Christmas ads are starting to appear on television and stores are already stocking their Christmas decoration aisles. This year could be unusually good for small local businesses for two reasons.
1. Shop Local campaigns are gaining traction in small towns all over the United States.
Residents have been educated about the benefits of spending their limited dollars as close to home as possible, thanks to organized shop local campaigns, and the buzz about “shop local” that has even infected the media.
Also, in the third+ year of this terrible recession we are all getting used to downsizing. We are less likely to mortgage our futures to provide quantities of stuff under the tree.
We may be looking locally instead for that single, meaningful, unique item.
Yes, we all will be distracted by the endless sales starting any minute now. But local businesses getting their messages out where people are looking ( hint, hint, social media hint, hint) have a better chance this year of being heard.
2. Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are focusing people’s attention
They are beginning to see the value of supporting small local businesses instead of big corporations.
You might not have heard about the Occupy Wall Street from your usual news channels, but as with the Arab Spring, this movement is gaining traction through internet connections and communication.
Occupy Wall Street has spread from New York to hundreds of communities large and small all over the US.
The Occupy Wall Street message, “We are the 99%” has translated lately into action, with people moving bank accounts to local banks. And the word is out in the last few days that shopping in small locally owned stores rather than at big corporate chains supports the 99%!
The latest poll I saw today showed that around 70% of the country supports the Occupy Wall Street offshoot demonstrations in their own communities! This is huge.
Whether you are ready to grab a sign and join a Occupy Wall Street march or not, this is about you. There is not a small local business that isn’t part of the 99%.
How do you capture the opportunity to increase your Christmas sales?
1. Start early.
You don’t have to put out all your decorations, but think about how you can encourage early shopping.
Are you willing to have a layaway program like Kmart?
Can you offer personalized shopping assistance starting now to help folks get exactly what their loved one wants?
NOTE: Both these services would make good Facebook posts.
If you have a service business – anything from housecleaning to fishing and rafting guided adventures – do you have gift certificates? And do your customers know that you do?
2. Use social media to begin getting your marketing message out.
In the latest surveys of social media usage, the info about what people want from their interaction with businesses is mixed – some like marketing messages and others don’t.
So it comes back to being helpful, giving your customer what YOU KNOW she needs and wants. And one of the most helpful things you can do is think of all the problems and issues your Perfect Customer is facing this year.
They’ll boil down to variations of these themes:
- Lack of money
- Lack of time
- Lack of ideas
What solutions can you offer? Use your Facebook business page or whatever social media tool you use to present your solutions. They should be unique, focused on what you really know will help to solve your customers’ problems.
3. This will be the year of the deals and discounts. What will yours be?
Regardless of people’s interest in supporting the 99%, it will all come down to value added or discounts.
Sales don’t start after Christmas any longer. They start now. What kind of pre-Christmas sales can you offer?
People will be giving everything this year from the most practical to the tiniest and most unique, so create discounts on anything from teeth cleaning to monogramming for tea towels!
If people have less to spend on luxuries, they will gift practical items or turn something ordinary into a personalized statement. Know your customer and have what she is looking for ON SALE.
People have less to donate to the charity of their choice during this long hard recession. Think about a universally support local cause in your town that you could make a donation to in your customer’s name as part of your sales. Friends of the library, the local elementary school education foundation, the local youth sports program or the local meals on wheels programs come to mind.
Take a page out of the Heifer Project and let your customer select the project and even add a few more dollars on top of what you promise as part of your promotion (it’s tax deductible!).
And then, get that money to the charitable organization in a timely manner!
I know that you are all thinking up your own Christmas promotion ideas – share what you’re doing. Let’s work together to make this the best Christmas sales season ever for small local businesses.
Here are some additional ideas from past years: