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Avoid five common small-business holiday missteps

December 03, 2012

The holiday’s can be a make or break time for retailers. For some businesses, up to 75% of their yearly sales can be made during this gift giving time. Make sure you’re one of them by avoiding these 5 small-business holiday marketing mistakes…

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Most small businesses that are retailers should already have their marketing campaign going full throttle since we are in the holiday season.

Hefty revenues are a must and can make or break a small business this time of year. Holiday sales can be up to 75 percent of profits for the entire year. Customers are looking for value, are demanding and now are accustomed to many ways in which to shop; mail order, phone, Internet and cable TV are just a few.

Small businesses must do everything right or they will lose customers. Marketing improperly can occur so let’s take a look at what not to do.

Mistake No. 1: Trying to lure customers by giving big discounts. Competition is increasing all the time and customers make businesses assume discounting is the way to strong sales. However, when you cut prices for extended periods, it results in a decrease in profits.

Mistake No. 2: Not spending enough on advertising. Many small businesses look to cut costs by advertising less, but that causes a loss in market share. It can be difficult to determine what the best advertising techniques are to use, but those small business owners who are aggressive with marketing tend to be more successful. Take some time to research the type and frequency of marketing that will be right for your business. It may even benefit your business to use professionals to help develop an appropriate strategy.

Consider adding holiday products, wish lists and content to your website during the holidays. According to Sharron Senter, a Boston area marketing consultant, “Each time a retailer adds content to their website, they need to optimize it for search-engine performance, including keywords, meta tags and page titles.”

Mistake No. 3: Targeting to the wrong market. Know the demographics and buying patterns of your customers. Customers that prefer to touch, feel and buy in the store are different than those that buy online. Don’t market to just one group. Tailor your holiday promotions to motivate all of your customer segments. It will only work if you have built a customer database and kept it up to date.

Mistake No. 4: Overlooking feedback. It is extremely important to monitor customer emails and questions. This is much easier if you have an online presence. Small businesses can quickly learn whether visitors are purchasing, if and when shopping carts are abandoned, etc. Refine your offerings and make it easy for customers to navigate your site. Track those results and use them to your advantage. For brick and mortar stores, don’t keep running ads that don’t bring in customers.

Mistake No. 5: Forgetting last-minute shoppers. More and more decisions are made late, and those shoppers urgently seek the right gift. Make sure you have the proper amount of inventory, labor and marketing in place. You can even market heavily last minute specials and products in order to attract those late shoppers.

“Business Tips” was written by Paul Howard, Business Development Specialist and Certified Business Adviser IV of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. Contact him at

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