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There is no denying that the holiday shopping season is important to retailers. You can and should market your business year-round, but what you do in the months and weeks leading up to the holidays can make a huge difference in your sales for the entire year.

One mistake a lot of small businesses make is focusing their marketing efforts on those few months instead of making an effort to engage with their customers on an ongoing basis. Here are some ideas you can use to boost your holiday sales.

1. Make full use of your social media accounts. In spite of the fact that a huge percentage of shoppers follow brands on Facebook, small businesses are lagging behind in using social media to promote themselves. Using social media effectively gives you a way to connect with your customers on a regular basis. For example, you can use social media to announce the arrival of new products in your store. Offering special deals to your social media followers is another good way to boost sales.

2. Don’t forget mobile advertising.  Text messages have a much higher open rate than emails do, and using them can be a great and inexpensive way to encourage customers to visit your store. For example, you can send mobile customers a coupon code that they can only redeem in your store. Even people who don’t have access to a computer often have a mobile device, so you can reach a wider audience with mobile marketing than you can with internet marketing only.

3. Make and post videos. Video content is always popular. In fact, YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine behind Google. There are plenty of ways to use videos to promote holiday shopping in particular. For example, you could demo a new product or film yourself unboxing a product. You could also offer customers a behind-the-scenes look at how your products are made.

4. Consider paid social media advertising, too. When you advertise on Google, you end up paying based on how much competition there is for your chosen keywords. Social media advertising is affordable and easy to manage. For example, Facebook advertising gives you access to demographic information (such as age, gender, and geographical locations) and psychographic information (hobbies and interests.) What that means is that you can target your ads to the people who are most likely to be in the market for what you are selling. It is also very easy to budget for social media marketing. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites let you set a per-day budget so you can always know in advance how much you will be spending.

5. Make the payment process as easy as possible. That means if you have an online store, you need to give people the option of paying with a credit card or PayPal. You should also seriously consider enabling mobile payments so people can make purchases on their cell phones.

6. Use local advertising to get patrons to come to your store.  Local newspapers and radio shows are a good (and often low-cost) way to connect with customers. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because someone is local, they know who you are.

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7. Consider pairing up with other local businesses to offer special deals and promotions. For example, the owner of a clothing store might pair up with the owner of a shoe store to cross-promote their businesses when people come in shopping for gifts. You can do anything from displaying ads and telling customers about your partner’s store, to offering cross-promotions and package deals. The one thing to keep in mind is that it’s best to pair up with businesses that offer products or services complementary to yours.

8. In the months leading up to the holidays, create holiday gift guides and make them available in your store and online. Some people have a knack for picking out gifts for the people in their lives, but others might need a bit of help. You can do separate guides to help people shop for teachers, relatives, significant others, and children. Even if your product might not seem to lend itself to this kind of promotion, you may be able to get creative and come up with something special. For example, a discount membership or service – even if it’s one that’s more suited to the summer – could convince people to give your product as a gift.

9. Don’t forget about Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  As the owner of a small business, you might think that it’s pointless to try to compete with big retailers and the kinds of deals they offer on Black Friday. The good news is that you don’t have to offer the same kinds of deals they are offering – and you don’t have to go in to work on Thanksgiving Day, either. There are plenty of customers who make a point of patronizing small and local business for their holiday shopping, so why not give them an excuse to shop at your store? You don’t have to open in the middle of the night, but you should consider expanding your store hours to make shopping more convenient for customers. There is research that suggests customers are more likely to respond to a sale that offers them a percentage off everything in the store instead of on selected items, so think about that too. And if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar store, you don’t have to be left out. You can still participate. A lot of online retailers offer special deals on Cyber Monday – that’s the Monday after Thanksgiving. Whatever you decide to do, you can promote it on your social media pages and using local and mobile advertising.

10. Find new ways to promote products. A lot of products have multiple uses, and demonstrating them for customers can be a good way to boost sales. For example, if you own an apparel store you might think about showing customers different ways to wear a basic item of clothing. The more versatile you make an item seem, the more value customers will attach to it.

You need to market your business on a year-round basis, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t – and shouldn’t – make a special effort to boost your holiday sales. A lot of people start their holiday shopping in November, or even October. If you make full use of the resources available to you and give customers a reason to visit your store, you will increase the chances that they will do their holiday shopping with you. And the efforts you make to promote your business now will make a difference with shoppers who wait until the last minute, too.  

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