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Marketing, Sales

Turn January from Slow Time to Go Time

Turn January from Slow Time to Go Time
The holiday decorations have been boxed up and put away, and the droves of shoppers are nowhere to be found. The first few weeks of the year are often a gloomy time for small business owners. But your business doesn’t necessarily have to suffer a post-holiday shopping hangover if you take a few proactive steps.

Whether you had a banner holiday season or you were a little disappointed after adding up the receipts, this time can be used wisely to jump-start sales.  Are you ready to hit the ground running in 2014? Here are a few ideas to combat a potential sales slump and to help you make the most of this notoriously slow time of the year.
Don’t Assume Sales Will Drop
Yes, sales historically decline for almost all retailers in January. And because of this, a full-scale sales drop-off becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for many small business owners. Being sluggish about marketing is a surefire way to see a slowdown. Don’t let this happen to you!

By being the retailer who is enthusiastic about January, you can set yourself apart from the others and capture the business that is still there to be had. Often, you can find discounts on advertising space and on other marketing opportunities for your business in January when everyone is experiencing a slowdown. Take advantage of the month, and you might score some good deals to promote your business and a few new customers, too!
Focus Your Message
The holidays are all about buying gifts for others.  Yet this isn’t the case come January when shoppers are more about purchasing items with a personal focus. After months of giving to others, who doesn’t want to spend a little on themselves?

With that in mind, small businesses can focus their marketing on two specific areas. First, many shoppers will spend gift cards they’ve received during the holidays. Why not encourage gift card holders to purchase more by introducing them to new products or promotions that you’re offering? This can be done in person or via email blast.

Is your mailing list not quite up to par? Make sure to encourage these shoppers to sign up to get more “specials.” This strategy can help you sell more not just in January but actually all year long!

There will also be customers who are in New Year’s resolution mode. They will be committed to self-improvement as well as products and services that will help them achieve their goals. Do you offer anything that could fit into this category? If so, you’ll want to put these in front of your customers.
Cater to Target Audiences
Many small business owners make the mistake of making their marketing efforts too general. A one-size-fits-all approach can dilute your message to the point of it not being impactful or interesting.

Consider why your customers choose your business and what they really want from it. Your marketing content should meet their needs. This can include targeted email campaigns, social media messages, and even advertising that can be strategically placed in publications that they read.

It is well worth your time and effort to identify several target groups who frequent your business. An example of this would be a bookstore owner who finds that a high concentration of mystery readers buy from them. Or maybe it’s a printer who gets a large amount of business from churches or a reseller of children’s clothes who discovers that most of their shoppers are grandparents who reside within a certain zip code.

Are you not exactly clear who makes up your target audiences? Start with a careful review of your mailing list. You’ll probably get some valuable clues from that in terms of location of your customers, gender, and maybe even income level.

A great way to learn even more about your customers is to get them to complete a survey. Of course, you’ll want to reward them with a freebie or a special offer for their time, but the information you receive from them can be worth its weight in gold as you plan out your marketing strategies and develop your content.

Tip: Do you have a blog? Writing blog posts specifically for targeted demographic groups will pique the interest of specific audiences, and they will naturally contain keywords that these groups are looking for on search engines. This means more traffic to your site!
Increase Social Media Engagement
If you’re already experiencing a winter drop-off, don’t waste your time twiddling your thumbs. This lull can be a tremendous opportunity to reach new prospects online. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are a good place to start. But don’t hesitate to try out other channels like Instagram and Pinterest if you know that these sites are places where your target audiences like to congregate online. Here are some ideas for ramping up your efforts on Facebook that you may want to utilize.

To maximize your social media results, be creative to stand out from the crowd. Share photos of your team, your products, and your inspirations. Consider advertising opportunities on social media if your marketing budget allows, and experiment with contests and giveaways to increase engagement.

Social media should be considered a vital component of your business whether you have a brick-and-mortar establishment or an eCommerce site. Focus the bulk of your energy on the social media channels that matter the most to your customers, but take some time to promote up-and-coming communities on other sites.

Social media management requires patience and diligence. Start by blocking off a set amount of time each day for it even if it’s only 15 minutes. Create fresh posts, promote your blog, share content from your influencers, and try your best to keep it lively and engaging. And of course, don’t forget to thank your customers and answer their questions promptly.

Plan an Event
With the holiday parties over, your customers’ schedules have probably opened up at least a little. Now is a smart time to schedule a post-holiday open house or sales event. An evening of wine and hors d’oeuvres is one option and a great way to spend some quality time with your most valued customers. But there are countless other event options. From an early morning in-store yoga class to a buy one, get one free lunch hour special, create an event that makes sense for what you sell and what your customers will appreciate.

Do you sell exclusively online? You can still host an event. Why not schedule a Twitter party or a webinar promoted via email blast? The key is to gather a captive audience and provide them with something of value so that you can stay on their minds front and center!
Measure Your Results
There isn’t any point to marketing if you’re not going to measure the results. This time of year you will want to determine your return on investment for each marketing campaign you tackle as well as closely monitoring sales for the month and quarter. You might just be surprised to find that sales are not particularly bad in January, and a little extra marketing can make them even better. With less “noise” from other retailers, you will probably discover your marketing to be more impactful than at other times of the year.

The weather is less than ideal in most of the country, and the news reports may indicate that consumers aren’t interested in buying. However, this shouldn’t discourage you from keeping a positive attitude about the post-holiday season. Many businesses are very successful this time of the year, and they are usually those that tune out the negativity and stay focused on their opportunities.

Are you ready to kick off 2014 with a tremendous first quarter? Share with us some other ideas you have to combat the post-holiday slowdown.