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Email Tips for a Successful Holiday Season

Time’s running out in the holiday season to execute your email marketing campaigns, so let’s get cracking. Typically, holiday sales account for 20% or more of annual retail sales. Not exploiting email during your most profitable quarter is like leaving money on the table. Here are some tips to extract maximum value from your holiday emails:

Peg Your Emails:

Yes, we know about Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. But you should also look for minor holidays and other important days on which to peg your emails. For example, Cyber Monday is now a huge shopping day. Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, whatever — know your community and be attuned to its holidays.

Start Now:

If you haven’t done so already, waste no time starting your email campaign now. Experts want you to start no later than November 15, and sooner if possible. It turns out that readership of holiday retail emails peaks in mid-November, so that’s the time to start making your pitch.

Review and Build Your Email List:

How often do you update your email list? Can you purchase valuable lists from third parties? You should actively collect email addresses from your customers along with data indicating their areas of interest. You can segment your emails depending on the types of products or services your customers have purchased. Segmenting your list lets you direct the right emails to the right people.

Use Holiday Motifs:

Unless you have great graphic design skills, you’ll probably want to use commercial art and templates to give your emails the proper holiday feeling. Originality earns extra points — if you always use the same old tired designs, your customers will lose interest.

Holiday Gift Guide:

You know what you sell. Help customers understand how your offerings are great for particular friends, relatives, and clients. Your email can link to your holiday gift guide, which should be up to date for 2019. Include basic information about each recommended offering, including age (important for gifts to kids), price, and interests. Consider creating a collage of your best products, using influencers to curate your products around a theme, and ensure your content is mobile-friendly.

Early Access:

Reward email readers by giving them early access to holiday sales. This makes your email recipients feel like insiders who get first crack at important savings. That’s particularly important when you sell hot items that may be scarce as the year winds down.

Be Urgent:

Put time limits on the offerings you announce in your emails. It’s a hoary old chestnut, but “hurry while supplies last” still packs a punch. Related ideas include creating “early bird pricing,” providing order deadlines to receive shipments by a certain date, and displaying a countdown timer to show when the promotional prices will evaporate.

Create an Online Advent Calendar:

A tradition started by the Lutherans, Advent calendars are extremely popular among millions of Americans. You can include them in your email, and you can send a special email for each day of Advent. Your customers will appreciate beautiful Advent images embedded in your emails, which you can use to highlight daily specials.

Invite Participation in an Online Contest:

Let your emails trumpet online contests. They are a great way to build traffic, increase your social media followings, expand your email list, and create targeted prospects. There are several online tools, such as RafflePress, that make running a contest a snap.

Maximize the Value of Your Footer:

Put some valuable content in your footer so that readers don’t neglect it. You can promote stuff in your footer, such as gift cards, order/shipment dates, and your holiday gift guide.

Well, that’s a good start. And start you should, without delay. Grab your share of holiday pie by whipping your emails into the holiday spirit!

Get Your Business Budget Ready for the Holidays

Your business’ budget should reflect the challenges and opportunities of the holiday season. The process starts with goal-setting: What volume of business do you want to achieve in the holiday period, and what expenditures should you make now to reach your goals? It’s easier to update your budget by breaking down your goals into a set of focused objectives like the ones we’ve compiled here:

Inventory:

The biggest selling days are the Black Friday weekend (the days after Thanksgiving) and the week leading up to Christmas. These are the days that will drain your inventory the fastest, leaving you vulnerable to stockouts, which is something you can’t afford. Conversely, you can’t mindlessly order extra inventory that will sit unsold on your shelves well into the new year. Therefore, review last year’s sales numbers and see if you would have benefitted by ordering more inventory or less. Then, factor in new products you’ll be selling this year, as well as the amount of extra advertising you’ll be doing. Your marketing and sales plans will greatly affect demand for your offerings.

Marketing:

Opportunities abound in the holiday season to spend money on marketing and advertising. The challenge is to pick the right advertising channels, whether existing or new, and allocating budget dollars to each. The basis for deciding your marketing budget is return on marketing investment for various channels, such as:

    • Loyalty programs
    • Social media
    • Print advertising
    • Broadcast advertising
    • Promotions and events
    • Website updates
    • Signage
    • Email marketing

Review your marketing ROI for the last 12 months to gauge how much to allocate to each potential channel. You might also want to canvas your peers (not necessarily your direct competitors) for their experiences in this area. Your objective is to have a cohesive, well-funded marketing plan that avoids missed opportunities while minimizing waste.

Production:

If you are a manufacturer, your holiday production schedule should reflect your best estimates for demand. In some businesses, demand won’t change much during the holiday season, but for others, the holidays are the make-or-break period for production and sales. You should update your production goals based on factors like last-year’s results, economic conditions, the latest trends and fads, changes in the competitive landscape, and so forth. Then, update your budget to account for changes in purchasing of raw materials, assemblies, equipment, and supplies. Factor in increased labor costs, and perhaps higher utility usage. You may also need to budget extra for temporary storage and transportation facilities.

Decorations and Gifts:

Retailers spend significant dollars each year on decorations that enhance the holiday spirit. You may also need to revamp or expand your shelves and bins. Don’t forget to budget holiday gifts you may want to distribute to employees, vendors, and contractors. The good will you accrue through thoughtful gift-giving will pay dividends all year long and bolster your long-term success. Gifts need not be lavish, but a simple thank-you card might not provide the results you want. In any event, do not tie gifts to demand for employee overtime or vendor discounts.

Liquidity:

After you arrive at your new budget, you may find yourself short of working capital. Rather than slashing your brand new budget, consider a short-term business loan. Interest rates are low this year, making the cost of a loan small in comparison to the benefits of additional spending. The extra sales volume you derive from your updated budget should greatly exceed the cost of borrowing. Ask yourself how much business you’ll lose if you don’t supplement your budget with a short-term loan. Remember, someone is going to benefit from all that extra holiday spending. Fortify your cash position so that the beneficiary is you.

IOU Financial is a great solution for working-capital funding during the holiday season. We can get you your money in as little as one day, without a lot of hassle or paperwork. We offer extremely flexible repayment arrangements that will easily accommodate your cash flow patterns. Don’t wait — the holiday season is already here. Contact IOU Financial today and make the most of the holidays!

6 Tips to Prepare Your Business for the Holiday Season

Now that Autumn has arrived, the holidays can’t be far behind. In other words, things are going to get hectic soon, which means now is the time to start preparing your business for the 2019 holiday season. Depending on the size of your business, you might personally handle these tasks, but it’s a good idea to delegate where appropriate. First, it will give you more time, and second, it will provide important experience for your key employees. Without further ado:

1.    Stock Up on Supplies

Now is the time to review the supply orders you placed before the holidays last year. Some supplies are bedrock basic. For example, your public bathrooms will probably see increased traffic, so make sure you order plenty of paper towels, liquid soap, and toilet paper. If you operate a store, you also need to order a sufficient number of store gift cards and gift wrap to handle demand. If 2019 is your first year in business, network with other businesses to pick up important pointers. The bottom line is to order early and avoid expensive rush shipping later. Your customers will appreciate it when you can see to their needs in a seemingly effortless way.

2.    Purchase Extra Inventory

If you are a manufacturer, anticipate higher product demand. That means ordering more inputs from your vendors, scheduling extra production, and possibly hiring extra workers. If necessary, reserve extra warehouse space and additional transportation resources. If you are a merchandiser, you need to get your orders in early enough to have holiday goods in place when needed. Don’t forget, your suppliers are also under pressure, and they will be grateful for early orders. In any event, understand your suppliers’ required lead times and make sure you place orders before it’s too late.

3.    Schedule Holiday Hours

If you are a retailer, you may plan extended hours for the holidays. On the other hand, if you are a mom-and-pop business, perhaps you’ll be closing down for a few days over the holidays. You will need to finalize your holiday schedule and notify staff of any changes that affect them. Ask your employees to request holiday time off before a set date and encourage them to be available during the busiest days. Line up extra staff if necessary, and don’t forget to let your customers know about any special hours.

4.    Plan Your Decorations

Let’s face it, customers expect holiday decorations, hokey or not. Even if you operate out of an office, your employees will expect a nod to the holiday spirit. Decorating doesn’t have to be expensive, especially if you treat it as a team-building exercise. On the other hand, some retail stores will require extensive redecorating, which means early planning and ordering. While decorating, take the opportunity to do a little cleaning and polishing of those out-of-the-way areas.

5.    Get Busy on the Web

Just like decorating your physical premises, your website might also benefit from a holiday makeover. First check the basics — is it easy to read, navigate, and place orders? Can you easily add a few images of candy canes or reindeer? Next, review your pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., and make sure they are up to date, If blogging is a regular part of your social presence, get your topics ready and, if you are too busy to personally pen your own articles, engage a professional freelance writer to prepare holiday-oriented content.

6.    Check Your Budget

All these holiday preparations can get expensive, putting pressure on your working capital. You should carefully estimate your cash needs between now and the new year and predict any shortfalls. If you find yourself in a bit of a cash crush, contact us at IOU Financial. We can arrange business loans quickly and conveniently, with a minimum of paperwork or hassle. And from all of us, best wishes for the happiest of holidays!

How to Prepare Your E-commerce Business for the Holidays

The holidays are upon us! While you may just be getting ready for Halloween, it’s vital to start thinking beyond that to prepare your e-commerce business for the winter holidays. In fact, most marketing experts believe that July is the right time to start planning, so if you haven’t yet, you’re already behind!

The holiday season can be an extremely profitable time for your business if you are smart about your strategy! Shoppers spent over $108 billion online during the holiday season last year, with online sales growing faster than traditional retail sales from year to year! To capitalize on that momentum, utilize the following strategies to get the most out seasonal promotional opportunities:

Create Holiday Strategies

Although we like to call the events starting from November to January, “the holidays,” it’s important to celebrate and plan for each one. The holiday season includes:

  • Thanksgiving
  • Black Friday
  • Cyber Monday
  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Day
  • New Year’s

Prepare a unique seasonal campaign for each holiday to offer your customers unique offers, products and designs to keep them coming back for more instead of making a single purchase.

Be Prepared

If all goes well, you will make record sales this holiday season. However, marketing your brand is only the first step to success. You must make sure that your business is prepared to deliver on the sales to keep up with customer demand.

Evaluate how much inventory you have in stock, and how quickly you can order more. It’s advantageous to reach out to your suppliers to inquire about their estimates for inventory during this time. They may very well sell out of popular items, leaving you in a lurch if you need to order something last minute and are not able to.

Many shoppers purchase last minute items, which is why you should consider offering different shipping options.  You may see an increase in sales if you allow your customers to get their deliveries in as little as 1 to 2 business days.  Research how much it would cost you to ship your items faster, and make sure to include those options on your sales page.

In preparation of increased orders around the holiday time, create your staff schedules early on, and make sure your employees commit to those schedules. People tend to take time off around the holidays, which is why you must make sure you have a sufficient number of workers ready to receive and prepare orders to go out.

Save

For any business to make money, it must first spend money. As such, you should save a considerable amount of money to both market and sell your products.

You will likely see an  increase in conversion rates during the holidays, but that also means that you will see more ad competition on social media. However, if you plan early, you can purchase ad inventory at lower prices than if you wait until the last minute.

If you simply cannot afford to compete with others for ads during this time, utilize other  resources to promote engagement. Start building an email list now so you have a completely free way to reach out to your customers to alert them about special deals and exclusive offers.

SEO

Online shoppers use seasonal keywords to shop for their products. Consider how your target shoppers would find your site, and optimize your content for those keywords.

They may include:

  • “Best Christmas gifts for teenagers”
  • “Funny holiday gifts”
  • “Employee holiday gifts”

Use Google Keyword Planner to search for keywords relevant to your niche, and try to choose the ones with the lowest competition and the highest monthly searches.

You can create Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns and bid for shoppers to click on your link, or you can add those keywords to your blogs, video descriptions and social media posts to encourage engagement for little to no investment.

People love to spend money around the holiday time, and you should consider how you can encourage them to do it on your site! The strategies outlined in this article are the first steps you should take to prepare. If you need financial help in investing in your business during this time, contact IOU Financial. We work with small and medium-sized businesses to fund their goals with loans up to $300,000.

What You Should be Doing Now to Get Your Business Ready for the Holidays

Summer has come and gone and Fall is well underway. Its time to get your business ready for the holidays! If you think you can wait, think again – it takes time to plan and execute your holiday operations. Here are 7 tips for you to consider:

Optimize your website:

Whether you employ your website for sales or marketing purposes, you should prepare it for your holiday inventory and holiday services, including any seasonal increase in volume. Steps you should take include updating your security software, revamping your pages to reflect the holiday season, and creating special holiday landing pages. If necessary, clearly state holiday shipping deadlines and costs, as well as special store hours, if appropriate. Finally, do some load testing to ensure your website won’t crash due to heavy holiday traffic.

Order your inventory:

Do it now, before prices go any higher. Review previous year sale data to gauge how much to order and check out new products you will want to include this year. If necessary, arrange financing to pay for your inventory. Remember, IOU Financial can lend you up to $300,000 with funding in 24 to 48 hours. Having cash up front for your inventory purchases may get you preferential access to scarcer items, which can be a real leg up at holiday time.

Plan labor scheduling and temporary hiring:

Many retail stores require extra help during the holiday season. Make your preparations early to lock in the workers you will need, before your competitors grab them. Your holiday budget should reflect the costs of extra labor. Once again, you can turn to IOU Financial to fill any gaps in your working capital to ensure you can pay your extra employees promptly.

Spruce up your store:

The holiday season demands special décor and ambience. Think of pleasing all the senses with appropriate lighting, decorations, music, free samples of holiday food, and even employing a Santa for young children. Your promotions should tie in to the holidays, with frequent sales and surprises. Your website should parallel your retail store’s promotion plans, such as Gifts for Grandma, Gifts for Teacher, etc.

Increase your social media footprint:

Reach out to shoppers through online reviews and social media. Review your search results and ratings, and consider a holiday ad campaign on the major search engines. You can set up software to monitor new social mentions of your business during the holidays so that you can respond quickly to any negative reviews or comments.

Prepare and execute your holiday email campaigns:

Email marketing is an important adjunct to your sales funnel. During the holidays, your email’s will naturally take on a seasonal flavor. You also might consider a more aggressive distribution schedule to take advantage of the public’s buying mood before your competitors do. Vendors like MailChimp and Constant Contact let you plan out and execute your autoresponders and drip emails in a logical, effective fashion.

Plan your post-holiday buying rush:

Many retailers make a giant portion of their annual profits between Christmas and New Year’s Day. You’ll want to plan your special markdowns and how you will market them. Also, be prepared for the inevitable increase in returns – customers appreciate a streamlined process. Here’s a nifty idea: Sell your leftover gift cards at a discount during the post-holiday period.

The holidays can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Guarantee the former by planning your holiday moves early on and funding your working capital with a handy small business loan from IOU Financial to ensure you have enough cash for all the extra costs during the holiday season.

Four Proven Marketing Tips for Restaurants to Implement During the Holidays

The holidays are a joyous and busy time for many, but some restaurants owners see a decline in business during the winter months. One source found that as many as 61% of restaurants reported a decline of up to 20% in patrons and sales during this time.

There are a multitude of reasons that sales can be down, ranging from cold weather which discourages patrons from leaving their homes and times spent indoors with family rather than out and about. A holiday decline does not have to affect your restaurant, however, if you strategize with carefully crafted marketing holiday marketing tips to drive customers to your business!

Holiday-Themed Menu

People love to feel festive during the holidays, which is why adding a holiday-themed menu can draw people to your restaurant. Consider offering family-friendly meals that your patrons can eat in or take to enjoy at home. Offering family-sized meals makes it convenient for your customers to quickly order without having to deliberate on what items and amounts to get.

Add holiday-themed foods to your menu to appeal to your patrons’ palates! Holiday favorites, such as turkey, egg nog and stuffing are always a hit! Get creative with adding items and ingredients that your customers may not be familiar with to surprise them and keep them guessing!

Appeal to the smallest patrons by offering foods that can excite them, such as specialty-shaped foods (sandwiches shaped like Christmas trees!), holiday cookies and other treats shipped from the North Pole.

