Seven December Marketing Ideas for Your Business

Christmas gifts in vintage style

Looking to give your year-end sales a boost this holiday season? Want to create a captivating, seasonal marketing campaign that’s both fun and effective?

Here’s seven simple ways to market your business this December:

Deck the Halls

Whether you have a retail outlet, an office space, or an industrial location, a little time and effort spent decorating your space can help make your business more noticeable, and more inviting. With just a few sprigs of evergreen branches, a couple strands of garland and some colorful LED lights, you can easily add a welcoming, festive vibe to your shop, office, or store.

Be Charitable


Consider partnering with a local charity this year to create a campaign that benefits people in your community.

Contact your local toy bank, children’s hospital, or other non-profit group of your choice to discuss how your business can help. For example, you could run a promotion that gives customers a discount off a product or service in exchange for an unwrapped toy to be donated to a non-profit, or food items that can be given to a food bank.

Print Calendars

Despite the wide-spread use of smart phones and other tech gadgets, many people still love to use a simple, old-fashioned calendar to keep track of their day-to-day appointments.

A customized calendar that’s branded with your business name and logo makes the perfect customer appreciation gift at this time of year and it’s a great way to keep your company front-and-center for your clients throughout the year.

Decorate Your Social Media Pages


If you maintain a Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts for your business, it’s easy to decorate your pages with holiday-themed backgrounds, fonts and photos. You can even update your pages with a new design each day to keep your audience engaged!

Offer Holiday Promotions

Regardless of what type of business you operate, chances are good that your customers and clients will expect to get a deal during the holiday season.

Consider offering a promotion on gift cards (such as buy a $100 card, get 10% off your next purchase), and look for ways to encourage your customers to come back to your business in the new year by creating time-limited deals that are good in the month of January.

Send Real Greeting Cards


Although ‘snail mail’ is on the decline, people still love to receive cards in their mailboxes – after all, a card is better than a bill!

If your company has a mailing list of loyal customers, why not take the time to mail out a personalized, hand-signed greeting card to each one? Sure, it can be a bit time-consuming, but with all the e-mails and digital marketing materials flooding consumers these days, a traditional, old-school holiday card is sure to make a positive impression on the recipient.

Host A Holiday Social

Everyone loves a great party, right?

This year, consider creating a holiday-themed open house as a thank-you to your neighbors, customers, and fellow business owners. Make sure to serve up lots of finger foods and non-alcoholic drinks, and if possible, source your supplies from another local business.

When it comes to making the most of the holiday season, it’s easy to make your business stand out with just a little bit of effort and some creative marketing efforts!

Enjoy your holidays, and have a safe and Happy New Year!


Holiday Weekend Statistics Infographic

Thanksgiving weekend is just over a week away! BBB has compiled statistics for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday in the infographic below.

Which statistic(s) stands out to you the most? Let us know in the comments section!


Thanksgiving on a Budget


Are you dreaming of a giant and succulent turkey, buttery rolls, mashed potatoes swimming in gravy and warm belly filling stuffing?

Thanksgiving is just weeks away and while you may still be knee deep in Halloween candy, it’s never too early to begin planning out your holiday menu. That includes figuring out how much you’re willing to spend on Turkey Day.

On average, Americans spend $2,875,000 on Thanksgiving dinner food each year. That’s according to Statistic Brain, which also shows that amount to be an estimated $56.18 per household. That’s a lot of food and if you’re already tightening your belts for the upcoming gift-centered holidays it might be causing you a bit of stress.

To help families have a frugal but fun Turkey Day, we offer 5 Tips for celebrating Thanksgiving on a Budget:

Plan the Menu, Stick to the Budget

This may seem obvious, but it really is the most important tip out there. You need to know how much money you want to spend and what you want to spend it on. You also need to know how many people you will be cooking for. If you can only afford a 10lb turkey, but are set to feed a dozen or so people you may need to rethink the rest of the menu.

That’s where our next tip comes in…

Make it a Potluck

Who says you have to do all the cooking by yourself? Enlist friends and family to help put the meal together. If you are playing host, offer to provide the turkey and drinks and then let everyone else fill in the rest. Not only does this help with the last-minute cooking stress, but it ensures that everyone will have at least one thing they like to eat at the gathering.

