6 Don’t-Miss Holiday Marketing Opportunities

The most wonderful time of the year is in full swing. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you have probably seen the influx of Christmas and Hanukah commercials, along with the decorations and music in brick-and-mortar stores. It seems that the kick-off of the holiday season creeps in a little bit earlier every year and that means big businesses usher in the big marketing guns as soon as the Halloween costumes are stashed away.

Small businesses, including those without physical storefronts, should not be afraid to jump on the festive holiday bandwagon in order to rustle up more business too. Even if you do not sell the hottest gadgets or toys, you can ride the holiday wave and maximize marketing opportunities. The only thing you have to do before you start the holiday season is to make sure your small business is ready.  After your business is ready, follow these six easy ways to maximise on marketing opportunities:

  • Run social media promotions. Reward the clients that take the time to “like” your business and “follow” you with discounts that only apply to them. Provide coupon codes or specialised links that lead to discounts for your goods or services.
  • Launch a holiday email campaign. The holiday season provides so many reasons to reach out and communicate with customers. You do not have to come up with a clever email campaign – just use the holidays. You can even hire an email marketing company to run the campaign for you so you can focus on other holiday ideas.  By simply running a promotion through email it reminds your customers why you are the best at what you do.
  • Send holiday cards. Whether through snail mail, or electronically, take the time to wish your clients a merry holiday season. This is different from offering discounts or promoting a sale. A holiday card should have no other motive than to wish a client well. People appreciate small kindnesses that requires nothing of them in return and it is representative of the true spirit of the season. This is  an indirect way to ask for business down the road.
  • Decorate. Show your customers that you like to have fun with a visual representation of the season. If you rent or own office space, dress it up for clients and employees. If you have mainly an online presence, consider a temporary change of look to your site. A web design company can help you pick something that fits your business and the holidays.  If you do not want to change your template or are trying to save funds, simply add a text box with a holiday greeting for people who visit the site.
  • Write up a newsletter. You can incorporate this with your holiday card, or send it out completely separate. E-newsletters are a quick, inexpensive way to give your customers a summary of what happened over the year and a rundown of your goals for the future. Include photos of employees if you have them, or at least one of yourself. Give clients an inside look into your company with a behind-the-scenes look. It shows them that your business is more than just a name and a logo – it proves that there is a human side.
  • Run giveaways. Who doesn’t love gifts? Running a giveaway on a website is an inexpensive way to give every customer the chance to win something that they really want for the holiday season. Try to think outside the box. Do not just give away your own products, books or services. Spend a little money on a gift card to a popular store and use a giveaway widget site like Rafflecopter to rack up social media followers in exchange for entries.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com.  ChamberofCommerce.com helps small business grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and their local Chamber of Commerce.  Visit ChamberofCommerce.com to add your business listing.

Thank you Megan, you’ve given us some interesting ideas there.

What are your ideas for sharing the Christmas spirit with your customers?

~ Carol Bentley

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you are invited

On 12/12/12 I am one of the sixteen experts presenting at the Christmas Creative Cooperation Event in Dorset.

Each expert is sharing insights to help businesses flourish in 2013 and beyond.  And our topics are named in line with the Christmas theme, starting with…

‘Getting Booked for Christmas’ – this is my presentation

My fourth book is due to be released shortly (look out for a special pre-publishing date offer coming soon) and in this session I’ll be sharing why being an author is a powerful marketing asset. Plus I’ll reveal how you can write the content of your first in just 7 days. Over the Christmas break perhaps?

I’m asking people to bring a list of FAQs for their business with the intention of leaving with their book content outlined. And I’ll be sharing resources and tips on getting it published. Ready to demonstrate your expertise? Join me to find out more.

You can book your seat and see more details about the whole event at Christmas Creative – here’s a hint of what the other expert’s sessions are:

Five Golden Rings!

Avoid common mistakes when thinking about telephone sales

Have you got the right ‘Buttons’?

A review of communication tools for connecting with mobile VoIP users.

Paved with Gold?

Can eBay be a serious way to market your products?

Elf Yourself!

Your customers could be your most passionate promoters.

