record black friday sales have given retailers hope that business will pick up a bit this holiday season. for many people, that news conjures images of crowded mall parking lots and busy big-box retailers. but the news also offers opportunities for small businesses like those that line hopkins’ mainstreet. hopkins patch spoke with doug denny—a local marketing consultant and copywriter—about how local businesses can make the most of the season. his company, deja local marketing, has done work for businesses ranging from hopkins auto body to chili’s. here’s what he had to say.
1) connect your business to local holiday events. hopkins has plenty of seasonal festivals that local businesses can often tap into better than big-box retailers. small-businesses owners should tie their sales into these events in order to emphasize how local they are, denny said. for example, stores open during hopkins’ old fashioned christmas celebration could offer an “old fashioned deal.”
2) tie in to local successes. hopkins’ sense of community is one of its greatest strengths. while the standardization of big-box stores can make it hard for them to capitalize on that sentiment, local businesses don’t have that problem. their owners often live in the city and have a pulse on local happenings. find out what’s successful in the schools, in churches and elsewhere in the community, denny suggested. then connect promotions to those local highlights. when the boys basketball team won its third championship in a row, for example, stores could have offered three deals for the three-peat. “think local,” denny said. “don’t just think about your customers. think about your customers’ lives.”
3) connect with customers on the go. that means going mobile.use text message alerts, smart phone apps, mobile websites and other options to reach potential customers as they go about their day. the good news is that these products are no longer the domain of big corporations. small businesses can hire someone to put together a functional app for less than $2,000—with financing plans available to spread the cost out, denny said. mobile websites are even cheaper, as low as $750 for an easily navigable site tailored to smart phones. when you have the mobile pieces in place, promote them heavily at point of sale locations and other traditional ways in order to let customers know the options are out there. offer mobile-only deals with coupon codes. local stores may offer products and bargains as good as those in a crowded holiday mall. but that doesn’t help if customers aren’t reminded about what’s available. “reach them where they are, so we can shop mainstreet,” denny said.
4) avoid “interruptive marketing” whenever possible. these are messages that force potential customers to stop whatever they’re doing to pay attention to the ad—whether that’s a commercial breaking into a tv show or a newspaper ad interrupting an article. customers, especially the younger generation, have become adept at tuning out this type of marketing. but what about the text message alerts and other messaging that denny recommends? those aren’t interruptive because customers opted to receive them, he said, noting that about 95 percent of text messages are opened.
5) build in a time element. all that mobile marketing means businesses are no longer communicating with people comfortably ensconced on the couch. those messages are coming in while people are in meetings, transporting their children or otherwise going about their day. including a not-too-distant deadline—“come in during the next four hours for a special price.”—encourages customers to stop by on their way home and choose your store for the spontaneous decisions they make while out and about, denny said.
6) don’t sweat it if customers share the coupon codes with friends who don’t subscribe to your mobile products. the whole goal is to increase the number of customers. as long as you’ve included some profit margin, your store will be better off for the extra people stopping by.
7) make visiting your store enjoyable—especially throughout the holiday season.
“during the holidays, people are attracted to bright lights and fun,” denny said.