Bake from scratch


It might feel like a hassle to spend the hours in the kitchen making pumpkin pie from scratch, but it is a cheaper alternative to buying the pie. You likely already have many of the ingredients sitting in your pantry, which instantly saves you on cost. Desserts are perfect dishes to get out of the way a day or two before Thanksgiving as many taste just as good —if not better —the next day.

Shop Second Hand

Don’t fret if you’re hosting for the first time and don’t have fancy chinaware to serve your holiday meal on. There is an easy way to host an appealing and cheap dinner party without resorting to paper plates. Consider doing your shopping at Goodwill or another second hand store. You may luck out and come across a complete dinnerware set that looks like it has been in in the family for years —in a charming way. If you can’t find a complete set, consider mix-matching pieces to create a Bohemian theme for your Thanksgiving dinner.

And this brings us to our next tip…

Natural Décor


Professionally done holiday décor and floral arrangements are a perfect way to capture the spirit of the season. But if you can’t quite afford the linen tablecloths or season-appropriate flower centerpieces, there are other options. Decorating with gourds and pumpkins is inexpensive and easy, but you can do more if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and pull out the glue gun. Try going for a woodsy theme by bringing in twigs, branches and fall leaves from outside. Decorate them with glitter spray or beads for a whimsical look to keep the autumn theme going. Forgo tablecloths for runners by cutting a strip of burlap to give the table a rustic look. And you can never go wrong with mason jars filled with wildflowers or berry branches.

Need help creating a personal budget or want more financial assistance? Visit BBB’S Financial Building Blocks page to learn more.

How to Find and Hire the Best Seasonal Employees


As the holidays approach, the need to hire additional help becomes a key concern with many business owners. Yet, despite the importance, it’s just as vital to take your time to find qualified, reliable employees. Many businesses rush hiring and end up regretting their haste. How can you find the best seasonal employees when you need help in a hurry? Here are tips from experts in seasonal hiring.

Ask Current Employees or Customers for Recommendations

Ask your current employees if they know anyone looking for part-time seasonal work. Employees often have friends or family members who they’ll happily refer. Another good way to find employees is by asking your repeat customers if they’re interested in working part-time. They already know your business and merchandise or service requirements. Many will be thrilled at the chance of gaining an employee discount, if your business offers one.

Once you have names, you can interview them to see if you feel they’re a good fit. While asking around, you may also find some of your part-time employees who are happy to take on additional hours to earn more for their own holiday spending.

Start the Process Early


It is essential for stores, restaurants and companies in need of additional workers to start early. Experts recommend starting your search for seasonal employees in September. Still, you should always be on the lookout for new hires —especially in businesses where employee turnover is high.

As you find quality staff members, keep a list of them when you have to release them due to seasonal employment fluctuations. By keeping a list of temporary workers you can call on to fill in spots during your busy season, you’ll always have qualified workers in mind. Having workers who are already trained saves you time as well.

Hold Prescreenings Before Scheduling Interviews

The number of applications you receive may seem overwhelming, but you can narrow the selection down with prescreening questionnaires. Some internet hiring sites allow you to set up quick questionnaires to help weed out undesirable or unskilled applicants. If you specifically need staff with experience or a specific level of education, ask prescreening questions about their experience, past work history and educational background.

As you narrow down potential employees, start the interview process. Remember that interviewees are nervous. If you take time and build a rapport before diving into interview questions, you’ll get a better feel for the applicant’s personality.

Eye Retirees and College Students


College students tend to get their winter break from Thanksgiving through mid-January. They’re looking for work when they return home for the holidays. Look to college students who are moving back to town for the two-month period. They’re often exceptional seasonal employees, as they simply want the short-term job and don’t have expectations beyond that. If they work out, you can always add them to a list for summer employment or fill-in opportunities.

The same is true of retirees. Many want to get out of the house and earn a little extra income, but they don’t want to be tied down to a permanent work schedule. Look for retirees who spend winters in one state and summers in another for great opportunities at finding workers who do not expect the job to extend past the holiday season.

Don’t Think in Terms of Seasonal

Find the best seasonal workers by applying the same hiring criteria you use for full-time employees. Your company needs great representatives, and not those who are simply there for a paycheck. If you look for the same qualities your full-time staff have, you’ll get workers who draw sales, attract repeat customers and make regulars feel appreciated.