Smart Marketing

12 crossword clues for cryptic marketing messages

Joined Up Marketing

How to track how connecting your offline and online marketing improves your success rates.

Oh yes it is! Social media’s here

The latest tips and tricks for getting noticed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more.

Google + the Golden Goose?

Explores why you should be hanging out on Google + this Christmas.

Lost your Focus?

How to keep on track and get rid of ‘fatal distractions’.

The 12 days of Christmas

The Christmas break is a golden time to rest, review and run rings around your business.

The 8 Holiday Horrors?

Explores your coping strategies for the ever increasing tempo and ‘holiday’ stresses.

Extra Dough for Christmas

How to grown your business with a little bit of energy, some skills, a goal, some direction and a secret magic ingredient…

The Panto Factor

Build real life social connections might add weight to your marketing.

Exit Left, Right or Behind You!

Are you likely to throw away the rewards of building your business by failing to plan your financial exit strategy?

The Christmas Mystery

This is still to be revealed!

Pop over to Christmas Creative and join us for a bit of festive cheer and some inspiration for your business in 2013!

~ Carol Bentley

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Videos: How to Make Sales Letters Charismatic

At a recent BusinessXchange meeting I described how the formula charismatic speakers use to connect with their audience can also be used to make your written sales messages more powerful.

New release - writing powerful sales messagesThe presentation is based on one of the chapters in my book ‘I Want To Buy Your Product.. Have You Sent Me A Sales Message Yet?’ which is a revision and update of my first book on copywriting.

(Look here if you’d like to get a copy of the book).

I persuaded Peter Lunn, one of the people attending, to video the live presentation for me.  The presentation is split into two video clips because I asked everyone in the audience to do a little exercise during the presentation.

Video 1:

If you would like to take part in the exercise you need to download and print this questionnaire. (This is a PDF file so you need the Adobe Reader to open and print it out. You can get a free copy here: Adobe Reader).

Video 2:

Bonus: Want a copy of the slides with a few notes I added, plus two articles on points I mentioned in the video? Here you are then: Charismatic Sales Letters Slides

So, did you take part in the exercise?

Share your results below and let me know what you thought of the presentation and how you plan to use the tips I’ve shared.


~ Carol Bentley


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Five (+ One) Must Have Apps for Small Business Owners

At the BusinessXchange meeting last week we had a very interesting presentation  on avoiding procrastination – or as the presenter, Steve Cook, said “Just do it!”. One of the tips he shared was that he used a very interesting project management app called Priority Matrix.

I particularly liked the four quadrant graphical display of tasks showing the priorities:

  • Critical & Immediate– Important tasks that are due now
  • Critical & Not Immediate– Important tasks that need planning
  • Not Critical & Immediate– External responsibilities that can be delegated
  • Uncategorised – Miscellaneous items that can be categorised later (or even eliminated)

Then this interesting article came in from my guest blogger, Megan Totka, so I just had to share with you…

Five Must Have Apps

by Megan Totka, Chief Editor, ChamberofCommerce.com

Staying organized and maintaining strong communication has never been easier for business owners.

Through smart use of technology, there is an app for just about every support service a business person needs on a daily basis.

With the right apps, CEOs of large corporations and one-person blogging operations are on an even playing field when it comes to running an efficient, tech-savvy company through the use of mobile marketing.

The revolution of mobile marketing has given businesses a great way to not only connect with customers, but handle their business in a more efficient manner.  Mobile marketing is something your business will want to take part in whether through your own developments or hiring a company to do your mobile marketing for you.

In the meantime, here are five vital apps that every business owner should have in his or her library:


Tired of seemingly endless emails with items that you need to download? Ever forget about an important attachment that got buried in your email inbox? Downloading the application for Dropbox to your smartphone, tablet or computer is a great way to organize and share files.

Storing documents, photos and graphics is as easy as dragging them to a desktop icon. Share folders with a group of other people, or make your own private ones. Streamlined files boost productivity and organization.

Google Translate

Long gone are the days when traveling abroad meant carrying around a pocket-sized dictionary of the home language. Technology today means having the ability to translate something quickly and on the spot with the assistance of language programs like Google Translate.

