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Dec 10, 2012

Small Business Holiday Success Guide

#HolidaySuccess Tips for Small Business Owners: Post-Holiday Management

The New Year’s light at the end of the tunnel is near, but don’t let the last few holiday moments distract you from making the most of the holiday rush.

Our final blog series from USA Today small business columnist Rhonda Abrams, reminds small business owners what they need to do to help take advantage of the final days of the holiday season and make them last throughout the New Year.

For more information on other holiday planning advice, download the full Small Business Holiday Success Guide at www.visa.com/holidaysuccess

Happy Holidays!

Janet – @JZablock

Phew! We’re almost to the end of the holiday season. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of the holiday woods. You’ll still have post-holiday customers, and you certainly want to find ways to keep the customers you acquired during the holidays and turn them into year ‘round fans.

As you prepare for the post-holiday season, concentrate on four major objectives:

    1. Keeping holiday customers
    2. Redeeming gift cards
    3. Handling returns
    4. Planning post-New Year promotions

Keeping holiday customers. Every name and email address you capture, with consent, every new follower on Facebook or Twitter, is an extremely valuable lead and potential future customer for your business. After all, these folks have already sought you out—either by walking into your storefront, visiting your website, “liking” your Facebook page, or otherwise connecting with you.

Be creative about how you capture contact info. Of course you can simply ask people for their information at checkout, but you can also hold weekly drawings for gifts when people give you their business cards at your place of business or “like” you on Facebook or other social media, offer discount coupons on your eCommerce website if prospects register for your newsletter. (You do have a newsletter, don’t you?)

Just be sure to ask the customer’s permission before adding them to your mailing list – and of course, promptly honor any unsubscribe requests you receive.

Gift card redemption. One of the best things you’ll deal with after the holidays are all those customers coming to redeem gift cards, if you’ve offered them for sale during the holidays. Many of these customers may be new to you—the happy recipients of a gift card. So make sure you encourage them to sign up for your newsletter or Facebook page. Also, make certain you’re set up to give them excellent service—have enough inventory and staff to handle demand. Keep in mind, many gift card recipients spend more than the amount of the card, so be sure to merchandise your products or services well during this time.

Handling returns. If you have a physical location or are an eCommerce company, you’ll likely have some returns. Make sure you schedule extra staff for the first week or so after Christmas specifically to handle returns. And have a very clear and specific return policy in place (ideally, this should have been clear to buyers before they made a purchase). Your policies may be very strict, such as no cash refunds, only merchandise exchanges, and only items unopened in original boxes, but such policies discourage future purchases. You can certainly have more lenient policies if returns are rare. Whatever your policy, make sure your employees understand its terms. And emphasize to your staff the importance of accepting returns gracefully. Few things are more off-putting than a store that handles returns impolitely. Remember, your goal is to create lifelong customers!

Post-New Year promotions. Last but not least, as the holidays wind down, start thinking of creative ways to keep people coming in, even during the typical doldrums of late January and February. Tactics include:

  • Beginning-of-the-year sale
  • Two-for-one specials for slow periods
  • Multiple purchase packs of your goods or services
  • Loyalty programs
  • Free trials

If you’re diligent about capturing contact information (paying close attention to getting your customer’s consent first) throughout the holidays—and afterward—you could have a large audience for your 2013 marketing campaigns.

Enjoy!
Rhonda Abrams  @RhondaAbrams

Disclaimer:  Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice.  When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal and financial advisors. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on December 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Dec 3, 2012

#HolidaySuccess Tips for Small Business Owners: Keep Them Coming Back with Email Newsletters and Gift Cards

In the flurry of making sales during the holidays, we sometimes forget how the influx of “today” customers, can be turned into “future” customers.

As part of our #HolidaySuccess tips for small business owners, USA Today small business columnist, Rhonda Abrams shares a few tips on how to take the holiday momentum through the New Year!

For more information on other holiday planning advice, download the full Small Business Holiday Success Guide at www.visa.com/holidaysuccess

Happy Holidays!