As long as you start early and take time to get to know applicants, you’ll find great workers for your seasonal employment opportunities. When you find great employees, keep a list for the months to come. That handy list becomes a goldmine for avoiding employment searches in the future.

Naughty List No More! The Last Minute Shopper Is in Good Company

Written by Michelle Shaffer, BBB Oregon Regional Manager

Last Minute Shopping Blog

I am a last minute holiday shopper. If you are like me, you might have received recommendations for a good twelve step program after such an admission. “I haven’t done my holiday shopping yet” is a statement often met with a gasp if it’s already mid-December, followed by a guilt trip. One friend, and fellow late shopper, came to me, head hung in shame, after her neighbor boasted that every gift was purchased before Thanksgiving and the dough for her homemade holiday cookies was already prepared. Though your neighbors may subtly and not so subtly deem your delayed shopping behavior as deplorable, I urge you not to feel bad. First, you are not alone. (Really this isn’t a 12 step program in disguise) In fact, as of December 15th only 10 percent of holiday shoppers (22.6 million people) said they were finished, according to the National Retail Federation. That means 90 percent of holiday shoppers still have holiday items to buy. You no longer need to feel that this practice of waiting to shop is an affliction or that you are Scrooge. Retailers are actually responding with greater accommodations for this population of last minute shoppers with everything from greater discounts on merchandise late in the season, to staying open 24 hours a day through Christmas Eve, as is the case with Kohl’s this year. With perks like these, more and more consumers are wondering what the early holiday rush is all about. Here are some benefits to not getting the shopping done early:

  1. Stay Home. With cyber sales surpassing in-store sales in recent years, it’s clear that consumers aren’t in a rush to go Retailers are responding to our desire to avoid the store crowds by offering free, and same day shipping. Some online retailers like Amazon are providing free, same day shipping as late as December 24th.
  2. Less Stress. For those who are overwhelmed by options, late holiday shopping can be a solution. If time is of the essence, purchasing decisions have to be made rather quickly.  This can be a no brainer if you know the recipient well, but even if you don’t, the holidays are a perfect season for a quick, gift-worthy find.  Basic items are packaged in holiday flair that requires no additional wrapping!  Even a canister of nuts is made more attractive this time of year!  If you have multiple people to buy for, one stop shopping at stores like Target, allows you to focus your efforts in one place rather than traveling from store to store.
  3. No Buyers Remorse. When shopping early, there’s the potential an item you declined to purchase, due to price, will see a price slash later in December. Many retailers have adjusted inventory so items are not sold out before Christmas like consumers experienced years ago. Waiting until later to shop offers the peace of mind that there is little other option at this point; there’s no thinking ‘something better might come along’.
  4. Save Money. Many retailers are not retracting deals that were advertised much earlier in the season. Some early bird shoppers admit, the continuing holiday deals keep them spending, purchasing more merchandise weeks after they crossed the last name off their shopping list!

Eager to please retailers catering to later shoppers suggest the tradition is catching on. The day is coming when consumers will proudly proclaim “I will be doing my holiday shopping later” rather than sheepishly confessing “I haven’t started shopping yet.” Adjectives describing the late shopper may even change from “lazy” and “neglectful” to “patient” and “contentious.” Why not start today? No additional corrective steps necessary.

Be Safe When You Shop for the Holidays!

Written by Mary Lou Boles, Programs Assistant

The holidays are typically a joyful time of the year but unfortunately, there will always be thieves that try to take advantage of innocent shoppers during the holiday season.  One of my friends placed her holiday gift purchases in the back seat of her car, leaving them completely visible to anyone that walked by. She didn’t think that someone would be horrible enough to break in to her car and steal her gifts while she was out having dinner with her family. She came back to her car and saw that her rear window had been smashed and all of her purchases were gone. Don’t let this happen to you – here are some safety tips from your BBB to prevent con artists from making you their next victim:

  • Shop during the daylight hours whenever possible. If you must shop at night, go with a friend or family member.
  • Avoid carrying an excessive amount of bags so that you can stay alert to your surroundings. Thieves tend to go after people that look like they are not paying attention to what is happening around them.
  • Be extra cautious when carrying a wallet or purse. Crowded shopping areas make it very easy for thieves to reach into pockets and bags.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. If you must carry cash, keep it in your front pocket. If possible, try to pay for purchases with a debit or credit card.
  • Always store your purchases in the trunk of your car so they are not visible to anyone that can see inside. Also, make sure that your car is always locked to prevent thieves from accessing your belongings.
  • Be wary of strangers that approach you while you are shopping. Criminals often work in pairs – one person distracts you while the other tries to steal from you while you are distracted.

