic says, “The instructions are outlined in the SMS Marketing Guide box at the bottom of the table. And the actual table is divided into categories. In some, you will have to choose between elements (Goals, Metrics, etc.). The other is similar to checklists put together so you don’t forget anything (Text message elements, Delivery).”
2 – 10 Tips for a Successful Black Friday/Cyber Monday
Global commerce company Shopify (affiliate link) says running a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale can cause stress for retailers as they prepare their businesses for a massive influx of traffic and sales.
To help you prepare Shopify is sharing its top 10 tips for how you can “win” Black Friday/Cyber Monday this year.
1 – Two words: Start now. According to research from NFR, every year, 40% of customers begin researching and doing their holiday shopping as early as October.
2 – Plan and organize your sales. What will be your offer? Begin to plan your campaign at a high-level, noting any assets, apps, inventory, etc. you might need to pull it off. Look at all of your products and plan your sales ahead of time instead of putting on a sale last minute.
3 – Do you have enough inventory to get through the holidays? Look at your sales from last year – do you need to produce or order more?
4 – Make sure you’re running at the right speed. Page speed optimization may be the single biggest factor in SMB’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday performance. A one second delay in page load time has been found to yield 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and a 7% loss in conversion.
5 – Consider creating abandoned cart emails. One of the easiest ways of keeping cart abandonment low is by setting up awesome abandoned cart emails. This way, when a customer adds a product to their cart but leaves your store, you can use a compelling email to bring them back to complete their purchase. Shopify makes this easy with built-in abandoned checkout recovery and also a nice selection of abandoned cart apps in the Shopify App Store to choose from.
6 – Build buzz around your upcoming sale. Tease your customers with emails of what’s to come, post sneak-peeks of upcoming sales on social media, and start piquing the curiosity of your customers. A great way to create buzz is by using a countdown clock. Install POWr’s Countdown Timer.
7 – Start your email marketing campaigns. This year, email marketing will play a larger role in the success of store’s holiday sales. Begin planning, creating and scheduling the emails you’ll be sending out during your Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. Here are some ideas for email campaigns you can put together:
8 – Reward loyal customers. This is a great time to build relationships with your previous customers and get them to come back. Send emails to (and retarget) your previous customers with the best deals. Give existing fans and customers the opportunity to access a sale earlier or give them exclusive sales just for being a subscriber on your email list.
9 – Offer easy and hassle-free returns. Be the online retailer that goes above and beyond the call of duty for their customers. It might just get those on-the-fence about purchasing your product to pull the trigger since you’re showing confidence in your product and removing the risk from the customer.
10 – Track everything. Set up Google Analytics – a free traffic tracking tool that every ecommerce business owner should be using. If you’re not setup with Google Analytics on your store, or you just want to ensure you’re using it properly, check out our beginner’s guide on Google Analytics.
3 – What Your Company Should Be Doing About Digital
Guest post by Eric Friedrichsen, Senior Vice President SMB, SAP North America. He has more than 25 years of experience in the software/SaaS industry.
One of the most mind-boggling feats of the 1969 lunar landing is how NASA pulled it off with the technology it had. For context, consider that our cellphones today have more computing power than all of NASA did in 1969. Side-by-side against the best Apollo computer at the time, the iPhone 6 performs instructions 120,000 times faster.
If that’s not enough for you, today’s video game systems have the same power as a 1997 military supercomputer, which cost millions of dollars at the time. Last I checked, the Nintendo Switch was retailing for $300.
It’s a cliché I know, but facts like these underscore how quickly and vastly technology changes over time and how important it is for our everyday lives. It’s why I am so excited to be working at a technology company: I’m seeing firsthand the digital economy come to life, and not just for the elite but for companies of all sizes and people all over the world.
3,000 executives agree
A recently-released study by Oxford Economics on digital transformation of 3,100 executives from 17 countries (which was commissioned by the SAP Center for Business Insight) gives us a powerful overview of what small to large businesses are prioritizing and the things they’re concerned about.
Here are some of the findings that stood out to me:
Skullcandy, a cutting-edge brand credited for revolutionizing the headphone industry, is one great example of a digital transformation leader. When they implemented their cloud ERP in 2008 they were coming off the classic Microsoft Excel and QuickBooks system. Nine years later through growth, acquisitions and an IPO, the stability and performance of the system has helped them sustain their business that has gone from $70 million in revenue to $250 million today. Going digital has also made it easier to streamline operations across the globe.
