15 Original Holiday Season Marketing Ideas

With ecommerce making up the majority of the way that shoppers buy during the holiday season, having a marketing strategy that incorporates holiday benefits for buying online can be a great way to entice and persuade shoppers to buy from you. That’s why we asked 15 members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question:

“What is one original way to incorporate the holiday season into your marketing outreach approach?”

Holiday Season Marketing Ideas

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

Reward Your Loyal Customers

“One way to do this is by sending gifts to your loyal customers. We also encourage them to send gifts to their friends (our products, of course) by giving discounts so they can give to more people. And to attract new customers, hosting parties and giving gifts to institutions that would find our products useful, would be a good marketing approach.” ~ Daisy JingBanish

Offer Holiday Themed Exit-Intent Coupons

“Exit-intent popups are a non-intrusive way of capturing your customer’s attention before they leave the site. Make the offer a holiday coupon in exchange for their email to send them relevant offers throughout the season. Email marketing is important because many visitors won’t purchase the first time they come to your site, but chances increase the more they frequent.” ~ Syed BalkhiOptinMonster

Host Your Customers at Your Office Holiday Party

“As a small business, passionate customers are as critical to your success as your team. We have always enjoyed opening our office party to our fans, as a way to celebrate together. Benefits include a personal connection and, if you have fun props, some great Instagram content. Your fans will feel even more connected to the brand!” ~ Aaron SchwartzPassport

Send Holiday-Themed Emails

“Since most companies particularly focus on promoting products or services during the holiday season, create a holiday-themed announcement email. The announcement email can be used to set up your holiday campaign with success and inform your target audience about a holiday sale, event, reminder, or more, for a new product or service.” ~ Solomon ThimothyOneIMS

Launch a New Product and Create Urgency

“Focus on a new product launch before the holidays. What makes a gift stand out is if it’s brand spanking new and no one has it yet. Use this to your advantage. Promote your new product as “the perfect gift.” You can also create a sense of urgency by saying that you only have a limited quantity available (since it’s new). In reality, you should have plenty of these items in stock to fill orders.” ~ Ian BlairBuildFire

Offer to Match Charitable Gifts

“Most customers don’t really want another box of fruit or chocolate. Instead, send a card with an offer to match any donations made to a charity prevalent or recognizable in your industry. This type of initiative will demonstrate your commitment to your community and the spirit of the season, while also keeping your business top of mind.” ~ Alexandra LevitPeopleResults

Promote the Benefits of Remote Work

“The holiday season is the perfect time for us to promote the benefits of remote work (a major marketing strategy of ours). Most people wish they weren’t stuck at the office during the holiday season or at the very least, they’d like to customize their own hours. Our holiday marketing campaign speaks to those people who want more freedom, and gives them insight to the world of working remotely.” ~ Dave NevogtHubstaff.com

Embrace Things Like Outliers

“Go outside of the box. Embrace things like outliers, such as the zombie approach or even ghouls regarding Halloween in particular. It might seem like a stretch, but tying in holidays to your marketing approach can be effective.” ~Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

Host an Office Happy Hour

“The holiday season is for coming together with friends and family, and can be a great time to do the same with your business network! Invite a group of your biggest fans or potential clients to happy hour. By encouraging attendees to share pictures to social media and talk to their friends about their experience with your company, you could get some word-of-mouth marketing, plus a nice night out!” ~ Suneera MadhaniFattmerchant

Tell Your Team’s Holiday Stories

“Social media is a great way to make the holidays personalized by sharing fun holidays stories from each of your team members. Allowing each team member to get creative and come up with an anecdote or story about the holidays and what they mean to them, will personalize your company and make you more relatable to your customers.” ~ Colbey PfundLFNT Distribution

Send Positive and Emotional Messages

“The message of the holiday season is often about family, giving, helping others and celebrating what we have, and reflecting on the year that has just gone by. These messages should be woven into your marketing outreach, especially through stories of positive situations and families that are spending the season together. This year, with so much tragedy, it will be powerful.” ~ Andrew O’ConnorAmerican Addiction Centers

Make Resolutions

“We like to do a New Year’s Resolution campaign and offer a new search engine marketing tip of the week associated with a downloadable resource. We find people are very receptive to tips to improve their marketing at the beginning of the year, when everyone is looking to start again and make improvements in all areas of their life.” ~ Magnus SimonarsonConsultwebs

Publish Holiday-Themed Blog Posts

“When it comes to SEO, content marketing is the name of the game. Plan your blog posts around the holidays and advertise them to your target audience on Facebook. Making the articles holiday themed will help them get shared more, reaching a larger audience.” ~ Jared AtchisonWPForms

Get Featured in Gift Guides

“One tactic we use to incorporate the holiday season into our marketing outreach is by reaching out to specific publications to include our company in their gift guides. Many shoppers can be clueless as to what gifts to give and do a lot of research before big holidays. By working with outlets to appear on their gift guides, we have the opportunity to drive a lot of customers to our business.” ~ Stefan LewingerSock Fancy

Market Yourself, Not Your Products

“It’s well known that nothing gets done at the end of December. So give your clients what they want: joy and cheer! Market networking and holiday mingling events to potential clients. Host parties and make them memorable. Once they see you as someone they can have fun with, they will see you as a personal contact rather than a business one. That increases conversion.” ~ Artem MaskovDEVTRIBE INC

Nutcracker Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "15 Original Ways to Include the Holiday Season in Your Marketing" was first published on Small Business Trends

Tips for Choosing the Right Font for Your Brand

As a small business owner, you want your company to be easily recognizable. One way to achieve this goal is to select the right font for your company’s logo.

Unfortunately, most business owners do not fully understand why choosing the right font for their brand should be a priority.

To help businesses select the right fonts for their brand, Australia-based web design company Creative Canary, has compiled useful data from various sources.

Tips for Choosing the Right Font for Your Brand

Before you select a font for your brand, ask yourself what kind of image you want to communicate. This is important because there are hundreds of fonts to choose from, and each font represents something unique.

You must also consider where the font will be displayed. A font that looks ideal on screen may not work well on a large billboard.

A good idea is to preview how the font will look within the overall design. Will there be a color clash? Is the spacing good enough to make the text readable? Will it work well with the background design? These are some important questions to ask.

If you plan to use multiple fonts or typefaces, preview how they appear in conjunction with each other. Sometimes, two typefaces may clash and cause problems with the visual hierarchy.

Why Font Selection Should be Taken Seriously

In an increasingly cluttered marketplace, brand differentiation has become extremely crucial. That’s why it’s important to avoid mismatching the font with the intended brand image or target market.

A poor font choice can easily render an otherwise excellent message obsolete and defeat the whole purpose of targeted marketing. This is especially important because first impressions matter and fonts draw the initial audience attention.

To know more about how you can select the most appropriate font for your brand, check out the infographic below:

Tips for Choosing the Right Font for Your BrandVintage Typescript Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What Font Fits Your Small Business Logo and Branding? (INFOGRAPHIC)" was first published on Small Business Trends

How Small Business Can Go About Effectively Marketing to Generation Z

“Millennials are the most talked about generation in history … Now people want to know what’s next.”
Connor Blakley, Gen Z Consulting Expert

Considering how much focus has been placed on the millennial generation over the past half-decade, younger generations must be feeling an awful lot like Jan Brady these days: Unseen and unheard.

While there has certainly been good reason for millennials to have been such a major priority to brands, as they are one of the largest generations in American history, this has caused many to lose sight of what — or who — is coming down the pipeline.

Just as businesses and marketing experts are beginning to finally feel as if they understand the millennial generation, an even more enigmatic group is entering the buyers’ market and workforce: Generation Z.

Gen Z, those born between 1996 and 2010, is comprised of roughly 72 million teens and young adults whose buying power already exceeds $44 billion and who influence $600 billion in family spending. These folks will soon represent about 40 percent of American consumers.

