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Holiday & Seasonal Marketing, Small Business Spotlight

Small Business Owners Share Holiday Excitement

Kabbage spoke with small business owners about the holidays. In this post, they discuss how they give back to their communities, what they’re looking most forward to and more! They also provide advice to those who are experiencing the winter holidays for the first time as a small business owner.

What are you looking forward to most during the upcoming season?

“This holiday season I am looking forward to selling at Knott’s Berry Farm, a local southern California theme park. This opportunity will allow us to allocate a portion of the sales to the production of blankets, bodysuits and pajamas that will be provided to babies in need.” – Rosie Arias, Whimsical Charm

“We look forward to outdoing ourselves year after year and seeing how the displays we create put smiles on people’s faces.” – Glenn Bridges, Christmas Decor by Bama Exterminating

“All of my clients take time off during the holiday season, so I look forward to taking that time off for myself, too, to spend time with family and friends, travel, bake and work on my business.” – Elizabeth Oldorff, Starr Oldorff Group

“We love the holiday season because we get to share unique art, crafts, gifts and apparel with the locals. We help them find something with a great story that helps them feel better connected to the original creator. We also have a Carlsbad Village window decorating contest that helps make everything here feel festive!” – Andreea Borcea, Clever Element

“This year has been a big year for the growth of our team and client base, so we’re looking forward to seeing everyone and celebrating together on our successes for the year. We reached over 100 team members this year, so we expect the holiday party at our office to be a great time both internally and externally for our customers in the area who celebrate with us.” – Julia Karnezis, TopSpot IMS

“As a marketer, I love all the opportunities to be creative with holiday campaigns. It always gives us a chance to better connect with our audiences and let a brand’s true personality and culture shine through to the consumers.” – Shauna Armitage, Making Moxie

“I am looking forward to the quiet after the holiday rush. Right after Black Friday, we experience a surge in customer queries and orders, which is great for business. However, it also means our team has to be dialed in and ready for the extra work. It’s not always easy, but the winter holiday season is a critical time for our business. Usually a week or so after Christmas, I can relax and enjoy time with my family without having to worry so much about work. It’s a rewarding feeling, similar to how I imagine a runner feels after a finishing a hard race.” – Bob Ellis, Massage Tables Now

“A well-deserved break! In the real estate industry, business is extremely busy from February through the beginning of November. When you’re managing your own business, you are on call all the time. It’s crunch time year round until the holidays! The holiday is a good time to kick-back, recharge and plan for the coming year.” – Lucas Machado, House Heroes

What marketing strategies would you give to small business owners who are new to holiday seasonal shopping?

“To small business owners who are new to this season, I say let your imagination soar. If you have an out of the box idea for promoting and selling your product, find the means to support it and move forward. Remember, marketing, advertising and selling can all fall into the same category. Combine your budgets for the season and make it happen.” – Rosie Arias, Whimsical Charm

“Be sure to provide excellent customer service. … One main reason for poor customer service is almost always lack of proper training. Smart businesses that truly care about dealing with the public and providing quality customer service invest in training programs.” – Nancy Friedman, Nancy Friedman

“We’re firm believers in digital marketing. While the type of business you have is heavily going to influence what specific strategies you use, having a widespread presence online is crucial to having a successful holiday season. Our best advice is to plan ahead and get as much set up as early as you can (email marketing, social media, etc.). Once the season picks up, you’ll be so busy, you’ll thank yourself for thinking ahead!” – Glenn Bridges, Christmas Decor by Bama Exterminating

“Take a moment to review the promotions, sales and offers you ran last year. What worked and what didn’t? By reviewing last year’s successes, you’ll have a better idea of what to keep offering (and vice versa) and fresh incentives you can advertise to your audience.” – Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation

“Try not to launch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. People are busy (and spending more money during this time) so your returns may be a bit less. Be extra supportive of your clients who are also busy. Plan ahead for any income that may be lost while your clients are taking much-needed R&R time.” – Elizabeth Oldorff, Starr Oldorff Group

“Marketing strategies for the holidays need to encourage customers to get into the holiday spirit. Exemplify the fun and togetherness that the holidays bring and make sure that you show them that you are their perfect holiday partner!” – Andreea Borcea, Clever Element

“Community over competition. Whether you are in the online space or focus primarily on serving your local community, you can find other businesses that also serve your audience. Reach out to them and team up! Offer something special together or simply support one another. This will create a sense of goodwill and give both brands the opportunity to increase their brand awareness by tapping into another relevant company’s audience.” – Shauna Armitage, Making Moxie