The Android and iPhone app can translate phrases in 65 different languages when the user simply speaks a phrase in native tongue. The app is a must-have for any business owner that interacts on an international level – even those that do not travel much. Communicating effectively on an international level can make or break a deal.


Named the “Best Budget Tracking App” by LifeHacker, this convenient system helps users easily track their everyday expenses. This is especially helpful for small business owners that want to keep personal and professional expenses separate from each other. There are options to input budgets, browse expenses and even keep tabs on savings goals. The basic version of the app is free, but some business owners may want to upgrade for a small cost to the MoneyWise Pro version.

Entrepreneur Magazine

Any digital magazine that deals with business news in your specific industry is a good pick for your app library. The Entrepreneur Magazine app is available for iPhones, iPads, Android Devices, Nooks and Kindles – making it a very accessible read. Keeping up on current events as they relate to your company and the marketplace as a whole is a very valuable edge to maintain.


There is no shortage of apps available to help you use social networking for your business, but in reality, you cannot join every single site out there. Start your social media efforts on a small scale, on places like LinkedIn, and expand the reach of your customer and peer interaction. You can “link” to other people through the use of the app, and also keep your own profile up to date through your mobile device.

While profiles on pages like Facebook and Twitter provide a boost to your networking, LinkedIn focuses specifically on your business strengths and lets others know who you are connected to in your industry. These connections provide you with clout and proof that you are a person who “knows” people and can get the job done.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com which is the largest business directory on the web.  ChamberofCommerce.com connects local businesses to their local Chamber of Commerce

Do you have apps you can’t do without? Share your favourite apps and tell us why they are so important to you.

~ Carol Bentley

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LinkedIn – what do you think of their new feature?

If you haven’t heard about the new endorsements feature that LinkedIn have launched, take a look at this…

A few days ago I received an email telling me I’d received an endorsement on LinkedIn.

Now, I have to admit I didn’t know what that was – I was only aware of the recommendations feature and thought it was something to do with that.

When I went into my LinkedIn account to have a look I was puzzled because there was no comment to go with the endorsement.

And that’s as far as it went – I don’t have time to go digging around for information on something that, at first glance, didn’t seem that important.

But then today, I found an article that explains the feature and how to use it.

Apparently the endorsement feature is an easy way for someone to endorse a skill you have listed in your profile, effectively confirming that you have that skill and, presumably, they rate it. Your skill rating then shows as part of your profile.

The article said it was important to get your skills endorsed because anyone looking at your profile and other people’s profiles would see how they compared.

Interesting… but what was more pertinent was the discussion in the comments section.

Quite a few people felt that LinkedIn were trying to create a feature similar to Facebook’s Like button. And they also felt it could degrade the benefit of being on LinkedIn, especially if people were endorsing skills, that they had no experience or knowledge of, on their contacts just to get an endorsement back. One commenter called it a ‘tit for tat’ activity.

And another comment expressed concern that we could soon see an ‘endorsements for sale’ offer that would completely dilute any credibility the feature may have.

You can read more about the feature at 6 Tips for Using LinkedIn’s Endorsement Feature.

Take a look and then share your thoughts here – I really don’t want to read through all the comments on that website to see what you wrote 😉

~ Carol Bentley


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how to ask for business constantly

Referrals are one of the most powerful and cost effective ways of finding new business.

When your customers or business colleagues recommend your product or service you have a higher chance of closing that sale. Especially compared to a new enquiry you get through your marketing activities.

It makes sense to ask our customers to recommend us and, if possible, give us details of other potential buyers we can approach. But how many of us actively look for referrals?

Do you ask for referrals? Many of the business people I’ve asked only do so when a purchase is completed. They rarely ask at any other time but obviously hope they will get referrals.

But the problem is everyone is busy and under pressure these days, so it is extremely unlikely that your customers are actively thinking “Who can I recommend XYZ to?”

And yet many of our customers would happily recommend our service or products if asked, they just need a gentle reminder.

How To Ask Frequently Without Irritating People

You certainly don’t want to pester your customers but it is important to keep the idea of recommending you in their minds.