For marketers to capture these dollars and reach a generation that has been labeled as “millennials on steroids,” they will need an intimate understanding of how to reach them, where they want to be contacted, and how long they’ve got to do it.

At this point, most advertisers are thinking that this conundrum is a no brainer and social media is undoubtedly the correct approach. If that’s your assumption, your company is in for a rude awakening.

While channels like Instagram and Snapchat are certainly favorites among youngsters, a recent study from Bluecore and NAPCO Research revealed that Gen Z doesn’t turn to social media to connect with brands or find new products.

Marketing to Generation Z

Since Gen Z actually does use social as a means to connect with friends and family, then what is the right portal for brands to connect with them?

Where Brands Can Reach Gen Z

In the aforementioned study, researchers uncovered that 65 percent of Gen Z respondents claimed email as their preferred channel for brand communications. The next largest group claimed that in-store was their favorite modality; this only accounts for 8 percent of respondents.

The reason that Gen Z prefers email comes down to its level of personalization.

When the younger audience was asked which channel feels most personal to them, near identical results were produced: 60 percent of Z’ers stated email while the next largest group, 8 percent, said Facebook.

What this proves is that personalization is only becoming more important with each subsequent generation; and email is the channel that most effectively delivers the experience younger consumers are searching for.

By using robust email marketing tools, business owners and advertisers can leverage compelling templates suited to Gen Z’s likings (more on that in a moment), establish the most opportune times to send emails, A/B test every aspect of communications for optimal performance, and personalize the living heck out of emails with powerful customization options.

How to Drive Gen Z Sales Using Email

When targeting Gen Z consumers with email communications, you’re not going to be able to use the same old tactics that proved fruitful with Gen X and millennials.

First, you need to leverage video. That doesn’t mean you should include videos. It means you must utilize video.

As shown in an infographic from Upfront Analytics, Generation Z watches twice as many videos on mobile as any other generation, with 70 percent watching upwards of 2 hours of YouTube per day.

If you want to reach this audience, video cannot be neglected.

This also points to another important email factor for Gen Z: minimize your text and use lots of images. With Gen Z, marketers have all of eight seconds to grab their attention; four seconds less than with their millennial brethren.

If you have ever read the way Z’ers write, you know grammar has fallen by the wayside and been replaced with emojis, images and GIFs. For this reason, you need to focus more on visuals to incorporate short but impactful written messages.

The bottom line is that videos and images make emails look better, make them easier to scan, increase the likelihood of a share, and make for a more compelling communication; all of which increase you potential for making a sale.

While we’re on the topic of content, it is incredibly important you serve these visitors only the freshest and most relevant materials. This generation has grown up having massive amounts of information thrown at them and they are masters at separating what they think is useful, what’s rubbish, and what they’ve already seen. If you fail to continually serve up new and interesting information, get ready for your followers to unsubscribe.

The next thing you need to consider for your emails is their level of customization and personalization; again, this is what makes email marketing platforms incredibly important for this generation.

To increase personalized components, advertisers should employ an array of opt-in options as it relates to timing, content and frequency so that youngsters can have a high level of communication control.

All of this means mobile optimization is a must. Mobile is the preferred channel, so a seamless mobile experience is of the utmost importance.

Members of Generation Z are not millennials. If you treat them as such, you won’t create loyalty. This group operates under specific “rules of engagement.” Master the art of the personalized visual communication, and you’ll have their attention.

Depending on the type of business you operate, Gen Z might not be your customers just yet anyway, but rest assured, they are coming. Be prepared, and you will prosper.

Generation Z Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Secrets of Marketing to Gen Z Revealed" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Small Business Holiday Season Mistakes to Avoid

The holidays aren’t too far away, but they also aren’t right there, staring us in the face. This is the perfect time, before the rush but not too soon, where you can really start working on those holiday promotion plans. But as a small business you have to make sure you do it the right way.