From 3,000 to 3
The most consequential finding from the Oxford Economics study however, is while organizations know digital is important, few are actively embracing it. Few, in fact, might be an understatement. Only 3% of organizations surveyed have completed digital transformation projects across the enterprise. (“Completed” is not really the right word. Digital is a process that never really ends). Digital transformation essentially means when companies apply the use of digital tools to automate and improve the way they work. A digital business is built on new computing infrastructure—the pillars of mobile, cloud, big data and analytics.
If 97% of companies are not digitizing, they have a huge risk of falling behind if they don’t begin to move toward this evolution. Today, as many as 37% of small- mid-sized companies say outdated technology keeps them from achieving their business goals. It certainly didn’t stop Skullcandy, and they are reaping the benefits today.
Yes, digital is certainly easier said than done. It’s as much a strategy as it is a mindset. It’s long-term. As the report to the survey puts it:
Stop doing piecemeal IT projects. Stop treating IT as the enabler of business rather than a strategic partner. Stop handing off responsibility for digital transformation to a siloed group and then complaining when it doesn’t deliver any significant changes.
Stop doing these and start doing the opposite. That’s as suitable a starting point as any.
I always like quoting the CEO of the small business Sock It To Me, who noted that by going digital her organization saw an incredible improvement with our forecasting and ordering accuracy” and they can now “conduct analysis to develop strategies and pursue growth…”
My advice to you is just that – pursue growth. Be bold and own your digital evolution.
4 – Why Consumers Shop Small
More than three-quarters of U.S. consumers say shopping at or using a small business is important to them – mostly due to the impact these businesses have on the local community as the number one reason. This is according to a recent survey conducted by Vistaprint. The results of which were announced in The Consumer Small Business Shopping Report.
The report reveals that consumers value local commitment more than twice as much as prices when it comes to shopping small.
Vistaprint CEO, Trynka Shineman says, “The Consumer Small Business Shopping Report shows 25% more consumers plan to shop or work with a small business in 2018 versus 2017.”
Other notable findings include:
5 – Workplace Safety Gives You a Recruiting Edge
With the U.S. unemployment rate hovering below 5%, small businesses looking to grow often have a harder time finding talent to fill open positions. Many factors motivate job seekers, but a new survey of small business employees by EMPLOYERS® found small business owners may be underselling an important factor that could give them an edge when recruiting new talent.
Somewhat surprisingly, the survey shows the safety of the work environment is among the top criteria employees consider when evaluating a new job offer. It ranked behind expected criteria such as compensation, the nature of the work and proximity to home, but ahead of factors such as the quality of potential coworkers and opportunities for professional growth.
The survey also found that while 89% of small business employees believe their employers make workplace safety a high priority, 10% disagree. People who work at businesses that employ 86-100 people were more likely to say their employers prioritize workplace safety (96%), compared to people who work at micro-businesses that have one-nine employees (87%).
Employees of certified women-owned business were also more likely to believe their employers place an extremely high priority on workplace safety (62%). Women-owned-businesses are more likely than the average small business to provide workplace safety training once a year.
“In today’s tight labor market, it’s important that small businesses recognize that safety of the work environment is a top priority for employees. One way to attract and retain valued talent is to have and communicate a commitment to workplace safety. By fostering a safe work environment, small businesses can protect and retain their most valuable asset, their employees,” says David Quezada, Vice President of Loss Control at EMPLOYERS.
Employers are falling short in providing training
The survey also explored the comfort level employees have addressing workplace safety concerns with management. In fact, 52% of employees say they’d report concerns to the business owner and 48% say they’d speak with a direct supervisor. More women (51%) than men (43%) are comfortable reporting work-related safety issues.
While workplace safety is a priority for many small businesses, more can be done to foster safe work environments. The EMPLOYERS survey found:
How to create a culture of safety in the workplace
EMPLOYERS recommends you take the following steps to create a culture of workplace safety to protect your workers, and perhaps gain a recruiting advantage:
6 – Sweating the Small Stuff Can Cost You
Sage, a market leader in cloud accounting software, recently released an economic report, Sweating the Small Stuff: The Impact of the Bureaucracy Burden, showing the world’s business builders currently spend an average of 120 working-days per year on administrative tasks, accounting for approximately 5% of the total manpower for the average SMB.
