#3 Prepare for Christmas

Children may dream of sugarplums, but for retailers, there’s only one vision that matters during the Christmas season; the sales graph. And as the Christmas holiday season is make or break time for many small businesses, the overwhelming question is how to get more Christmas retail sales and make that graph climb as steeply as possible.

The obvious answer to “how to get more sales” is to get more customers.

To do that, though, you have to get potential customers into your store. With a little effort and some ingenuity, that’s not as hard as you think. Use one or more of these ideas to create your own Christmas retail rush:

1) Have a sale.

I can hear you slapping your forehead and muttering, “Well, duh!”. But before you dismiss this idea out-of-hand, consider this: pretty well every retailer of every size has some kind of Christmas retail season sale –  because they work.

Now consider this: what if you didn’t just have a sale but had one of the sales that just about everyone wanted to attend? How? Keep these tips in mind:

  • Offer one big bargain a day. Offering big discounts (30% or more) on someone well-known item each day to bring Christmas shoppers in can work for you if you have well-known brand merchandise or particular items that people are looking for.
  • Make it a discount, not a thing. In a flyer recently, a retailer offered a free pair of socks to anyone spending over $20 in their store over their three-day pre-Christmas sale. But what if you feel you have enough socks or that socks just aren’t very Christmassy? They’ve lost you.
  • Make sure your discount is worthwhile. Shoppers are used to being spoiled. So puny little 5, 10 or even 20 percent discounts aren’t going to cut it unless you do something like a 20% off storewide sale. On individual items, the higher the discount the better. Shoppers will compare.

2) Hold an event.

As I write this, the Business in Action group in my town is holding a Moonlight Madness event. There will be fire-wielders, jugglers and musicians performing and, of course, Santa will be visiting.

Families who come downtown get all kinds of free entertainment – and lots of opportunities to get their Christmas shopping done as all the downtown businesses are open until midnight and have special sales going on. If your town doesn’t have something like this going on this season that your small business can participate in, what would it take to get such an event going next year?

There’s nothing to prevent you from holding an event of your own either. The trick is to create an event that will tie into your products or services in some way.

For instance, a kitchen store could hold a cooking class and benefit from increased sales of the products used in the class. A yoga studio could hold a free class to encourage January signup – and offer gift certificates to encourage participants to spread the word.

3) Use email campaigns.

Social media is hot. But email is effective. Neil Patel, founder of QuickSprout, says that “in spite of social media’s viral potential, email still wins as the most disruptive method to reach and woo your customers” and points out that according to McKinsey, email marketing is three times more effective than social media, and the average customer order is 17% higher.

Hopefully, you’ve already got an email newsletter going out. It’s an ideal spot to promote the products or services you’re featuring over the Christmas season and spread the word about any sales or events you’re having.

But don’t be afraid to send out separate emails as part of a marketing campaign either. The one bargain a day idea might work well for you as a daily email, for example.

Whatever email you send out to customers be sure to court them personally. Besides being sure to use the recipient’s first name in the subject line, you could send customers special offers such as extra discounts just for them, buy-one-get-one-free deals not available to the general public, etc. The message is “you’re special” – a hard message to resist.

4) Create an attractive window display for your small business.

Take advantage of the extra foot traffic out during the holiday season by using an eye-catching, foot-stopping Christmas window display.

Incorporating your products into your display is great if you can manage it, but what’s really great about a Christmas window display is that you don’t have to. A totally Christmas-themed display can work well.

What you want is something unique that’s going to draw the eye. And incorporating some kind of movement can really draw a crowd. One of the most successful Christmas displays I’ve ever seen involved a train that ran around a track.

Most important of all is to work for your crowd. A bunch of people standing around watching a train go round or admiring your gorgeous arrangement of ornaments does nothing for your business. You have to bring them into your store. Try offering visitors a free hot drink and a cookie – seasonal and irresistible to most.

5) Use proximity marketing to lure shoppers into your store.

Many shoppers are glued to their phones to the point that they might walk right by your store without seeing it.

But by using proximity marketing that broadcasts your targeted message to phones within a certain distance, such as iBeacon or Smart Antenna, you can entice those shoppers in – and offer them personalized offers to encourage them to buy more.

Smart Antenna looks especially appealing because it operates through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and doesn’t  require potential customers to download an app as iBeacon does.

Invite Them & They Will Come

So there are five marketing ideas you can use to get more customers into your store over the holiday season so you can rack up more Christmas sales. There’s no reason why all five of them can’t be part of your Christmas season marketing plan.

But remember; whatever you do to create your own Christmas retail rush, you have to get the word out to your target market about what you’re doing. Send out that email, place those ads, use social media. Don’t let this Christmas season be a retail non-event for your business because you didn’t invite your customers to your store.

#2 Tricks for Black Friday

Black Friday is the biggest and best time of year for retailers bar none. The sales numbers are huge, and the total sales figures have so many 0’s on the end, you are not even sure how to pronounce the number!

As Black Friday has continued to grow in sales numbers, so has the actual number of days the sales are on for. The sales are starting earlier and earlier, and lasting longer and longer, as retailers look to try and grab as many sales as they can, and beating their competition.

In fact the sales are lasting so long now, that we really should rename it to, Black November.

So we thought we would compile a list of must do amazing tips on what every retailer should be doing this Black November!