Some mistakes are incredibly common among smaller businesses that don’t have an entire team to plan out every step based on millions of dollars in consumer research. You might not have the resources of the big guys, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have your own ace up your sleeve.

Small Business Holiday Season Mistakes

Just avoid these 10 mistakes and you will have a great, successful holiday season this year (and every year).

1. Failing To Hire Extra Help

You don’t need to have anyone on hand if things get crazy, right? Extra help is for the big guys, the giant chains who will have swarms of people going to the store to wait at 5 a.m. for door busting Black Friday sales.

Actually, no … you need more help. Let’s say your customer count increases by 10 percent during the holidays. Will you have the time and energy needed to help them all? What if there are more than expected? When will you get your own shopping done — or holiday parties, or time with family?

Hiring another person or two as seasonal workers is worth the money and easy to do, with so many young people in particular needing a short term position to earn some extra money.

For smaller budgets, try hiring at least a virtual assistant who can take over smaller repetitive tasks (like social media sharing, phone calls, etc.) or even help you sort through your emails.

2. Keeping Their Ad Budget The Same

Hopefully you have seen steady growth since last season. But either way you should consider increasing your ad budget.

With social media ads being so affordable there really is no reason not to bulk it up a bit as the holidays draw near. Same with Google AdSense and other avenues where you can catch local searches

3. Ignoring The Promise of Landing Pages

Landing pages are one of the easiest ways you can boost your SEO clout, bring on more traffic and promote your site. Having one for the holiday season is an excellent idea that gives you a great platform.

Alternatively you can also do mini sites, which are holiday themed versions of your pages. For example, Hubspot did a holiday mini site a few years ago with great success. In this case, it is a holiday themed page that leads to products, services and content related to that time of year.

First Site Guide did a great roundup of Christmas plugins to help you optimize your site for Christmas, including creating a special landing page. Also, here’s a summary of holiday visual marketing tactics to bookmark.

4. Not Seeing The Value of Post-Holiday Hype

We all know that holiday sales are going to be your goal. But that shouldn’t be your only aim. In fact, the period after the holidays is one of the most important times of the entire year.

Think about it! People get gifts from your business, which puts you on their radar. Maybe they make a review that helps alert others to your brand.

You can make that happen by encouraging word of mouth or online reviews. Or ask them to sign up for your newsletter for special deals. A good call to action and a strategy to cultivate activity after the holidays is going to be priceless.

5. Not Going Paperless

What is this, 1990? Why do we still encourage payments via checks, or send out paper gift certificates or mail printed documents to sign? What is happening? It is 2017 and by now these should be digital.

Going paperless saves your time (pre-holiday post offices are swamped!), makes it easier for your customers to buy and send your gift cards, makes your business more secure and eco-friendly, and helps make your paper work easier to monitor, thanks to various platforms that will notify you of the status, and remind your customers to sign. It is also more affordable. Keep Solid Sign is the platform I am using to keep my digital paperwork organized. It’s currently free and makes the whole process smooth and secure.

6. Not Analyzing Your Own and Your Competitors’ Trends from Past Years

Look at what your competitors were doing last year. What content did they publish? What holiday campaigns did they launch and what worked for them? What worked for you and what didn’t?

Try searching Buzzsumo Facebook Analyzer to find Facebook business updates on your topic. Facebook Analyzer is a newer tool but it does go back as far as October 2016 giving you a solid archive for the last year’s holiday season.

Also make sure to record your own tactics and conclusions to refer to for the years to come.

A useful tool to start using now (if you haven’t done that yet) is Cyfe. It saves the archive of all Twitter mentions you are collecting enabling you to go years back to analyze. It will store your competitors’ mentions for this holiday season to give you loads of data to get inspired by for the next holiday season.

7. Starting Sales Too Late

Sure, you can make a sale go up three weeks before Christmas. But the closer you get to the holidays the less people are going to have to spend. They are also more likely to go to a big chain to get a last minute gift. Starting a bit earlier, say before Black Friday, means you are getting people when they have more time and money to spend.

