ST. PAUL, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The holiday season has arrived in all its Turkey-day and tinsel-draped glory. And for the more than 28 million U.S. small businesses (SMBs), ‘tis the season to engage shoppers during the busiest and most competitive part of the retail calendar. A recent survey of small business owners has shown that when planning how to actually reach customers, SMBs don’t need to spend big bucks or use overly complicated approaches to achieve strong holiday sales.
The Deluxe Annual Holiday Shopping Survey asked 501 of the nation’s small business owners about their holiday marketing and promotional plans, priorities and opinions. The survey was commissioned by Deluxe Corporation (NYSE:DLX), a leading provider of marketing services and business products for small businesses.
According to the survey results, more than 50 percent of participating retail- and service-oriented small business owners experience sales boosts during the winter holidays. But with only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas this year, having an effective marketing plan (and sticking with it) is a must for SMBs.
However, the survey showed that a successful marketing approach doesn’t have to break the bank: 55 percent of retail survey participants said they spend less than $500 on holiday marketing promotions, with 87 percent spending less than $5,000. An additional 55 percent said they relied only on word-of-mouth to drive awareness of their holiday promotions.
“These survey results show that an efficient holiday marketing plan is the perfect gift for small businesses,” said Malcolm McRoberts, senior vice president of small business services for Deluxe. “Owners are so busy running their dream business that marketing can become an afterthought. This survey shows that, with only a minimal marketing investment, small business owners can capitalize on holiday sales and build a foundation for success in the coming year.”
Small businesses also reported using different online tools to share their holiday-related sales and promotions. The most popular delivery methods were social media (46 percent) and customer emails (37 percent).
Ultimately, finding the right marketing tool to reach customers depends on the business and the investment in time and money owners prefer. Julie Gordon, small business marketing manager at Deluxe, suggests simple solutions to get customers in the store, like offering email holiday promotions or last minute shopping offers. For less than $300, businesses can print their own postcards or rent a local mailing list to directly reach shoppers with holiday promotions.
“Businesses can find local shoppers looking for gift ideas just by updating their Google and Yelp information with pictures, coupons and holiday hours,” Gordon said. “And if they don’t want to do it themselves, they can invest in an outside service to do it for just a few dollars a month.”
“Given the growing popularity of email and social media as affordable marketing channels, small businesses are looking for ways to help these work more effectively together,” said David Shiba, general manager of VerticalResponse, a Deluxe company and provider of self-service email and social media marketing tools for small businesses. “By using tools designed to coordinate the delivery and timing of their online marketing messages and promotions, SMBs will be able to more efficiently reach their customers and increase sales during the all-important holiday shopping season.”
Additional survey highlights include:
- Don’t ignore online reviews. While sites like Yelp and Angie’s List are effective for reaching new customers – particularly during the holiday shopping season – business owners should also know what online reviewers are saying about them (good and bad). But only 25 percent of small business owners reported they track reviews of their business. Of those who do track their reviews, 68 percent said that they had followed up with a customer after a bad review. Direct engagement with negative commenters can not only help perfect a marketing approach, it shows a real commitment to customer service.
- Look beyond winter holidays. In addition to Thanksgiving and Christmas, small businesses reported sales spikes during several other holidays. The top three were Valentine’s Day (22 percent), 4th of July/Summer (14 percent) and Halloween (13 percent). So when developing a marketing approach, SMBs should ensure it’s adaptable enough to be used year round. It’s also important to build new customer relationships throughout the year so that there’s a larger, more engaged audience when a holiday arrives.
- Connect with customers online and offline. When it comes to doing business with customers, SMBs reported that email (61 percent) is the most common method, followed by phone (58 percent), face to face in store (32 percent) and on social media (27 percent). Online tactics such as sending out automatic welcome emails to new subscribers and providing targeted content and promotions will increase customer engagement, but SMBs continue to value phone calls and in-person interactions.
About the Deluxe Annual Holiday Shopping Survey
Launched in 2012, the Deluxe Annual Holiday Shopping Survey is part of the Deluxe Corporation’s commitment to supporting America’s small businesses. The online study was completed by 501 small business owners recruited from Research Now’s US Small Business Owners panel. The panel contains about 3 million subjects, utilizes normalized sampling, and is weighted to reflect the population. Research Now’s “by-invitation-only” recruitment uses various partners in an effort to build a national representation of age, income, gender and region.
About Deluxe Corporation
Deluxe is a growth engine for small businesses and financial institutions. More than 4.5 million small business customers access Deluxe's wide range of products and services, including customized checks and forms, as well as website development and hosting, email marketing, search engine optimization and logo design. For our 5,500 financial institution customers, Deluxe offers industry-leading programs in checks, customer acquisition, fraud prevention and profitability. Deluxe is also a leading provider of checks and accessories sold directly to consumers. For more information, visit us at www.deluxe.com, www.facebook.com/deluxecorp or www.twitter.com/deluxecorp.
VerticalResponse, a Deluxe company, provides a full suite of online marketing tools to help small businesses connect with their customers on email, social media, mobile and more. Users worldwide rely on the VerticalResponse platform to easily create, manage and analyze their own marketing campaigns, all from a single account. VerticalResponse is headquartered in San Francisco, Calif. For more information visit www.verticalresponse.com, and connect on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VR4SmallBiz and Facebook at www.facebook.com/verticalresponse.