1. Plan ahead and schedule messages
Don’t be rushing around during the week trying to send messages and do everything here and there. Plan when you are going to start your Black Friday sale, and schedule send your messages throughout the day/week/month – so you can get on with other important tasks.

2. Don’t wait until Friday
Black Friday is now much more than just one super sale day, it’s Black November! So start your sale early and get the ball rolling and those early sales in… The early bird catches the worm as the saying goes.

3. Send plenty of messages
Don’t just send one message on the Friday! Customers want to hear about your sales, they are actively and rapidly looking for the best deals and what businesses are offering. So send plenty of messages throughout the week/month to let them know what you have on offer. With so many sales on it will be easy for customers to forget, so gentle SMS messages with offers is more than welcome.

4. Segment your messages
The more relevant your messages are, the more response you will get. Women won’t want to know about the Men’s shoe sale you have got on. So segment your customer base into sex, age, interests etc. Whatever will help you send relevant messages to your customers.

5. Spread your messages
Mobile marketing has amazing response rates, so if you are sending out a big amount of messages, you should probably spread that send over a period of time so your website, store or phone lines do not get completely jammed and stutter to a halt. We have a great spread send feature that allows you to do this – read here.

6. Make sure you say who you are!
It sounds like an obvious one but make sure you set your Sender ID to your business name so the customer knows exactly who the text message is from. Also make sure you add a link to your website in your message so customers can easily click straight onto your website.

7. Don’t forget Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday is a huge day for retail sales and it is not be forgotten and missed. So make sure you send out a Cyber Monday message as well, last chance to grab those sales!

8. Check, test, test and check again
Whatever you do make sure you spellcheck and send yourself the message first. You don’t want any unfortunate mistakes being sent out, so triple check everything, send to another coworker to test as well.

#1 Halloween in and around your locations

Halloween marketing will soon be on overdrive (you know this if you’ve been anywhere near a Walgreens recently). So it’s time to get your local business in on the action. After all, by the very nature of trick-or-treating, Halloween is all about bringing the neighborhood together.

Here are some fun Halloween marketing ideas for small businesses.

Dress up your store.

You don’t have to be selling costumes to deck out your store for Halloween. Try spooking things up with a Halloween-themed window display. If you’re a retail store, for example, style your window with orange-and-black outfits. If you’re a hair salon, put up a cutout of Elvira or Wednesday Addams with a Happy Halloween message. A bit of Halloween goes a long way in letting your customers know you have a sense of whimsy, which helps make your brand more endearing.

And don’t forget the pumpkins. Venture away from the generic jack-o-lantern and instead carve something related to your business. If you’re a beer hall, for example, maybe you do up an “I love beer” quote. It’ll require skills, yes, but impressive pumpkin art is social media candy for passersby (hey, free marketing).

Host an event.

The question “What should we do for Halloween?” will soon be on people’s minds. Answer their call by hosting an event at your shop. A costume party is always a no-brainer (don’t forget the dry ice), but you could also do something a little more creative. If you’re a nail salon, maybe host Halloween-themed nail art lessons. If you’re a makeup studio, do the same with costume-themed makeup.

But whatever you do, be sure to get the word out early so people can plan for it (and invite their friends). Promote your event via Square’s email marketing tools, and also trumpet it from social media. Getting the event on people’s radars may also land you on one of those “What to do for Halloween” lists that local media outlets will no doubt be publishing in the coming weeks.

Halloween-ize your store items.

The start of chilly weather means that fall flavors are on people’s minds. (Evidence: pumpkin-spiced latte mayhem). Think about what types of items you can offer to help people get in the Halloween state of mind. If you’re a bar, spice up your drink menu with Halloween cocktails (witches brew, anyone?). If you’re a restaurant, offer a Halloween-themed dinner (here’s some inspiration). If you’re a bakery, whip up some Halloween cookies (think office parties).

This is especially important in the days leading up to Halloween (and day of) since people are in a festive mood. Be sure to let people know that you’ll have these things on tap. Social media is a great way to promote your Halloween-themed product offerings. Snap a picture of your item and post it to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. A fun hashtag gets you bonus points (aka more likes).

Offer specials or deals.

Halloween-themed deals are a perfect opportunity to get more foot traffic and clients. An enticing, timely offer gives people a reason to choose your store over others. Think about offering discounts for items or services that will get people Halloween-ready. Square’s email marketing tool has a template specifically tailored towards discounts and promotions, which makes this easy.

Dress up.

Another photo op ripe for social media: a dressed-up staff. But take it to the next level and do it around a theme. If you’re a salon, for example, it’s time to do up some crazy hair. Marge Simpson, Cher, and David Bowie (that is, Labyrinth David Bowie) are always solid options. If you’re a bakery, maybe get your employees to dress up like the Swedish chef from The Muppets.

Trick-or-treat it out.

Now is the perfect time to bring the neighborhood together. Families (especially in cities) are always on the lookout for fun and safe places to trick-or-treat. Make your block the go-to destination by banding together with other stores to host family-friendly neighborhood trick-or-treating. Get spirited, though — decorate the street in a creative way and ensure that all participating stores have something fun and different to offer. Well before the festivities, market the event to your customers with Square’s email marketing tools.

Hopefully, these ideas get your creative juices flowing. But we want to see what you’ve got. Post a picture of what your store is doing for Halloween (be sure to tag us), and we’ll give you a shoutout.