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

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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

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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

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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!

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Workplace Gift-Giving Dos and Don’ts

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It’s that time of year where companies are preparing for the holiday and gift-giving season. Giving and receiving gifts may be enjoyable, but it is important to understand proper workplace etiquette before going shopping.

Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest offers the following tips for gift-giving in the workplace:

Follow Office Policy

Before you do anything check with your manager or human resources department to understand the inner-office gift exchange policy. There might be certain stipulations on what you can and cannot give for gifts. For example, it might be against company policy to give cash or alcohol out during business hours.

Skip Your Boss Unless Its Baked

While it’s tempting to give your boss a gift as a thank you for his leadership, it’s not actually appropriate to give a higher-up a gift. If you are set on giving your manager a gift, opt for baked goods or something homemade that doesn’t cost a great deal. You can also pool your money with co-workers to give a present that’s from the entire department.

Stick to the Agreed Upon Amount 

Office gift exchanges usually have a price limit to avoid overspending. Don’t try to impress your colleagues by going over the agreed upon price. Shaming co-workers is not the best way to create office camaraderie. On the other hand, if you cannot afford to participate in any gift exchange, simply bow out. It shouldn’t be a requirement in your company to partake in the festivities. So don’t feel bad if you sit this one out. Again, you can always bake cookies and bring those to your office mates instead!

Avoid the Risqué 

Pass on any gifts that come across as sarcastic or vulgar. Even if you know the gift recipient very well, crude gifts have no real place in the office. Stick to something appropriate that compliments the receiver to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable.

Say Thank You

Mind your manners and be sure to thank the person who took the time to get you a gift. You can do this by either sending a thank you note or by shooting over an email of gratitude.

Thanksgiving on a Budget

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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

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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

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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.

10 Fall Marketing Ideas for Your Business

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Fall means falling leaves, plentiful pumpkins, longer nights and cooling weather, but it can also mean great marketing opportunities for local businesses. Make the most of the changing seasons with fall marketing that brings customers in during the lead-up to the holidays.

Here are ten ideas to get you started:

  1. Focus on Fall Themes: Decorate your business in traditional autumn colors, and spread that theme to your website, social media and printed ads. The reds, yellows and oranges of fall naturally command attention, so use the autumn palette to draw eyes toward specific items you want to promote in your store. Print seasonal shopping bags that spread your fall-themed message all around town.
  1. Celebrate the Classic Autumn Holidays: Halloween and Thanksgiving are the two main holidays that fill the stretch between summer and Christmas season. Take advantage of the fact that these holidays are on customers’ minds by offering special promotions centered around Halloween and Thanksgiving themes. Offer trick-or-treating at your store on Halloween or give away special customer appreciation gifts at Thanksgiving time to create an instant holiday tie-in.
  1. Delve Into Lesser-Known Fall Holidays: Move beyond the holidays everyone knows and start making a point to promote lesser-known fall holidays such as National Coffee Day (September 29)and the end of Daylight Savings Time. If your business has a unique cultural angle, you might also want to introduce your community to related fall holidays from a different culture, such as the Chinese and Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival or the Hindu Festival of Lights.
  1. Make Up Your Own Fall Traditions: Instead of just jumping on the pumpkin spice bandwagon, you might consider coming up with your own fall-related themes that you can repeat every year. Temporarily add a seasonal apple-flavored product to your lineup, or start an annual tradition of handing out deep-discount coupons in the shape of fall leaves. Repeat the same promotion every year to build an association that customers start anticipating months in advance.
  1. Engage Customers with Athletics-Related Promotions: Fall is football season, so support your local professional, college and school teams with special promotions. Give special discounts based on wins or game scores so loyal fans associate you with victory, or offer a promotion that’s only available to people who show their game ticket stub or school ID.
  1. Create a Contest: Invite customers to enter a fall-themed contest with a gift certificate from your business as the prize. Halloween costume contests, seasonal coloring contests for kids and essay contests describing what the entrant is thankful for are some potential ideas you can use. Contests can be live at the store, or you can have people submit entries online.
  1. Bring Fun to Fall Festivals: From Oktoberfest to outdoor music events, local fall festivals are a great way to get your name out in the community. Sponsor a booth to sell your wares at festivals, or hand out promotional samples and coupons at events to generate interest with a huge pool of potential new customers.
  1. Share Seasonal Stories: Give the media fresh ideas during the often slow fall news cycle with press releases and story ideas tying your business into the season. Give interviews or post blog content teaching local residents about fall decorating, pumpkin carving, Thanksgiving cooking tips or seasonal home maintenance.
  1. Go Social with Posts About Fall: Spread the joy of autumn across all of your social media platforms with pins, posts and pictures that celebrate the sights of the season. Tie your seasonal contests into your social media by encouraging customers to post on your boards and share their own fall photos featuring your products. Award prizes for the best contributions or give rewards for user-generated pictures with the most shares and comments.
  1. Prepare Your Customers for the Upcoming Holidays: Fall is the lead-up to the busiest time of year for most businesses, so use it to help customers get ready for Christmas. Offer special sales and deals, such as buy-one-get-one promotions and buy-now-save-later coupons that invite people to shop early and to keep coming back as the holidays approach.