Use Google Trends to research the trend and time your holiday marketing effectively. Search your specific topic because trends can vary. For example, “Christmas safety” trends start climbing up on November 6.

While “Christmas decorations” trends start happening as early as late October.

8. Starting Sales Too Steep

You might think offering insane discounts will bring people to you, but it is also going to eat into your profits. Yes, big chains can offer 40 percent off and more without batting an eye. You are smaller and don’t want to undercut yourself.

Besides, people are willing to spend more at small businesses because they see the quality as being higher. Work with that and keep your discounts and sales moderate.

9. Just Letting People Come To You

Engagement! It isn’t just something you do before you get married. You should be engaging with people on social media, on review sites, anywhere that allows you to get your brand name out there and cultivate an image.

As the holidays get closer, be sure to really ramp this up.

10. Not Making Holiday Specific Email Marketing Campaigns

Email marketing campaigns are one of those amazing, undying, unchanging forms of content that just always seems to work.

If you have a subscriber list, start sending out those holiday specific drip campaigns. Also use those landing pages and social media accounts to get more emails to add to the list.

Have some other common mistakes to name? Let us know in the comments!

Broken Decoration Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Mistakes Small Businesses Make When Preparing for a Busy Season" was first published on Small Business Trends

What Your Small Business Can Learn from these Customer Engagement Examples?

Amazon is the company that’s most engaged with customers, according to a recent report. And small businesses can potentially learn some important lessons from the retail giant and other big names that focus on customer engagement.

Forbes Insights partnered with Pega to compile the list of the 50 most engaged companies, which also includes Google’s parent Alphabet Inc., Starbucks, Foot Locker, Alaska Air, FedEx, Southwest Airlines, Marriott, Lowe’s and Nordstrom.

Customer Engagement Examples

So what can companies like Amazon, Google and Starbucks teach smaller brands about customer engagement? Those companies don’t just market to their customers. They actively involve their customers in those efforts. They collect insights. They repost customer photos. They respond to inquiries on social media.

Bruce Rogers, Chief Insights Officer at Forbes Media, said in an email to Small Business Trends, “Customer engagement is the new marketing. No amount of advertising, promotion or discounts can overcome a poor experience with the brand, whether it’s the products or service itself, indifferent customer service or a confusing invoice.”

Those concepts are important for businesses of any size. Even small businesses will need to compete with the likes of Amazon and Starbucks. And if those big companies do a better job of communicating with customers and keeping them engaged online, small businesses could get left behind.

Rogers says, “The Forbes Insights research on the topic and the development of its 50 Most Engaged Companies List provides businesses of any size with powerful lessons on what it takes to succeed in today’s environment where customer’s expectations for customer engagement is invariably compared to the likes of Amazon — no matter the product category. It takes a well-thought out, personalized approach — whether it’s a face-to-face interaction or contact through social media. It takes a commitment to transparency and honesty in every transaction. And it takes a culture that reinforces the notion that customer loyalty and satisfaction is everyone’s responsibility.”

However, some small businesses may have a leg up on larger companies in this area. Small businesses are often more accessible to their customers just because there are fewer team members and processes in place. And businesses that are less set in their ways can be more agile and adapt to customer insights or concerns.

Rogers says, “Small businesses typically succeed because they were founded on these principles. Larger businesses go awry because they tend to lose sight of these maxims as they grow and create siloed organizations for product development, customer care, marketing and sales and trade off great customer engagement for scale.”

So essentially, your small business can compete with huge corporations by prioritizing customer engagement even as you scale. Don’t lose sight of the importance of communicating with customers in person and online. And always take their opinions and insights into account when making important decisions about your products, services and marketing efforts.

Companies like Amazon, Google and Starbucks continue to utilize these methods even though they’ve grown well beyond the scope of small businesses. So you can emulate some of those tactics to realize your own customer engagement success.

Image: Forbes/Pega

This article, "What Your Small Business Can Learn From the 50 Most Engaged Brands" was first published on Small Business Trends