With each fall comes the usual rituals of buttoning up the backyard, setting out a basket of cinnamon-laced pinecones and taking another look at "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." And when you run your own business, this is also the time when you should consider your year-end marketing plan.
Of course, that plan is more than just an annual trifle, right? Indeed; it's the boost your business needs to get the most from the year's final months and it deserves your best attention.
You need to do a full sweep of your marketing messaging, displays, and especially sales methods and policies
If your year-end planning has become a bit routine in recent years—and that happens to the best of us—then it's time to sharpen your approach. Here are five tips for reinvigorating your business in time for the fall season and on to the end of the year.
1. Avoid the scramble
While you might be weary from the long, hot summer and have just navigated the back-to-school season, this is no time to put up your feet and coast into the final months of the year.
For sellers, this is the time to be at the top of your game to serve buyers eager for some year-end shopping (for themselves, or for friends and family). Here are a few key things to prepare for the all-important fourth quarter:
- Check your inventory levels early. If you've got the goods folks will be clamoring for, you want to be sure you won't run out. Customers will run elsewhere if you do.
- Clean up your content before the crowd arrives. Whether online or in a physical store, you need to do a full sweep of your marketing messaging, displays, and especially sales methods and policies.
- Plan your sales campaigns early and execute on them faithfully. Yes, you can wander into the fall season and beyond, but you'll be rudderless as you hope to navigate to where the buyers are. Decide what your lead items will be now and then give them prominent placement as the seasons unfold.
You might be thinking, "Hey, this isn't the holiday season yet. It's only fall." You're right, but remember that even before the first leaves turn, some have begun they're holiday shopping. Yes, it's coming that quickly, so be ready.
2. Provide assistance
Third-party, objective commentary demonstrates how real people find real use and goodness in what you offer
As compelling as your items might be, sometimes your customers simply can't envision how they would use or enjoy them. Here's where you can offer ideas for customers who are on the fence about whether—or why—they should buy. Consider these approaches:
- Show your items in action. Whether they're functional goods or dazzling decor, demonstrate how a customer will utilize—and benefit from—what you're selling. If the information will be lengthy, offer a link for customers to "see it in action." Video content works excellently here.
- Offer customer testimonials. This isn't a way to flaunt your approvals but, rather, a way to let customers explain how an item has improved their lives. This third-party, objective commentary demonstrates how real people find real use and goodness in what you offer.
- Give customers methods to contact you with their questions without making them feel pressured to buy. Think of all the "live chat" options you see when you're shopping online. Offer the same, or even a phone number and hours of service so customers can learn more before they purchase.
3. Give a sneak peek at upcoming deals
During this time of the year, most shoppers are looking for the inside scoop and privy details of great deals on the horizon. Think of how big the Black Friday sneak peeks have become.
Customers like having the extra time to plan their purchases and, when given information early, they will often plot their plan to make purchases ahead of the crowd. For you, this is a sure-fire way to build a crowd that will be "lined up" at your virtual door waiting for the sales to begin. That's a situation where the goods are practically pre-sold before you even flick on the neon "open" sign.
4. Increase fixed-price offerings
This is also the time of season when folks are looking to get what they want quickly. With fall gatherings at hand and holiday calendars filling up with places to go and people to see, shopping is something that needs to be fast and painless.
Offer fixed-price goods over auction-style offerings to help your shoppers complete their tasks quickly
Offer fixed-price goods over auction-style offerings to help your shoppers complete their tasks quickly.
Yes, you might hold out for an auction to drive up prices among competing bidders, but many times would-be bidders would rather not wait around. Understand that and serve those who want to buy right now.
5. Sell to the world
If you haven't already, sell internationally. Although we've long heard it said that we live in a global marketplace, many sellers still aren't catering to international buyers.
Demand for regional goods is at an all-time high as folks from other countries crave the goods you're selling. The major commerce services have made foreign currency exchange hassles a thing of the past.
Package carriers have made shipping internationally as easy as shipping to the town next to yours. And international buyers enjoy the uniqueness of goods from elsewhere they can't get within their own countries. Embrace these buyers, and watch them purchase from you again and again. There's no reason to not be selling to customers from around the world.
Sure, it's hard to believe that another year-end season is upon us, but it is. Get ready for it and get ready to make your final push for these all-important final few months. Before you know it, you'll be tipping a glass of champagne and toasting your successes for the effort. Cheers!
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Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.
Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.