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Four Ways Service Businesses Can Stand Out This Holiday Season

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bigstock-businessman-creative-design-39173434 Christmas Creep started even earlier this year (was it my imagination or did I see ads before Halloween?). For retail owners—both brick and mortar and online—the pressure is amped up to get in the holiday spirit, rack up sales, give deep discounts, and plaster their real and virtual storefronts with holiday decorations. But for professional services and consulting businesses, it’s a different time of year: distributing cards and gifts to clients while phone calls and emails slow down, filing more—in other words it’s low season.

Fortunately there are many ways you can stay on your customers’ radar, show appreciation for their patronage, and leave a lasting impression to start 2014 off right. So get going now with ideas from real people in the service business trenches.

Fill Someone Else’s Pockets, Not Your Own

The holiday season is a popular time for people to give back—whether donating food to shelters, taking part in a coat drive, or giving to a favorite charity. For service businesses, think about tying that donation to a meaningful cause in your industry. For example, Forward Push Media came up with a promotion for a client who does prenatal chiropractic treatments: the company is taking online donations through the season to help out moms-to-be facing financial hardships; the perfect outreach for staying true to the brand while giving back to the community.

Your Blog Can Be A Gift (Really)

Your blog is a great tool for your business year-round, but the holidays present more personal opportunities to detour from business as usual, throw in some creativity and spice, and yes, everything nice. Add to that, you can use time you’d normally allocate for follow-up calls to connect with your clients in a different way.

For example, tell a personal story that inspires you—it doesn’t need to be work-related but should remind readers of the season or what’s important in life; do a funny year-in-review, or post predictions that you hope don’t happen in 2014; think up an evergreen post that’s good all year long, such as tax deadlines if you’re an accountant, or the best months to buy furniture if you’re an interior designer. And remember, your blog doesn’t have to be written: It can be a short, crisp video (or depending on your audience, use super-hot Snapchat‘s new “Stories” feature for a holiday greeting that hang around for 24 hours).

Invite Clients “Over”

When we think of service businesses, some people envision slaving away in their PJs or crammed in a teeny cubbyhole, but this is not always the case by a long shot. Many professionals have offices with multiple employees scurrying about. That said, you won’t witness a “50% off” sign in the window. All the more reason to invite customers to your place of business during the holidays. And you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg; if you have a great idea and you promote it, they will come.

Just ask Carla Higgins, a real estate agent with Grubb and Co. For their wildly popular annual holiday promotion, Santa Claus makes an appearance at the office to entertain clients and their families, while treats are served. Mona Koussa of ehomesurf is inviting clients and prospects to the office parking lot for a “Shredding Event”. A mobile, environmentally-friendly truck will destroy confidential documents and guests can nibble on sticky buns and drink hot chocolate all the while. Plus mortgage- and real estate-related vendors will be on hand to answer questions—nice touch.

Embrace Your Inner Black Friday

When it comes to promoting, there’s no reason you can’t turn up the volume and play like the big-box retailers who thrive during the season: From having a one-day “flash sale” on your priciest services to free add-ons for 2014. Your only barrier is imagination (plus your time and ability to do the work).

This time of year, Diane Shapiro Sommerfield, a social media marketing consultant, offers 25 percent off her normal price for a new client package, which range from kick-starting a social media program to a facelift on clients’ current social networks.

These are just a few ideas to get you started on the holiday season. Are you now spurred to come up with a promotion of your own? Well tick-tock!

Editor’s note: Stay tuned! NMX will be featuring our very own holiday promotion, the 12 Days of Giveaways, where we’ll be giving away tons of freebies starting in mid-December. Want an email when the 12 Days of Giveaways starts? Make sure you are signed up to our newsletter list on the sidebar!

Image Credit: Bigstock

5 Mistakes Your Small Business is Making on Twitter

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business on twitter

As a small business owner, it can be challenge to keep up with best social practices. One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “What am I doing wrong?” If you’re not seeing the results you think you should from Twitter, here are a few mistakes you might be making:

Mistake #1: Broadcasting Without Interacting

The entire point of social media is to promote your business, right? Well, yes…but in a social way. It’s about more than just broadcasting. Sure, you can send out tweets that include links to your website or blog, but you also want to interact with your followers. Jump into relevant conversations. Be helpful when someone asks a question. Follow others in your industry and those who are potential customers. If you aren’t using the “@” reply function often, that’s something that needs to change. Southwest Airlines is a great example of a company doing this right. They are constantly retweeting and replying to their customers.

Mistake #2: Blurring the Lines Between Personality and Personal

When using social, I think it’s great for the personality of your company to shine through. You aren’t just a giant logo. There are real people behind your social account. But there’s a difference between showing your personality and getting personal. If you’re a business or brand on Twitter, you don’t need to tweet out pictures of your meal or rants about your flight being delayed. Save that for your personal account. Keep your Twitter interactions relevant to your business. Bill Gerth (and Frank Eliason before him) for Comcast does a great job at this at @comcastcares. Talenti Gelato (who we profiled here) and GrubHub are also awesome at letting their personality shine through while still making it about their respective businesses.

Mistake #3: Going on Hiatus

If you can’t commit to tweeting daily, get off of Twitter. No, really. It looks bad if someone asks a question on Twitter and you don’t reply quickly. An abandoned Twitter account is worse than having no Twitter account at all.

Mistake #4: Promotional Updates

Promotional updates are okay. After all, you’re using social media to promote your business. However, if you’re only promoting yourself, your tweets can get old quickly. A really great option is to start a blog and also promote your links to education or entertaining topics. If you run a lawn care company, don’t tweet yet again that you’re available for landscaping. Tweet a link to your post on the “10 Best Celebrity Yards” or “How to Get Rid of Summer Garden Pests.” Get people reading on your site through content marketing and then sell them on your products or services once they’re a fan.

Mistake #5: Not Following Relevant Hashtags

Lastly, are you following hashtags in your industry? Hashtags (using the # symbol before a word or phrase) allow you to see what people are saying about a specific topic. Following these hashtags allows you to identify problems, jump into conversations, and find new followers (and potential customers). Always be listening to what your target market is saying.

What’s the biggest mistake you see businesses making on Twitter? Leave a comment!

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