Remember these tips when you are out shopping so that you have a safe and wonderful holiday season!

Can Black Friday Really Save You Money?

Over the years the “biggest shopping day” of the year has evolved into the “biggest shopping weekend” of the year; more recently the seven days around Thanksgiving are now deemed “Deal Week”. Retailers are capitalizing on Black Friday as a concept instead of an actual day. These Black Friday deals can be had, it seems, any day of the week, and for weeks prior to the actual date itself. So did those that still camp under dark skies in front of department store entrances on Thanksgiving night not get the tweet?  People are now getting holiday shopping done long before Thanksgiving Day and at holiday discount prices. Is there really any reward for those still facing crowds in malls across America on Black Friday?

Black Friday

Apparently yes. According to Bankrate, the global financial services company, steep discounts can be found on Black Friday but typically on lesser quality models of merchandise.[i] This year, as in years past, electronics, the lead bait of several retailers, are expected to have huge discounts on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but on lesser models; high end electronics will see further discounts but not of the “doorbuster” variety their lower end counterparts will have.

Despite the National Retail Federation’s definition of the holiday shopping season as November and December (61 days), the biggest shopping day remains Black Friday, according to ShopperTrak, a business which tracks consumer foot traffic in malls. A quarter of the US population will be spending money on Black Friday in stores and online. With numbers like these, retailers will deliver steep discounts to keep consumers enticed and spending. The heavily discounted merchandise expected to lure holiday shoppers include tablets, TVs, DVDs and video games, cookware and kitchen gadgets, as well as household appliances both large and small (think washers/dryers and vacuum cleaners, especially refurbished models). Reeled in by steep discounts on big ticket items, shoppers can then expect to find themselves surrounded by merchandise that didn’t sell well earlier in the year – now heavily discounted. Retailers are banking on consumers walking away with merchandise even if its merchandise they wouldn’t have bought months ago. The commitment to Black Friday shopping almost requires money be spent to feel the experience it was worth it, by the consumer. These items may be marked so low that they are hard to turn down, but this is what retailers want. Black Friday on average makes up 20% of retailers entire annual revenue, for some businesses Black Friday sales are as much as 30% of their annual revenue.[ii] Retailers want people in the door this day, and great deals are what accomplishes that. It’s the most competitive shopping day of the year, not only for consumers but for retailers as well; price matching anyone?

Let’s face it, some simply love the sport of Black Friday shopping. After all, shouting matches and fistfights have become synonymous to Black (and Blue) Friday just as 7 layer dip is to Super Bowl. They go hand in hand. And of course there are the hours of holiday cocktail party storytelling these incidents provide were you ‘lucky’ enough to witness the altercations that a combination of sleep deprivation, limited merchandise and a massive crowd are sure to provide. Happy shopping!




10 Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Shopping

The holidays mean family, friends, parties and shopping. The more friends and relatives you have, the more shopping you are required to do. Not only do you have gift shopping to worry about, but there is also all of the shopping you have to do for the parties, dinners and other events you will be attending and hosting.

Holiday Shopping Blog
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at

The bottom line is that shopping is a big part of the holiday experience, and many people get stressed when it comes to holiday shopping. But there are several things you can do that will take the edge off your holiday shopping, and let you get back to enjoying the season with the people you love.

Get Organized

If you start your holiday shopping without lists of what you need to buy and for whom, then you are asking for trouble. Get on your computer, or grab a pen and a pad of paper, and make shopping lists for everything from gifts to Christmas dinner. When you start your shopping, all you need to do is satisfy your lists, and you are done.

