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This holiday season, there's a movement afoot to support the small business community.

Large retailers have always counted on Black Friday to turn their books from red to black and online retailers have Cyber Monday to cash in afterward.

And this year, American Express OPEN has launched Small Business Saturday (November 27) to help drive "shop till you drop" consumers to local small businesses. Check it out... you could easily get your hands on $100 of Facebook Ads credit.

Face it: as a small business, you probably won't be able to beat Wal-Mart or Best Buy low-price bargain HDTVs and Xbox Kinects Friday morning. But consider that big-box retailers typically don't have your service or expertise.

So how can a small business get the upper hand on these three monumental shopping days? I'll share nine solid marketing tips to help you cash in and remain highly competitive throughout the holiday season.

1. Differentiate your marketing

Understand that as the holiday shopping season goes full throttle, so do the marketing messages prospects receive. Make your message clear, understandable, and to the point. That means shorter emails, fewer emails, and emails that are more effective.

Add a complimentary channel to your mix by marketing a special offer via postcard. It's different from email and results in a favorable response from your contacts.

2. Offer extended support and service

This point is important. People are sometimes impulsive and need to be reassured about their purchase. Most big-box sales are final, with very few exceptions for refunds.

You could instill more trust in your prospects by having a favorable guarantee policy. Perhaps your product requires support—offer extended or premium support. The name of the game is to bundle it with your service, not twist their arms when they purchase.

3. Reward your most rewarding customers

It sounds simple, but with bargain email marketing solutions, it's more difficult to accomplish. Leverage your CRM (customer relationship management) software to find your most active customers and send them an attractive, tailored offer, like special pricing, free shipping, gift with purchase, or product upgrades. Similarly, you can reward customers who spend a certain amount with credit toward their next purchase.

4. Lay the bait and offer it to who responds

What I mean is this: Let your contacts know that you will have a special deal for them, but they have to let you know they are interested by clicking a link. This approach not only shows you who is responsive on your list but also allows you to better target your special offer to those who are genuinely interested in it.

Feeling brave? Make the offer available to the first 50 people who click the link—then work with only those 50 people directly. It might feel uncomfortable because you're not emailing the same offer to your entire list, but you'll have better conversion and your customers will be impressed with how customized and personal your message and offer are to their interests.

5. Double-down on pay-per-click (PPC) ads

People are definitely going on Facebook during the holidays. Double-down on your investment and go big with an attractive campaign that people want to share with their friends.

Google is also a huge asset as people look almost instinctively for the best possible deal for products. Use targeted phrases, including "Black Friday," to nail this target searcher.

6. Follow up!

Simply because someone didn't purchase your special offer doesn't mean that person wasn't interested that time. Invite them to sign up to discuss your offering later. Offering a helpful guide that addresses the needs of your customers in your industry would be a great method to start. Following up with customers is just as important as prospects. Let them know you appreciate their business and start building even more trust from there.

7. Hunt down bargains for your contacts

No matter what industry you're in, there are sure to be some great deals that you simply can't offer that someone else can. Advocate for your audience and let them know where there's a special deal. It could be on electronics or even floor jacks; if you know your audience, you are in a much better position to share deals that matter to them. is a good source to check out the bargains happening during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

8. Be active in social media

Savvy shoppers will ask their friends on Twitter and Facebook for the best deals. Don't you want to be a part of that conversation? Let your audience be aware of your specials for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday by using those in hashtags on Twitter (#blackfriday, #cybermonday, and #smallbusinesssaturday).

Perhaps you have a killer Facebook deal; you could ask fans to Like your Facebook Page to reveal a special offer. Apps like Wildfire or Bulbstorm make doing so easier for businesses to manage.

It's not just about making sales. It's a good time to monetize your social media audience by offering something they like.

9. Provide premium digital goods to complement your product and service

With the advent of digital goods, you should be able to leverage the ability to package a ton of digital resources with others effortlessly. Bundling a useful training guide, free videos, or cheat-sheet to mastering a skill or area of your product can be a lifesaver to new customers. Help them out and help them trust your expertise.

* * *

These suggestions are ways to enable a business of any size to compete against the bigger dogs. And the beauty of it all is that they require virtually no additional budget to execute well. The name of the game is personalization and relevance based on previous buying (or prospecting) activity.

Continue reading "Nine Marketing Tips for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday" ... Read the full article

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image of Joe Manna

Joe Manna is senior content strategist for Infusionsoft, provider of sales and marketing software for small business. He oversees corporate blog strategy, blogger relations, and Web analytics, in addition to contributing to the Infusionsoft blog.

Twitter: @joemanna

LinkedIn: Joseph Manna

MarketingProfs Partner