Nancy Harris, managing director, Sage North America says, “This research confirms there is a huge opportunity for SMBs to increase their bottom line and productivity by automating administrative tasks. In smaller businesses, (those with fewer than 10 employees) this represents an opportunity to automate these processes and free up their colleagues to work on more strategic priorities for the business.”
7 – Power of the Cloud
According to the Insight-sponsored report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, cloud computing is no longer a decision made solely for tactical reasons like cost savings or ease of implementation. Instead, key strategic business demands – the need for greater business agility, data capabilities, and better customer and user experiences – are compelling companies to embrace cloud systems,
Respondents are nearly split when it comes to hybrid and private cloud adoption, while total public cloud usage captures only a fraction of the market:
The types of systems most likely to reside in the cloud, include:
Cloud improves company performance
The benefits of cloud adoption are even more pronounced among small to mid-sized companies:
|Large companies||Small to mid-sized companies|
|Time to market||15%||47%|
|End customer experience||32%||48%|
|Ability to manage security||26%||39%|
|Ability to mitigate risk||28%||39%|
For all respondents, 49% say cloud or hybrid cloud systems have significantly improved collaboration, followed by business agility and flexibility (45%), their ability to manage, analyze, act on and share data (43%) and their ability to empower employees and create a better user experience (42%).
8 – New Apps for QuickBooks
Now small business owners have even more options for apps that can integrate with their QuickBooks and help with tasks, such as expense tracking, HR, inventory, or organizational charts, allowing them to focus more on running their businesses and less on accounting and back-end processes. There are now more than 500 apps listed in the QuickBooks Online App Store.
Some of Intuit’s newest app integrations include:
9 – End-to-End HR Technology Platform for Small Business
Small business benefits provider Decisely recently unveiled the first centralized HR technology hub for small businesses. The new, expanded Decisely HR Platform integrates and automates recruiting, applicant tracking, insurance benefits and payroll to simply and effectively manage an employee’s lifecycle with an employer.
Decisely enables employers to post resumes online at more than 75 websites, including Indeed, Glassdoor, CareerBuilder, and Google Recruiter; track candidates; send job offers; onboard new hires; execute payroll; and manage benefit open enrollment periods through a single, integrated dashboard, eliminating the hassle and expense of managing disparate HR technologies and disciplines.
10 – SMB Security Bundle
GamaSec recently launched its GamaSure PLUS website security package, which it says is the industry’s first one-stop shop for SMBs to easily and inexpensively gain cloud-based protection, remediation-as-a-service, and a Data Breach Limited Warranty powered by Assurant. It combines a security technology purchase with financial assurance and remediation services.
The GamaSec service eradicates website vulnerabilities for SMBs, and backs it up with a $50,000 Data Breach Limited Warranty. You can instantly sign-up for the GamaSure PLUS cloud-based service bundle, which costs $144 a month, or $154 a month with optional PCI-certified Web Application Firewall and DDoS attack protection.
SMB-focused cloud-delivered website security: Since GamaSure PLUS is cloud-delivered, it’s fast and easy. GamaSec remediation specialists conduct the specified fixing on the website owner’s behalf.
The Data Breach Limited Warranty within GamaSure PLUS is only available to users in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. GamaSec offers its GamaShield PLUS plan for other worldwide users that include combinations of website security and remediation-as-a-service.
For more information on GamaSure PLUS and a detailed list of features, go here.
11 – Run API Tests From Anywhere
Postman recently announced a major update to its Postman monitoring feature allowing developers to select geographical locations from which to run API tests. This solution enables developers to monitor and measure network latency issues from a network in one region to a network in another region.
In today’s global economy, companies need to reach customers all over the world. Any geographical location with access to the internet is a potential customer base for businesses offering online products or services. But while growing online potentially increases revenue, it also poses latency challenges.
Businesses need to know if customers in locations thousands of miles away can access services or products as easily and quickly as customers in local areas. If customers outside a company’s geographical region can’t access a site from their devices quickly, they get frustrated and turn to competitors to find the same products or services.
In addition, monitoring traffic in multiple locations helps developers quickly detect and resolve API latency issues before customers encounter issues, such as a slow loading website.
Read this article at the SmallBizDaily.com
The holidays will be here before you know it. But instead of panicking about how much there is to do before then, get excited! There’s still plenty of time to plan a creative holiday promotions calendar and make an impact on this year’s profits. Tons of little (and big) holiday promotion ideas are out there to leverage in your brand’s marketing efforts as the end of the year approaches. So here are some of the most fun ways to create buzz around your company:
1. Film a fun holiday YouTube video. Video is all the rage when it’s catchy enough. Get your staff members together and create a themed video about your business – holiday focused or not. Share it using your social media channels, and show your customers how fun and personable your business is.