I came across this tip a month or so ago in a newsletter I receive. It was suggested by Michele Peterson, a freelance copywriter and member of AWAI. And it is one of those ideas that make you say “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Simply add a P.S. to your email signature asking for referrals. This is the one I now use:

P.S.  Who do you know that would like to boost their business with more effective sales messages? Please tell them I can either show them how to write more persuasively or write their copy for them.

They’ll thank you for the tip-off, as will I.

And this is the one used by one of my guest authors (he’s writing a chapter for the new edition of ‘I Want To Buy Your Product… ‘)

P.S.  Who do you know that would like to boost their business with a more effective digital strategy and implementation?  Please tell them that we are passionate about increasing their ROI.

They’ll thank you for the tip-off, as will I.

Notice the pattern in these? We are reminding people about what we can do for business owners and asking them to pass our details to anyone looking for the services we deliver. We are also saying that we appreciate any referrals they pass on to us.

As Michele said in her article “It’s not pushy. It’s simply planting the seed of a potential referral and keeping my word-of-mouth marketing campaign ‘watered’.”

The advantage of including it in your signature is that it is automatically inserted into every email you send out.

So it is not just your customers who are being prompted. All your business colleagues, including your suppliers, are also reminded that you welcome referrals.

Michele also suggests adding a similar note to the bottom of your invoices and on the back of your business cards… remember the back of your business card is a valuable marketing space and should never be blank.

Share your P.S. in the comments below – you never know you may get some unexpected business!

~ Carol Bentley

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Combating Negative Reviews: A Step-by-Step Guide

Guarding our online reputation is important – it can so easily be completely trashed by disgruntled customers.

This guest post highlights a side-effect of social media that we, as business owners, need to be aware of.  On-line reviews and the impact they can have. Over to Megan…

Combating Negative Reviews: A Step-by-Step Guide
by Megan Totka, Chief Editor, ChamberOfCommerce.com

There has been a lot written online about how to promote your business and its goods or services in Web-savvy ways. There are blogs, like this one, devoted to helping average business owners succeed in the electronic environment. Building up a business in a saturated online marketplace takes some time and research but it can be done successfully.

Online promotional tactics, while helpful, are not invincible. Unfortunately for business owners, the power of the consumer voice online can often outweigh, and outrank, the image they have carefully crafted.

One bad online review can make an immeasurable negative impact on a business; there is no way to know which potential customers see unflattering reviews and so there is no way to win them back. Bad reviews happen for a lot of reasons and therefore battling them is a little bit complicated.

Here are a few ways to protect, rebuild and maintain your online reputation from damaging online reviews:


Make it ridiculously easy for your customers to get in touch with you. Have a contact email address prominently displayed on your website and also a phone number. To make it even simpler, add a contact form to your site.

Make a point to respond to all queries within the business day. Do not give customers even the slightest bit of time to lash out in a public, online forum. Also, stress customer service to anyone that is a representative of your company and teach them ways to keep a cool head.

Some customers are difficult, but remember – the only side of a story that makes it into an online review is the one of the disgruntled consumer.


If you find your business is the subject of a negative online review (or two, or three…), combat it by adding more positive information on your company to the Internet. You can go onto the same online review sites and add fake reviews with a positive twist – but this is actually not the best way to go about reputation improvement. For one thing, the bad review is still displayed next to your good one. For another thing, reviews that are not genuine are usually pretty obvious.

Instead, develop new sites with your company name and services. This could be as simple as starting a few blogs on different topics related to your industry that have separate URLs. You could also develop complete secondary websites. Branch out from your official company link in order to give search engines like Google a list of links to rank ahead of sites that contain negative reviews.


Keep track of your company by searching it often. Find out what keywords are being used each time a customer finds your site. These may include your company name, the products you sell or general industry terms.

If anything negative is popping up before positive pieces, it is time to come up with a new link flushing strategy. Remember that maintaining a sunny online reputation is a work in progress.

Do your business’ good name a favour and take the time to protect it against costly online attacks.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She has produced content for media news outlets in Portland and Saint Louis.

You may recall that Megan Totka, from chamberofcommerce.com, contributed a post last month.  I’m delighted to announce that Megan will be letting us have her insights every month and I’m sure we’ll get some great tips from her.

In next month’s post Megan will give us some tips on how to monitor online conversations about our businesses.

~Carol Bentley


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