Fall can be a fantastic time to promote your business, and transitioning from sizzling summer specials to amazing autumn deals is easier than ever. Market smart during these often overlooked months to boost your business and reap the rewards all year long.

 

5 Ways to Get out of Debt in the New Year

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The New Year is a great time to examine your finances for the year ahead. And attempting to get your budget back on track after heavy holiday spending can oftentimes be cumbersome. So what do you do? Well, you’re in luck. In this post, we highlight five ways to get out of debt after the holidays.

1) Set New Spending Limits

Identify areas in your life where you tend to overspend that fall outside of the “needs” bucket. Then, create a budget for the different types of purchases you want to indulge in throughout the month and put a cap on each. Doing so will help you control excessive spending and keep disciplined on what you can do without.

2) Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have

Get into the habit of only spending money you do have, instead of adding more charges to your credit cards. Know what you owe, make a list of how you plan to pay off what you owe, and stick to it. And if you have extra cash, use that toward paying down your credit card balances. Further, start off by cutting back on simple things like buying coffee; instead of buying lunch, pack it; and/or save gas by riding a bike or taking the bus.

3) Go Beyond the Minimum Payment

Don’t wait for that bill to arrive before taking action. Instead, try making weekly payments and more importantly, steer away from setting yourself up for a long commitment with your credit card company by just paying the minimum due. Let’s look at an example that uses a credit card balance of $1,500 and APR of 18 percent – if you only pay the minimum due of $37 per month, it will take you 159 months to pay off that debt with a total interest charge of $1,760. However, if you pay an additional $10 it’ll only take 44 months to pay off your debt with a total interest charge of $557.59.

4) Ask for a Lower Credit Card Rate

This may sound like a no-brainer, but just simply call your credit card company and ask if your rate can be lowered. Say you have $5,000 in debt on a credit card with a 20% APR. If you pay $150 per month, it’ll take you 50 months and $2,360 in interest to pay off that debt. Reduce that interest rate to 15 percent and you save roughly $800 in interest and six months of payoff time.

5) Consider a Balance Transfer

If you are eligible for a balance transfer at zero percent for a period of time, sign up as this may be another alternative to reduce your interest charges. Also make sure you understand what the transfer fees are so that you’re prepared. For example, you can save $265.48 on a $5,000 debt with a typical balance transfer, assuming a three percent balance transfer fee, a 12-month zero percent intro APR, and the debt being paid off within a year.

We hope you find these tips helpful! Let us know what you do to get out of debt after the holidays in the comments section!

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.

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Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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.