2. Create 2014 calendars with your business’s name on them. Better yet, stage a mini photo shoot with your employees at your shop and fill out a whole calendar of high quality images. This could keep your business top of mind with customers all year round.
3. Offer holiday treats in your store. Shoppers work up big appetites, so help satisfy those empty stomachs with cookies and other bites. If nothing else, hot cider will make your store smell just like the holidays!
4. Host a holiday themed Twitter chat. The chat can be focused on either something your business excels in that consumers might want to ask you about or just on holiday trivia to get people in the spirit and interacting with your brand. Don’t know what a Twitter chat is or how to throw one? Read Forbes’ The Ultimate Guide To Hosting A Tweet Chat for some tips.
5. Offer Halloween and Thanksgiving cards. It’s never too early to get people in the giving spirit.
6. Deck your store out with seasonal touches. Play up the fall harvest theme during October and November, and once Thanksgiving rolls around, spin the focus to winter.
7. Hold a photo contest on your Facebook page. Encourage your fans to send in photos of themselves using your product or at your store or doing something related to the holidays. Be sure to have a giveaway prize for the winner.
8. Start having holiday lunches. If you have business clients, take them out for holiday lunches as a personal touch during the season to show them how much their business means to you.
9. Encourage donations. Get involved in a food drive or Toys for Tots and prominently display a donation station at your store. It’ll get people in your door that might not have come by otherwise and will show that your brand is community minded.
10. Amp up your logo. Hire a graphic designer to put a holiday spin on your logo for the season.
11. Extend your hours. Shoppers are out longer and later trying to squeeze in every last gift. Do them a favor and stay open later. You won’t regret it.
12. Add a themed touch. You can build out your website’s homepage to feature a holiday theme. Do the same for social media channels.
13. Organize a caroling group. Include employees, customers, friends, and family, and offer your store up for a pre-caroling shopping session beforehand.
14. Run holiday email campaigns. Email is a great way to put your products and services right in front of customers where they might not otherwise look for themselves, especially at a time when they’re ready and raring to spend.
15. Make the most of partnerships. Partner with other local merchants and help drive traffic to one another’s stores.
16. Get sporty. Organize a group to run the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, or get involved in another local, fun sporting event.
17. Bring the tunes. Hire a live band to play during busy hours and help put shoppers in a fun mood. The sounds of music will also bring people into your store from the street.
18. Make it festive. Play holiday music from the local radio station or a holiday Pandora station.
19. Set up a gift certificate display. Busy shoppers or those who aren’t sure what to get someone on their list will gladly grab a gift card or two.
20. Be flashy. Wave a holiday banner or flag outside the store to catch the eye of passerby.
21. Offer complimentary shipping. Oftentimes, it’s even more valuable than a discount.
22. Encourage future purchases. Hand out coupons valid for the New Year to get customers coming back after the holidays and boost those usually slumping January sales.
23. Feature pre-wrapped gifts. This helps simplify things on your customers’ end, so they can make it to that holiday party on time without having to stop at home and wrap.
24. Create gift baskets. If your store offers products from local vendors, create gift baskets themed with a local touch so members of the community can share some of where they’re from with loved ones out of town.
25. Offer free treats or games for kids. They can get cranky this time of year being dragged around on shopping trips. Help give their parents a break, so they can focus on browsing your store.
26. Take care of the little details. Set up a free gift wrapping station for shoppers who are on the go.
27. Get tech-y. Hire a developer to create a holiday app for your company to feature all your holiday items or make online shopping easy for them when they’re on the go.
28. Make it even more special. If you’re a restaurant, feature holiday specials on your menu such as winter themed desserts and alcoholic beverages.
29. Deliver gifts locally. Help your customers save time on pickup by dropping off their gifts with a smile and a thank you note for choosing your business.
30. Add some eye appeal. Lastly, don’t forget a holiday window display with the products you expect to be most popular and will catch the eye of everyone passing by your store.
Being creative with small business promotion ideas during the holidays has a lot to do with having fun. So enlist the help of family, friends, and employees, and start brainstorming even more ways to create the perfect holiday shopping environment for your business.
Read this article at the Kabbage.com
The views and opinions presented in this newsletter do not necessarily represent those of SpiritBank.