“Customers will always except better than average sales, so you’ll probably want to be in line with discounts others in your industry are doing. Doorbusters are pretty overdone. I’ve seen some small stores host little holiday parties or giveaways along with major sales. If you come up with something more unique or fun, you’ll stand out from the pack. Also, combining your sale promotion with a giving campaign can work well and be in line with the spirit of the season. Choose a charity and donate part of your sales.” – Sherry Holub, JVM Design

“The holiday season is ripe with opportunity for any business, especially small players. We all see it; holiday gift guides spread like wildfire in the final months of the year. Because everyone wants to find unique and interesting gifts that stand out, companies that make their business in small niche spaces actually have the advantage. Focus your pitches on these types of guides (whether general or more specialized in your product space). Otherwise, you’ll be too late. With some luck and hard work, even a relatively unknown product could see a huge spike in interest with just one spot on a high-profile guide.” – Harrison Doan, Saatva

“Update the company social media plan and website design to show holiday-themed content. Consumers visiting the company’s social profiles or website during the holidays may be ready to spend money on gifts or decorations. Having the right content could help finalize a purchase.  Also, as consumers visit a website, ensure that a Facebook Pixel is set and ready to help the company follow these consumers with relevant ads while they browse through Facebook and Instagram.” – Franco Aquino, REN Marketing

“A lot of bloggers feature holiday gift guides on their sites. Reaching out to them and pitching your product, or even offering a free sample, can be a great way to get your brand and products in front of the eyes of potential customers. This is a marketing strategy that is especially relevant to eCommerce businesses that sell items that are appropriate for giving to another person as a gift.” – Bob Ellis, Massage Tables Now

“One of my favorite marketing tactics to use during the holidays is sending our customers holiday cards thanking them for a great year from the whole team. It really doesn’t cost much to have and is a nice thing to do that will also help assure returning customers.” – David Laplante, Advanced HVAC

“A business owner who is now coming up to the holiday season needs to be aware of their clients’ needs. If you deal with the consumer, make it easy for them to get items wrapped. Make the checkout quick and simple. If you are in the food industry, come up with an up-sell line. ‘Want fries with that?’ made McDonald’s a fortune. If your business is in the tech world or financial, then you know your staff will be thinking about getting away. Work will slow down. So instead of trying to buck the system, make it work for you. Get staff on board with being givers of holiday spirit. Let the law of reciprocity do its thing.” – Kevin Huhn, Kevin Huhn

“Small transaction business can do great during the holidays. Restaurants, gift shops and even florists can have a flurry of activity. For those businesses, it’s a great time to dedicate more budget to advertising.” – Lucas Machado, House Heroes

How do you give back to the community during the holiday season?

“During the holiday season, Whimsical Charm collaborates with local nonprofits and local community members who focus on providing the less fortunate in underserved, low income and high poverty communities with the bare necessities.” – Rosie Arias, Whimsical Charm

“Before our holiday parties, we like to go caroling and drop off gifts at assisted living facilities in the area. It’s a great way to show holiday cheer and brighten up spirits of the residents there!” – Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation

“As a member of the national Christmas Decor franchise, we participate in the Decorated Family program every year. If we can find an eligible candidate, we decorate the home of a family with a member deployed in the military at no cost to them. It gives us a chance to thank military families for their sacrifices and bring a little joy to their holiday season. When a child has a parent overseas, it’s especially heartwarming to see their eyes light up and know that you’ve played a part in giving them a special Christmas!” – Glenn Bridges, Christmas Decor by Bama Exterminating

“We hold fundraisers celebrating local artists and musicians and giving back to local causes or local chapters of larger causes. Last year, our fundraiser was for One More Wave – a local ground that makes custom surf gear for veterans that have lost a limb. They’ve made amazing progress helping veterans overcome depression through getting back to a sport they love. This year, we’re focusing on The Alabaster Jar project which helps women coming out human trafficking or sex trade rebuild their lives. We often feature a few local artists and a local musician to play in the shop.” – Andreea Borcea, Clever Element

“Each year, we hold a holiday party at our office for our team members, their families and our clients. Each person that comes is encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to enter a raffle for fun prizes like Google Homes, Yeti Coolers, gift cards and more. With usually well over 100 people coming to the party, we collect a lot of toys to donate to children at a local shelter. This year is an important year for us as well since we are headquartered in Houston. We expect many of the toys that we donate will be going to children in need but also those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.” – Julia Karnezis, TopSpot IMS

“During the holidays, I usually ask someone to coordinate with some shelters. This is our way of giving back to the community. Sometimes, we will even have a small party in the office where employees can bring their loved ones. Before Christmas – maybe three days before – I have someone gather all of my employees and their families, and I invite them for milk and cookies. It’s small, but everyone is happy, and they all enjoy it.” – Jason Perkins, San Diego SEO Firm

How do you show your employees you’re thankful for them during this time?

“I show my employees that I am thankful for them during this time by occasionally surprising them with pastries they wouldn’t normally purchase for themselves, picking up the tab on a cup of coffee and treating them to dinner.” – Rosie Arias, Whimsical Charm

“We really appreciate the effort our employees put in throughout the year. To celebrate their hard work, we give them time off, have a luncheon, and give them bonuses.” – Glenn Bridges, Christmas Decor by Bama Exterminating

“Appreciation goes a long way in relationships. I like to send small, personalized gifts at the end of the year. Things that I know that they like. And chocolates tend to be a hit! There’s usually someone in their family who loves to tear into a box of high-end chocolates!” – Elizabeth Oldorff, Starr Oldorff Group

“Aside from the annual holiday party and our white elephant gift exchange, we turn December into the ‘Magical Month at MyCorp.’ All throughout those 31 days, we celebrate the season with fun games and activities that everyone can participate in that include everything from an igloo building competition (using marshmallows and frosting) to pin the carrot nose on the snowman. It engages the whole team, is relatively inexpensive, gets everyone excited and engaged; plus it’s fun to share via social media!” – Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation

“All our employees have a lot of influence on both our day-to-day operations and our larger strategic objectives. They help plan and execute the window decorating contest, they offer up ideas to make our customers feel more appreciated and welcome. Their opinions and input are very important. Every holiday season we ensure that everyone on our team feels the gratitude of the rest of the team for contributing. We have a small holiday party where we share fun personal stories over a fun family-style potluck.” – Andreea Borcea, Clever Element

“We hold a big office party for our team members and their families. We provide refreshments and food and a lot of fun. Team members always have a great time mingling, playing games and taking advantage of a photo booth. There’s also the chance to win cool prizes in our raffle if they brought an unwrapped toy. Team members also receive a holiday bonus.” – Julia Karnezis, TopSpot IMS

“Provide incentives over the Christmas period, whether this takes the form of early leave on a Friday, arranging a paid lunch, a Christmas bake-off or, even better, a giving staff a festive bonus. The more incentives you give staff, the more willing they are to work their hardest, and not let the distractions that come with Christmas get in the way of their productivity.” – Steve Pritchard, Cuuver

“Make it personal. No one is going to scoff at an Amazon gift card from their boss, but the holidays are a great time to show your employees that you see who they are and that you appreciate them. Does your secretary have a passion for chocolate? Get her some specialty treats from a local small business. Is your partner a fitness fanatic? Get her some awesome lifting t-shirts. The smallest gift or gesture means the most when it comes from the heart.” – Shauna Armitage, Making Moxie

“We try to let everyone know we’re thankful year-round, but we also do holiday bonuses. And in addition to our own team members, we also show our clients we’re thankful for them at this time too.” – Sherry Holub, JVM Design 

“Whether you’re a local or a global business, a great way to show employees you’re thankful for them during the holidays is to allow employees time off (paid if you can swing it) to volunteer for their favorite nonprofits. This small action can show employees that you are invested in them as well as the causes that they support. Additionally, giving workers this extra time to spend participating in activities that nourish their spirit shows your compassion for them as individuals and for your shared global community.” – Matt Bentley, CanIRank

“We close the week of Christmas and New Year’s Day. Each of our employees gets a paid week off as a year-end bonus. We want our employees to be able to relax and enjoy time their family and friends. It’s an opportunity for everyone to take a break, reflect on the past year, and develop a fresh outlook for the coming season.” – Earl Choate, Concrete Camouflage

“There’s nothing like some cash in your stocking! During the holiday season, we pay out bonuses to our team. This keeps everyone motivated throughout the year, knowing a nice payday will come in the end. I also host a December holiday dinner for my staff members, with children and significant others welcome. It builds camaraderie among co-workers and the ‘teamwork’ spirit that makes it a joy to come to work.” – Lucas Machado, House Heroes

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Kabbage Team

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