Holiday-Themed Activities

Help your patrons get in the spirit by adding a holiday feel to your restaurant. You can choose specific nights to throw special holiday parties which feature holiday music and a winter wonderland decor.

If you have a family-friendly restaurant, encourage your customers to bring their kids by planning a visit from Santa Claus, as well as arts and craft activities, such as making holiday cards. Advertising a free photo with Santa with every family meal can help your customers save on holiday photos and instead spend their money in your restaurant.

Holiday Specials

The holidays are an expensive time when most of us shop for gifts for family and friends. Help ease the financial burden your patrons may be facing by offering holiday specials and coupons that they will surely appreciate.

Consider tying in an exclusive discount with a charitable cause, which is always important to remember during the holidays. Ask your customers to stop by and leaved canned food for a local food bank or used clothes for a nearby shelter. In exchange for their donation, you can offer a discount on their food purchase or a free item (a drink or dessert) in addition to a paid meal.

Marketing

Once you figure out your holiday menu, decor, activities and specials, you need to share that information with your target audience so that they can be informed about what is going on at your restaurant. Consider the best ways to get their attention and how best to spend your marketing budget.

If your restaurant is located in an area with high traffic, putting up a large sign or poster may suffice. Otherwise, sending in-home mailers to your local patrons or sending out emails through your customer database can be effective.

To stand out from the competition, consider unique ways that you can grab your customers’ attention and encourage them to frequent your business. This can include funny holiday cards to make them laugh or bold online campaigns.

Should you need help to invest in marketing or making your restaurant holiday-friendly, IOU Financial is happy to help. We offer hassle-free small business loans of up to $300,000 in as little as 24-48 hours. Visit our website to get more details about how we can help your restaurant thrive during the holidays and all year round!

4 Proven Ways your Business can cut Costs this Holiday Season

It’s no secret that the holiday season can be a stressful one for business owners. Although it is a time to reflect, be grateful and celebrate, some businesses see a decline in sales, which, coupled with typical employee raises and bonuses during this time, can make it a financially burdensome time for owners. However, there are ways your business can cut costs this holiday season with these four proven strategies:

Adjust Employee Schedules

While some companies experience their busiest seasons during this time, others aren’t so lucky. Colder weather prevents many people from shopping and dining out, while holidays encourage others to spend time with family indoors.

It’s not uncommon to enter a store, restaurant or hair salon during November, December and January to find them empty. There is no reason to commit to paying salaries when there is no business, which is why you should plan to adjust your staff’s schedules during this time.

Analyze your past few years and determine your slowest times and how many employees you actually need working at a time. Just be sure to provide your staff with enough warning so that they are not surprised about their reduced hours.

Cut Down or Eliminate Your Holiday Party

Holiday parties are annual traditions for many businesses, but they can also get expensive. Although it is important to show your employees how much you appreciate them during this time, consider ways to do more cost effectively.

Instead of taking out your staff members to a restaurant or renting out a banquet hall, move the festivities to your office or business space. A meeting room or lunch area can be enough space to share a meal.

Instead of catering food, ask your employees to bring in their favorite dish, arranging a potluck. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you can still cut costs by hosting a breakfast instead of a dinner. Bringing in bagels and cream cheese is a lot more affordable than catering dinner!

Introduce Secret Santa

Business owners always want to make their employees feel special by showering them with gifts around the holiday time. Even if you try to be frugal, these expenses add up to be hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Try something different this year to cut costs by introducing Secret Santa. Write down all of your employees’ names on pieces of paper and put them in a bucket or hat. Ask each staffer to pull out a name and purchase a present for that person. Set limits on the presents to be no more than $20 or $40 each. This way, every individual in your company goes home with a gift, but your company has saved a significant amount of money.

Focus on Free Marketing

One of the most expensive strategies during the holidays tends to be marketing. Businesses that offer specials during this time want to spread the word to their customers, and the way to do that is through marketing.

To be cost sensitive during this time, consider ways to market without breaking the bank. For example, you can email holiday cards and announcements to your customers absolutely free instead of spending funds on printing and mailing them!

If you have tried all of these strategies, but are still finding it difficult to sustain your business during the holiday time, turn to IOU Financial. We make it a priority to support small and medium-sized companies with easy loans up to $300,000. You can get funded in as little as 24-48 hours.

