This time of year is rife with holiday business promotions, sales, and deals of all kinds. Whether your business is brick and mortar or virtual, you can take advantage of some of these promotional ideas to grow your business, too. Here are seven ideas that you can put into place now to grow your business before year-end.

The Most Important Thing to Remember About Promotions

Business promotions of any kind are fun and can be a fantastic way to get people into your store or onto your site. They’re a great way to stimulate sales and increase conversion. However, the most important thing to remember is that just because you have a promotion, it doesn’t mean that you’ll have more business automatically! You can’t wait for people to find you. You’ll still have to go out into the world and tell them that you exist and that you’re doing something cool.

The Five Easiest Business Promotions

Holiday business promotionDiscounts, Sales, Free Shipping

The three easiest promotions to run are discounts, sales, and free shipping. Set a percentage off of an entire purchase, offer a huge discount on a single item, or offer a coupon code for free shipping. These are super-easy to implement whether you’ve got a brick-and-mortar business or an online store, because they don’t require that you make huge, store-wide changes. If you’re online, it’s as simple as offering a coupon code. If you’ve got a brick-and-mortar business, hang up a sign, print out coupons, run some ads. These are straightforward and simple.

Giveaways

Next on the list of easy business promotions is the giveaway. The choice of what to give away depends largely on what you’re doing with it. If your giveaway is designed to get people in the door, then offer a great discount and a fun giveaway as added incentive. For example, one year Joann Crafts stores offered a massive discount for the first hour on Black Friday, and gave away a cheap “Cookies for Santa” plate to the first 100 people through the door. If your giveaway is designed to be a purchase incentive, then make sure it’s something your target market really wants, and if they don’t want it, give them an option of dollars off instead. This year on Cyber Monday I saw an offer for a free Nook with a laptop purchase. Not a bad deal, but if you didn’t want the Nook you didn’t get a discount for not taking it.

Contests

The last item in the “easy” category is contests. In person, you need a cool prize, a fishbowl, and a sign-up form, and you’ve got a contest. It’s a fun way to get people into your store, but remember, you still have to market the contest. Online, the contest is also easy and pretty much just requires a mailing list (this also means that a contest is a great way to build your list). Set up the mailing list, add a form to your web site (or have your web guy do it), and have people sign up. When it’s time to pick a winner, randomly choose a person from the list of people who signed up (or use a random number generator) and send them the prize. Invite the winner (0r winners) to share a photo of them with the prize on your web site or social media pages.

Doorbusters

Doorbusters are a little harder to do, which is why they don’t fall into the “easy” category. A doorbuster is an amazing deal, offered in limited supply. It’s a great way to get people through the door of a brick and mortar store and it’s also a great way to get people to come to your web site. To create a virtual doorbuster, all you need to do is simulate the conditions of a live doorbuster: offer an amazing deal in limited supply, for example, offer a freebie or a discount to the first 25 people who place an order. Maybe the coupon code is only available to so many people—many shopping carts today offer the ability to limit the number of times a coupon is used—or maybe you only have so many of a particular item at an outrageous price. If it’s the latter, set up your “upsell” feature in your shopping cart so that you can offer alternatives to the customers who don’t get the original item.

Repeat buyer discounts

I’m a huge advocate of loyalty programs and repeat buyer discounts. In this economy, it makes good sense to reward your loyal customers. Also, they’re fun. Customers actually like being rewarded and thinking about what they’ll do with their points, miles, or reward certificates. When you build in a loyalty program, however, make sure it works properly. The last thing you want is customers calling in with missing points or problems with rewards.

Also, in most cases, it’s best to create levels that customers need to meet before receiving their rewards, and to automatically send out rewards when they reach the next level. Some stores let you accrue points endlessly, letting customers use them for dollars off at any point. The problem is, customers tend to forget to use their points and the points have a lower perceived value than if you sent them an actual reward. On the other hand, sometimes these things can be a nice surprise for customers—imagine my glee upon discovering that I had points at Crutchfield and managed to get a $30 off certificate for my new Blu-ray player! The point, however, is that I had no idea that I even had reward points, until I saw on the web site that they had a reward program…those points might have languished there endlessly.

Holiday business promotions can be a lot of fun and a lot of work, but they can be great business builders if you do them right. Remember to keep marketing! Your promotion is a marketing tool but still has to be marketed itself.