Black Friday; Small Business Saturday; Cyber Monday; and the latest – Giving Tuesday. Some business owners are feeling a bit frantic, wondering, “How do I capture some of this business?” Rather than sitting on the sidelines wringing your hands, you can end the year strong with some brain power applied.
Ask a devoted shopper why they leave a warm bed in the wee hours of the morning and chances are they say something like “It’s fun being out there with other crazy shoppers!” or “There are some great deals if you get there early!” The magic of these marketing events for customers are the sense of belonging created; being part of a special group, a scarcity mentality and the fear of missing an opportunity. Rather than trying to fit into one of these marketing days, focus on the human needs they address and your business can capture some year-end traffic.
- Sense of belonging. Everyone likes belonging to a club and feeling included. If you’re a B2C business, consider a holiday open house with refreshments for “special guests” (everyone!) and their friends.
- Scarcity. For the same reason parents want to be the first at Target to get that limited edition toy. Customers will flock to your business if they believe there is a limited supply. Advertise special offers for the “first fifty” (this one can backfire – choose wisely) or a discounted, yet valuable, service available for a limited time.
- Opportunity. Part of Black Friday’s magic is the sense that the greatest deals of the year happen on this day, and if you miss it, you’ll have to wait another year. For B2B businesses, consider assembling a package of services or products that are available only during your year-end.
Finally, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and now Giving Tuesday exist only because someone said they exist. You can do the same – announce your special day or event and, with proper planning, create your own small business marketing magic.
Since Apple’s launch of the iPhone 5 on September 21st, Apple has sold over 5 million phones and has sold out of their initial supply. That’s 1.2 million phones per day. It was announced on September 12, 2012, and was released on September 21 – ten days. Small business may not have the national spotlight that Apple enjoys, but we can gather the attention necessary to successfully launch a new product or service in our own corner with planning and attention to detail. Apple carefully choreographs every step of a product launch, and small business owners should do the same.
1. Any successful launch begins with your strong reputation. If you have customers and clients who have come to rely on your expertise, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say. The stronger your reputation, the fewer messages needed to convert your market to paying customers. If your reputation is less than you’d like it to be, start by cleaning that up, first.
2. Create intrigue in your customer base. Apple “leaks” tidbits of information well ahead of the official announcement to build a “buzz”. Drop hints so that your customers and prospects are curious and will pay attention to upcoming announcements from you. Don’t be afraid to make an announcement before you have the details sorted out about something “exciting” that’s coming. I guarantee that if you make a public announcement, you will push through any procrastination and get the nitty-gritty done!
3. Depending upon the financial or time investment required for your product or service, begin seeding three to four weeks before launch. Remember, you are only “hinting” at what is to come. For a launch the size of the iPhone 5, Apple began seeding approximately 10-12 weeks prior to launch.
4. In the coming weeks (see timeline below), provide prospects with more and more details, always keeping in mind what they want, not just what they need. Credible rumors of a thinner profile and bigger screen kept Apple consumers interested and talking about the product. Vary your presentation as much as possible; consider all social media avenues in written, audio and video formats. If appropriate, use direct mail or personal contact.
5. For service offerings or an event, open registration within a week of availability or of the event. Most customers will “pull the trigger” within the last 48 hours, so don’t get discouraged if early numbers are low. Your customers have a lot on their minds and companies vying for their attention are everywhere.
Smaller product/service launch:
It’s fascinating to watch Apple and they are a prime, albeit enormous, example to follow. Be consistent in your message, reinforce your brand continuously and trust yourself when it comes to your small business brand.
– Helen Dutton, Business Coach
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Mother’s Day is right around the corner. A radio ad the other day went something like this: “If you have a mom, know a mom, or are a mom, come on down…” Seriously? Just a little more creativity, thought and insight could yield this business credibility, recognition, and increase customer traffic. Consumer spending is up generally this spring, and small businesses can benefit at the same time as doing a good turn for moms and those buying for mom.
Whether it’s Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, back-to-school time, or Hanukah, the key to reaching potential customers is the same: know your strengths and know your customer. Here is how you can increase customer traffic now, and any month of the year.
- Know your business’s strengths. What makes you unique? What attributes cause you to stand out from your competitors? Be specific – “great customer service” does not make you unique; it allows your doors to remain open. Consider advanced training, personal experience of the owners, or a specialized niche for which you are known. For holiday purchasing, expanded hours and proximity can be considered strengths and also be key decision factors.
- Know your customer. Understand why your customers come to you and look for behavior patterns or demographics that drive their purchases.
- Use keyword research to understand what potential customers are searching for; use their language in your marketing. A common search this week might be “unique gifts for Mother’s Day in New Hampshire”. If you have that language on your page or in your social media campaign, not only do search engines like you but, personally, I will feel understood by you and that your offerings are a perfect match.
- Use your internal systems to sort customers by seasonality. If they purchased from you before the holidays or the weeks just before Easter, chances are they will be gift shopping for Mother’s Day.
Knowing your strengths and understanding your customers are critical whether you are placing a local print advertisement, Facebook ads, or developing other social media campaigns. Spend focused time creating clarity around your market and you can increase customer traffic by developing credible marketing for any season or holiday.
– Helen Dutton, Business Coach
Car sales is an interesting business. One dealer sells the exact same large ticket item as the next, yet most of us have strong preferences for one dealer over another; small business competition is high. Since it’s not the product that makes the difference, it has to be everything else. Interesting, when the investment in the product is so high.
Every business has “competition”; on the other hand, none of us has competition, because no one else provides the exact same experience as we do. Those nuances in how we provide our product or service are our strengths; they are the reasons our customers and clients will choose us over alternatives. Understand your strengths and you’ll attract more ideal customers more easily. Here’s a simple exercise to help you get a clear picture in your mind, which you can then translate into your marketing and branding:
- Who do you think of when you think “small business competition”? Go to their website and look at the pictures; what’s the overall impression you get from the pictures? Who is the customer they portray? Write down one or two words or short phrases.
- As objectively as you can, now go to your own site and view the pictures. What story do your pictures tell about your business and your customers? If you don’t have pictures (fix that!), read customer testimonials you’ve received and look for oft-repeated words, phrases, or ideas. Write down what your pictures say about your business.
- Compare the two.
The differences are what makes you stand apart and are the reason your ideal customers and clients selected you. Your pictures tell a story, they tell readers how you are different. A client was stressing about new competition the other day, so I did this exercise. The pictures told me that these two businesses were night and day! The “competition” pictures were of individuals; my client’s pictures almost all had several of his customers in the picture, his customers were high-fiving, laughing, enjoying being with each other. Clearly, one of my client’s strengths is the community built amongst his customers.
Rather than reacting to your competitors’ messages, identify what separates you from them. By doing so, you will clarify your strengths and you will never suffer at the hands of so-called competition again.
– Helen Dutton, Business Coach
Americans are lining up to buy tickets for the Mega Millions lottery drawing tonight, estimated at $500 million. As in half a billion dollars. That’s a pretty big return for putting a dollar bill on a counter and asking for a ticket. I think most of us realize that winning is a LONG shot but all too often I hear of business owners looking for a big return without much more effort than buying a lottery ticket. When I look through e-mail campaigns I’ve received just this week, I could have been lured by these lottery-like promises to get rich “easily”:
I’ve done all the work for you….
…make fabulous money and be amazingly successful!
How to Make Your Business – and Yourself – Rich & Famous!!
I wish I could promise all of my clients similar results, but the fact is that your success depends in large part on you and your efforts. Business ownership is rarely easy, but when it’s done “right”, it is full of ease. Understanding your personal strengths (the ones you were born with and can’t help but BE and DO), defining your ideal customer so that you would recognize them on any street anywhere, and an incessant attention to your customers’ wants and needs takes some effort. With that clarity, though, your business and your success becomes simple, a matter of following the roadmap you’ve created.
If you’re tempted to buy in to one of these quick rich offers, ask yourself these question instead:
- What business growth opportunities exist for me right now?
- Can I describe my business’s strengths in 30 words or less?
- What action can I take this week to step up the attention I give to my customers?
Invest in your business ownership, and your livelihood, by adding clarity and focus. You may not get the same thrill as when you give the clerk a buck in exchange for the dream of $500,000,000, but I can promise a higher likely return. Winning the lottery is fun to think about, but with odds estimated at about one in 176 million according to lottery officials, I need to get back to work.
– Helen Dutton, Business Coach