Customers and staff in a busy boutique; small business sale conceptIf your business just launched recently, you’re probably thinking about ways to attract customers and raise awareness about your brand.

Holidays are an important time to increase your marketing efforts, whether it’s Independence Day or Black Friday. People are already planning to shop and scouting sales, so your task is to stand out and give them a better reason to shop with you than your competitors. That’s where creative marketing ideas come into play.

Here are five simple ideas that are easy on the budget, making them an ideal starting point for a newer small business. But don’t underestimate the importance of planning ahead. With a proactive sales and marketing strategy, you’ll drive more sales, boost brand impressions, and if you’re lucky, turn one-time shoppers into loyal customers.

Throw an event

Events are a great way to show your customers that you care while driving brand awareness. If you’re new to the community, they can also be a great way to introduce yourself and get involved.

An event is also a fun way to encourage shoppers to step away from their computers in favor of in-store shopping. That’s not an easy task, so to be successful it needs to be enticing. Book a live band or give it a fun twist, like “Sip and Shop” (a 21 and over event) or “Bites and Browse,” where customers enjoy tapas while they check out a new product line.

Example: Independence Day

Rent space in a local park and host a 4th of July barbecue for your customers. Send invitations and let people know that you will give away products and coupons throughout the event, reminding people to stick around for more giveaways as the day goes on.

To keep costs low, stick with basic food and drink options, and buy in bulk. Think hot dogs, hamburgers, sodas, and waters. Buy decorations from the local dollar store and collect coolers, tables, and chairs from employees.

To attract a bigger crowd, consider partnering with other local stores that complement your brand and product or service offers to avoid unnecessary competition.

Donate to a charity or cause

Social good is great for business. Nine out of 10 customers expect companies to not just make a profit, but to operate ethically and responsibly. Show customers that you’re invested in your community by donating to a cause or charity.

Give a percentage of sales within a certain time period, or partner with an organization on a fundraising event. You can also keep it simple by collecting donations at your in-store location or through the online checkout process.

Example: Independence Day

Show customers that you care about this country and the people who serve it by partnering with a military charity that supports current members or veterans.

Tell customers what you’re up to by saying something like: “We’re celebrating America by honoring the men and women who serve it. 10 percent of all sales today will go to [insert charity name]!”

Distribute holiday-related coupons

Coupons may seem like a thing of the past, but a lot of people still actively look for and use them on a regular basis. In fact, 52 percent of adult consumers will use coupons in 2017, according to eMarketer.

The best part is: you stand to gain a lot of extra revenue with coupons. A 2016 retailer survey asked 49 randomly-selected online retailers—which included a mix of small- to medium-sized operations—to report their total regular sales and their total coupon sales for the last 30 days anonymously.

They found that retailers can make up to $350,000 annually from coupons alone. Combine this with the holidays, when people are already shopping, and you have have a valuable and effective marketing tool.

Example: Winter holiday season

Connect your coupons with the holiday season using a fun twist like “12 Days of Epic Holiday Sales.” Each day, release a new coupon, good until midnight of that day. The coupons can be for a specific product or service, a specific department, or varying dollar or percentage amounts. Be sure to align this with your top-level business goals for the greatest value.

For more on creating a coupon initiative that works, check out How to Use Coupons for Your Business (Without Losing Money).

Coordinate a shopping block party

This is a fun idea for summer holidays, like Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day, and 4th of July, because everyone already wants to be outside—even better if they can get a great deal while shopping in the sunshine. The key is to connect with other nearby retailers, which will help you attract more customers and reach those who may not know about your business.

Include participating stores on all marketing collateral to attract the widest audience. Promote via direct mail, online outlets (email, social media, and website) and in-store signage and communicate with every retailer who is participating about how they are promoting the event within their channels. With everyone working together, you’ll all drive more sales.

Example: Labor Day weekend

Summer is coming to an end, so host a “Last Days of Summer” shopping block party. Use this as an opportunity for customers to get a sneak peek at new fall items and sell off the last of your summer inventory. Invite local vendors (like food trucks) to sell munchies and drinks, good for a mid-shopping pick-me-up and to attract people who didn’t plan on shopping.

Host a live social media sale

With 81 percent of the U.S. population using social media, it’s one of your most powerful outlets for reaching customers when it matters most: when they’re ready to shop for or celebrate a holiday. But don’t just create a few holiday advertisements. Instead, host a 24-hour social media sale that changes at specific intervals—for example, once an hour or five times throughout the day.

Drive buzz around the sale with organic and paid social media advertisements. Send customers to a landing page that explains how the sale will work, when it’s happening, and any other necessary details. Be sure to market via email and on your website as well.

On the day of, you can use new social features like live video to announce each new deal or discount. Support those announcements with a social media post that includes a link and important details. Accompany every post on Twitter and Instagram with a specific hashtag as well, such as #DunnShoes24HourSale or #DunnShoesRace2theDeals.

This is a new and fresh way of releasing deals to customers while driving engagement, and giving people a reason to follow you on social media.

Example: Cyber Monday or Small Business Saturday

Everyone is already online looking for deals around Thanksgiving; capitalize on that with an all-day social media sale. Steep discounts and excited shoppers are the perfect combination to drive significant revenue in one day.

Every holiday is a chance to get creative with marketing to drive more shoppers. Consumers are looking to spend money, whether they’re stocking up for a party or purchasing gifts. Your job is to remind them why they should spend their hard-earned cash with your business, and not your competitors.

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