Getting Your Finances Organized Before the Holidays

It happens every year. The holiday season is suddenly upon you, and yet your business is not in optimal condition to take full advantage of this very special time of the year – shopping season!

Getting an Early Jump

The best way to extract maximum profits from holiday shopping is to have a large inventory of items that will be hot sellers in the last two months of the year. To some extent, this can be a test of your predictive powers, because normally you will have to decide what to order, and then order it, about six months in advance if you want to be sure of receiving what promises to be the season’s blockbusters.

Therefore, you must combine budgetary and marketing data to make reasonable forecasts of:

  1. How much sales volume I want to achieve during the holidays?
  2. What merchandize do I want to stock this holiday season?
  3. How aggressively can I set prices to fight for holiday sales?
  4. How should I spruce up the shop to get customers into the holiday buying mood?
  5. Will I need temporary workers, and if so, how many and what types?
  6. How will I store the early shipments of holiday merchandise I receive? Will I need to rent temporary warehouse space?

There are many other questions you can ask, but this is a good start.

The outcome of this brainstorming should be any changes to your 12-month budget, laid out month by month.

Strengthen Your Working Capital

Next, examine your current debt situation. Do you owe money from last year? What interest rate are you paying on existing debt? What’s happened to interest rates in the last 12 months? Check your working capital situation – you’ll need plenty of cash and credit to finance holiday inventory, but you don’t want to spend a lot of time managing accounts payable for a lot of different vendor accounts. With sufficient cash on hand, you can pay vendors right away and benefit from purchase discounts. The answer is to consolidate your debt through a low-cost commercial loan. It’s much easier to manage a single creditor rather than contend with demands from a gaggle of vendors and creditors. That way you don’t have to spend much time figuring payments, because we will debit small amounts every day from your bank account. This removes the pain and worry you might feel if you had to face a large monthly payment.

To order sufficient inventory in, say, June, when sales may be weaker due to the summer doldrums, may put quite a strain on your working capital at precisely the wrong time. The easiest solution is a business loan form a commercial lender such as IOU Financial. By consolidating your old loans and adding fresh borrowings to the mix, you have the opportunity to optimize your debt and your working capital for the upcoming holiday season.

Get Your Technology Up to Speed

If you are not happy with your current accounting and point-of-sale software, well before holiday season is the time to either fix it or replace it. If you find any part of your current system holding you back from tracking real-time sales, shipping and restocking activity, it might be time for new solutions. You will also want to ensure you have installed the new chip-card readers throughout your store, so that you bypass any liability for fraud caused by lost, stolen or counterfeit credit/debit cards. Estimates are of about $450 to install each new card-reading terminal, so make sure you figure this expenditure into your budget.

The bottom line – you want to have sufficient funds ahead of the holiday season in order to optimize your revenues once the end-of-year frenzy gets under way. If you need any additionally working capital, contact IOU Financial and learn how quick and easy it is to whip your finances in shape for the lucrative holiday season.

Four Proven Marketing Strategies for the Holidays

The holiday season is the perfect time for businesses to attract new clientele and connect with existing customers. With buyers scouring for Christmas presents, many stores experience a significant surge in sales. Service-oriented companies, such as gyms and beauty salons, report an influx of new customers around January, when people make New Year’s resolutions to get in shape or become better versions of themselves. All in all, the holidays are a great time to market your services to potential customers by utilizing the following four proven strategies:

Charitable Giving

Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular times for donations to local shelters, philanthropic organizations and community events. Companies can combine doing a good deed with a marketing advantage by making a donation to a charity or sponsoring a local soup kitchen event.

Allowing the community to associate your company’s name with giving creates a positive view of your brand, encouraging them to shop with you during the following year.

Holiday Cards

Everyone loves getting a holiday card from a friend or family member, but there is no rule that holiday cards can’t be sent from businesses. Realtors are already aware of this strategy, sending holiday cards to potential and past clients to increase loyalty and foster customer relationships.

Sending holiday cards to your existing roster of clients and surrounding residents creates an emotional connection between you and your customers, which has been proven to increase brand loyalty and increase sales.

Keep in mind that your customers may celebrate different religious holidays, so sending a generic holiday card rather than one specific for Christmas may be more advantageous to avoid offending anyone.

Utilize Holiday-Themed SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) should always be a priority in your marketing campaign. The holidays are a great time to re-evaluate your target keywords and add holiday-themed alternatives to help potential clients find you.

Keywords such as “holiday gifts,” “unique Christmas presents,” “ugly sweaters” and “corporate holiday gifts” trend around the end of the year. Utilize these keywords in your pay-per-click (PPC) Google campaigns and in the content of your website and blogs to capitalize on seasonal searches.

Holiday Events

People love to attend holiday events where they feel jolly and get in the spirit of the holiday season. This is the perfect time for businesses to open their doors, encouraging new clients to learn more about them and regular clients to feel appreciated.

Consider hosting an annual holiday party for your top customers to wine and dine them and help them feel valued by your company. You can also host a holiday open house at a salon, store or restaurant attracting families with a visit and photos with Santa and his elves, free cookie decorating events and carolling.

Whatever event you plan for your business, focus on using that time to help visitors connect with your company, learn more about your products and services and create an emotional connection with your brand.

The holiday season can be a strenuous time for business owners as it calls for a lot of expenses. IOU Financial is committed to helping you during this and any other time with an affordable business loan. Get instant pre-approval and funding in as little as 24-48 hours!

Should My Business Participate in Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday (CM), the Monday after Thanksgiving that promotes online shopping, has become almost as important as Thanksgiving and Black Friday in terms of holiday sales. In 2016, CM sales increased by 12.1 percent year over year, reaching a volume of $3.45 billion. That’s a higher sales volume than experienced on 2016 Black Friday. There is nothing to prohibit online sellers from participating throughout the Thanksgiving holiday, but CM is the day set aside for the biggest online promotions. The question of whether your small business should aggressively compete for CM business turns on several considerations:

What is your online presence?

If you don’t have a website, or if the website has problems, it’s getting late to make it work right. You certainly don’t want to be out there on CM with an untested or buggy site – it’s much better to perfect the website before using it. You’ll be better off by opening a page on Etsy or Amazon this year and then promote your website next yet.

What do you sell?

The extended Thanksgiving selling season favors products over services, with perhaps the exception of travel. Certain merchandise has historically seen strong sales on CM, such as laptops, cellphones, data storage, clothing, and beauty products. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t participate on CM with different types of merchandise – it’s ultimately your call.

Can you afford CM?

The purpose of CM is to achieve a sales spike. That means you might need extra merchandise and extra labor. Depending on your size, this might not be a major consideration. However, if you are a bigger business, you might have to prepare for CM by purchasing extra inventory and hiring additional part-time workers. If you anticipate significant costs in this regard, consider taking a loan from IOU Financial – the terms are fair, the money is available quickly, and you repay a small amount in daily or weekly increments instead of facing a largely monthly payment.

Can you absorb promotion costs?

Sure, on CM you can sell your most popular items for 90 percent off and make a big splash. Can you afford such an aggressive promotion? Is it overkill, or is it a reasonable response to your competitors? Do you sell a product mix that encourages repeat shopping? If so, getting folks to place their first online order with you might be worth an upfront loss. On the other hand, if you give away the store, you might not survive until next year’s CM. It comes down to sales projections, budgets, and cash. You can prepare for just about any promotion if you start early enough, but spontaneous last-minute promotions might leave you in a cash crunch.

Engage social media.

Activate your pages on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn and so forth to promote your CM sales. Ads on these pages are cheap and can be very effective. If you maintain a customer email list, prepare to ramp up a few days before Thanksgiving and again on CM. Services like MailChimp can help you set up and execute an email strategy – it’s not expensive but requires some preparation, so don’t wait until the last minute.

Try to establish closer relationships with new customers:

Hopefully, your CM promotions will draw in first-time customers. Besides adding them to your mailing list, do something extra to help cement your relationship with them. You might send them special offers or coupons as a thank you for shopping with you.

If you fit the CM profile, go for it! After all, you do want to increase sales, don’t you? Need to get a handle on your budget before the big day? Check out our Business Budget Smart Sheet.