Don’t Wait

Many of the most efficient holiday shoppers are usually done with their shopping before the holiday season even begins. These are the people who check online for great deals, and who spend a lot of time in stores comparing prices. Even if you don’t have the time to shop all year round, you can still get a jump start on the holiday season by starting your shopping in September and getting done before Halloween arrives.

Utilize the Internet

The ability of the Internet to reduce holiday shopping stress cannot be overstated. Some retail websites will have holiday promotions during the summer that offer prices better than you would find on Black Friday. There are plenty of apps you can use (and Internet programs that can be used on your desktop computer) that will let you know when the products you want are at their lowest price points. You should utilize these resources and save yourself a lot of money and time.

Develop Some Black Friday Tactics

When it comes to holiday shopping, avoiding Black Friday could turn out to be a mistake. Instead of getting crushed by the crowds in the retail stores, you should try to use some smart tactics to get the great deals without the stress. For example, try visiting major department stores in smaller towns to avoid the huge crowds. Some of those smaller stores still have Black Friday inventory later in the morning, so you can use those rural stores to sleep in and still get great deals.

Don’t Forget Cyber Monday

The Monday after Black Friday is known as Cyber Monday because many of the larger online retailers put up special deals that morning. Since Cyber Monday does not require you to find a parking spot or beat any crowds, you should consider teaming up with someone to expand your resources and take advantage of as many deals as possible.

Make Gifts

If you are a handy person who is good at arts and crafts, then consider making some of the gifts you will give away this holiday season. Some people enjoy good handmade gifts, and you can save a lot of time and money by being able to make your own presents.

Always Be Shopping

When you are out and about, you should always have your holiday shopping in mind. You can even carry your gift list with you and make a note when you see something in a store that you think a friend or relative would like. Window shopping throughout the year gives you specific items to look up when you start your holiday shopping, and can make the entire process much easier.

Make A Budget and Stick To It

A big source of stress for holiday shopping is spending money you do not have. If you have the option of starting a Christmas club at your job or your bank, then do so and put a little money away each week for holiday shopping. When it comes time to start buying for those lists you have, stick to the budget you have created and reduce your stress.

Spread Out Your Shopping

A large majority of holiday shopping stress comes when people try to do all of their shopping in one day. If you start early enough, then you have plenty of time to spread your shopping out and keep the stress level down.

Avoid the Traffic

If you want to avoid stress during holiday shopping, then do your shopping when the traffic is at its lightest. Weekday afternoons and weekend evenings are usually the best times to shop and avoid the traffic.

If you have the right plan, then holiday shopping can be fun instead of stressful. Take the time to be prepared, and don’t let the holidays get the best of you.

End the Year on a Good Note

2015loadingReposted from my column in the Portland Business Tribune.

The year is winding down, and the holidays are upon us.

The remaining days of your 2014 calendar are likely filled with parties, dinners and family gatherings. It’s time to put business on the back burner and spend some quality time with loved ones. You deserve a break!

If you are planning to switch off from your business around the end of December, you’ll need to do a little planning ahead to ensure you don’t lose any momentum as we transition into a new year.

1. Send holiday cards to customers
If you haven’t already, send a holiday card to your valued customers, clients and subscribers. You don’t have to be William Shakespeare — a simple holiday greeting and a note of appreciation will suffice. Keep the message short and fairly generic and avoid cards that are religious or humorous.

Sending an e-card for free may be tempting, but it will not be nearly as effective as a traditional card hand-delivered by the postal service. Emailed cards could be mistaken for spam, and they just don’t have the same personal impact. Customers want to do business with companies that make them feel appreciated. By sending physical cards, not only are you spreading some holiday cheer, but you are keeping your company in your customers’ thoughts.

Because the postal service is busy around the holidays, try to get your cards in the mail by Dec. 13 so they arrive before the end of the year.

2. Schedule your social media posts
Many social media platforms allow a business to create a post and schedule it to be published at a later date and time, effectively putting your pages on auto-pilot. You can also sync many of your social media pages so that, for example, when you publish a new blog entry, it is automatically posted on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Check out each site’s FAQ or help sections for detailed instructions on these processes.

3. Organize and clean your inbox and computer
Clean up your inbox and computer files and attend to those less-important items that you’ve been putting off. Archive items you need to keep but to which you do not need immediate access. File documents into their proper folders for easy access later on. Having a clean office environment and computer will do wonders for getting off to a good start in 2015.