Janet – @JZablock

How do you connect with holiday customers now and keep them coming back after the new year? Two great marketing strategies make it easier for you to make money during this all-important season and build ongoing relationships with customers at the same time:

  1. Email newsletters – the number one way to encourage online customers to return, according to Forrester; and
  2. Gift cards – one of the most popular gifts for the holidays—often redeemed after the new year.

Email newsletters. If you don’t have an email newsletter, start one now. It can be easy, inexpensive, and effective.

Having an email newsletter gives you a reason to collect contact information from the many customers and prospects you interact with this holiday season. Take the opportunity to collect their contact information for your email newsletter campaigns. Just be sure to ask for their permission first and make it easy for them to opt out if they change their preference.

Once you’ve gathered names for your newsletter, you’ll need content. Keep it simple. You don’t have to be a great writer. Check out the Small Business Holiday Success Guide on what to do next!

Gift Cards. You like them. Your customers like them. Most everyone likes getting a gift card.

Offering gift cards is one of the easiest sales you can make this holiday season—and one of the easiest gifts your customers can buy.

Gift cards are one of the best ways to ring up more sales during the holidays. They’re a tremendous last-minute or impulse gift, so they’re particularly popular with those who put off their holiday shopping ‘til the last minute (don’t we all know someone like that?).

There’s a major added benefit as well. Gift cards can bring new customers to your business—often after January, when your sales may have slowed. They can give you a chance to develop an ongoing relationship with the user and turn a one-time holiday sale into a long-time customer.

Enjoy!
Rhonda Abrams @RhondaAbrams

Disclaimer:  Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice.  When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal and financial advisors. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on December 3, 2012 at 11:23 am

Nov 19, 2012

#HolidaySuccess: Tips for Small Business Owners

A few weeks ago, we shared the Small Business Holiday Success Guide that we recently launched with USA Today small business columnist, Rhonda Abrams. As the holiday season is upon us, we are excited to bring you the first in a series of posts that will provide you with more in-depth strategies to help make this a successful holiday season for your small business. In this series, we will cover money management, holiday marketing techniques, tips for extending holiday success into the New Year, and more. – Janet Zablock @jzablock

6 Tips for Social Media Holiday Success

Social Media 411 chart

Whether it’s money management or marketing, every aspect of your business requires a plan. That includes social media marketing. Keep in mind the following six tips when developing your social media strategy:

  1. Remember, it’s better to give than to receive.Anything you tweet, post, pin, or blog should offer value. Just like you’ll tune out your know-it-all brother-in-law at Thanksgiving dinner, your followers will drop you if all you do is talk about your product or service and why they should buy it. Instead:
    • Write blogs showing how you meet customers’ holiday needs
    • Post links to articles and videos your followers will find useful or entertaining.
    • Discuss promotions and special items you’re offering just for the holidays.
    • Refresh your content often during the holidays to bring customers back.
  2. Write your content in advance. Before you’re knee deep in gift wrap, write as many of those blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts as you can, and merely publish them according to the calendar. Brainstorm the topics, themes, and promotions you’ll cover. Then create a calendar of what to post when (a spreadsheet is best, but a physical calendar also works).
  3. Regift. No, I don’t mean unload that itchy orange and purple sweater your mother gave you last year. I’m talking about repurposing your content. You’ve already taken the time to write your blogs and email newsletters. Now save time. Pull material out for tweets, Facebook posts, and LinkedIn updates.
  4. Put some tasks on auto-pilot. During the holidays especially, you don’t have the resources to update and like posts on Facebook all day. Of course, you’ll still pay attention to the conversation. With tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Manageflitter, you can pre-load all that content you wrote in advance and schedule it to post later.
  5. Encourage engagement. Create surveys. Ask questions. Run a contest. Do what you can to encourage followers to engage. When they do engage, respond.
  6. Manage review sites. According to SearchEngineLand,76 percent of customers visit sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Zagat to find the best meal, store, hotel, and more. Make it easy for your customers to post positive reviews. The tool ReviewBiz allows you to embed an icon in your website that will take your customers directly to local review sites.

Visit www.visa.com/holidaysuccess to download the Small Business Holiday Success Guide and learn more!

–Rhonda Abrams (@RhondaAbrams), USA Today Small Business Columnist and Expert

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on November 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm