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Holiday sales shouldn’t be just for big guys!

I went out to get a Halloween party costume last weekend and I had trouble finding the section. That’s because the big store’s shelves were already filled with Christmas stuff – in October!

It serves as a good reminder that those big spending holidays aren’t that far away and as the big merchandisers have already determined, it’s not to early to capture some of that cash. If it’s good enough for the big boys, boosting holiday sales should be good for boat dealers, too. Here are some random tips and ideas:

— First, gather the staff for a brainstorming session ASAP (time is short). Create a holiday sales plan that will run between now and Christmas. Include sales ideas – everything from the timing of special prices on certain products/accessories/services to, perhaps, a holiday customer appreciation evening in the store.

— Giving customers incentives to shop on a specific day(s) may help drive holiday sales. Perhaps all clothing is discounted for one weekend. A boat with extra equipment is offered on a certain date. A truck load sale of water skis, tubes, tow ropes, life jackets, etc. (displayed in the showroom in a pickup, 1 price buys everything in the truck) is slated for a particular time. Constantly change things up to keep things interesting with a variety of offers during the campaign.

— “Small Business Saturday” (Nov. 26) is slated for the day after “Black Friday.” It’s a day in which shoppers are urged to support their local small business retailers. Hold a “Small Business Day” sale or customer reception. Ask customers to bring a toy for donation to something like the Toys for Tots drive. And, of course, have Christmas gift specials on display around the reception area.

— For dealers with active social media programs (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), use these tools to promote your holiday specials. Your Facebook friends will “like” bargains so let them know your have them. And who doesn’t want to get a tweet that can save them Christmas shopping time and money. Of course, your basic promotional tool will be your all-important customer and prospect email lists with a weekly “Special Customer Holiday Flash!”

— But, if you want to have some real fun . . . go video! YouTube is, by far, the most popular video host, albeit not the only one. But it’s free, incredibly easy to use, and has the raw power of gaining traffic to your website and store simply because it’s also the world’s second most popular search engine. And, the best thing about video for social media or a website is that it doesn’t have to be a sophisticated expensive endeavor. In fact, video can sometimes be too polished and pushes users away. People come to the Internet for real information and entertainment, not a TV-style pitch. So, grab a video camera, dress the boss up like an elf, and have fun telling viewers about some holiday specials for their Christmas giving! Here are a few more video tips:

• Just keep the image stable, the audio clear and make it real. Someone on your staff probably has a camera and likes making videos. Or hire a local videographer for a simple shoot, editing, and graphics, and upload it to YouTube and your website. Then, e-mail your customers a link to it . . . they’ll thank you later.

• Keep the videos brief. Expect them to be around 2 minutes or so. If you hit 4 minutes, it’s probably too long! Being humorous works at times if it helps lend insight to your staff or products but it isn’t necessary not should you attempt to make every video funny. Humor isn’t easy to do but straight talk with a smile always works!

• You can always create a FAQ video – “Good customers, like you, have been asking what we suggest for stocking stuffers, so here are some ideas at special prices . . .” then show ‘em what you got! Video can be an easy and powerful component for your marketing efforts during the holidays and, actually, any time. So now, set up your director’s chair and shoot!

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