4. Get your financials in order
Make time to go over your 2014 budget and your actual revenues and expenses. This will help you plan your finances for 2015. Are you over-spending in any areas? Adjust and get back on track in the new year. Are there any outstanding invoices you need to send out? Send them out now. As a bonus, by getting your financials in order now, you are getting a head start on tax season!

5. Set up your out-of-office systems
Customers may have questions over the holidays, so make sure they’re not left waiting for answers. Change your voicemail message to explain your plan for the holidays and when you will return. Also set up an automatic email reply with the same information.

If there are any files or documents you want to work on during your holiday break, email them to yourself or use a digital drop box to make them available wherever you are. However, I do recommend taking a real break from all work-related activity. It is perfectly OK to take a step back, relax and recharge your batteries!

Stand Out on Small Business Saturday

shopsmallReposted from my column in the Portland Business Tribune.

With Thanksgiving approaching, our minds are focused on two things: How am I going to cook the turkey this year, and where am I going to go shopping over the weekend?

For decades, Black Friday has signaled the start of the Christmas shopping season. Some consumers even get more excited about shopping the day after Thanksgiving than about the holiday itself!

The thought of scrambling through crowds at a giant department store at 5 a.m. to wrestle over the last Tickle-Me-Elmo gives me anxiety. At this time of year, I’d much rather focus on family, friends and community — and I’m not the only one.

In 2010, American Express created Small Business Saturday to encourage consumers to not just flock to the big box stores for their Christmas shopping needs, but to also visit local small businesses and support their hometown.

Buying local isn’t just a passing fad. The small business community is the backbone of America. It employs half of the workforce in our country and makes up 99% of all U.S. businesses, according to the Small Business Administration.

Now in its fifth year, Small Business Saturday has already become a holiday tradition. Consumers spent $5.7 billion on Small Business Saturday last year, according to American Express and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Make sure your business is on shoppers’ lists this year. The following suggestions can help you stand out on Small Business Saturday, taking place on Nov. 29, 2014.


1. Have an online presence
Consumers are searching the Internet for local businesses, so now is the time to spruce up your website and social media pages. Make sure your site is search-friendly and clearly displays your location and hours.

Capture potential customers and have fun by engaging in conversations and posting about your best merchandise, especially what will be on sale. Create a photo album with images of your products so people can have a preview before coming to your shop. Be sure to use the hashtag #SmallBizSat on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2. Promote yourself
American Express is offering free, personalized marketing materials that can help get more shoppers to stop by your business. Create online ads, utilize in-store promotional materials and even get listed on the Shop Small Map. Go to to get started.

3. Promote your neighbors
On your social media pages, highlight other great businesses in your neighborhood. They may return the favor, sending even more visitors your way, and making this a true community event.

Collaborate with other small business owners in your area to hold a mass “sidewalk sale.” Also put flyers or coupons for nearby businesses’ products or services into your customers’ shopping bags, and have them do the same for you.

4. Start a relationship
You may not be able to compete with giant retailers when it comes to price, but you can offer more value to customers with your knowledge, service and small touches.

Make an extra effort to deliver outstanding customer service this holiday season. One of the main reasons a customer will shop at an independent retailer rather than a big box store is because they’re seeking friendly, personalized service. A good impression will have a lasting effect, practically guaranteeing a return customer.

Offer free extras such as cookies or snacks, stocking stuffers, gift-wrapping service or home delivery.

Make your store kid-friendly by holding a holiday coloring contest or ornament-decorating station. This will help keep tired or fussy children occupied while their parents shop.

At the point of purchase, invite customers to sign up for your newsletter, visit your website or find your social media pages. Track their purchase history and keep in touch throughout the year, providing customized shopping recommendations and alerting them to sales they may be interested in. A personal relationship goes a long way toward gaining someone’s loyal business.

5. Get involved with a charity
Choose a charity that you and your customers care about, and donate a percentage of your profit to it. The value of a purchase then becomes even bigger than the product or service itself. You will not only inspire others to give to a greater good, but your generosity will ensure your shoppers do not forget about you once the holiday season is over.