Black Friday sale image
Black Friday is the official indicator that Santa Claus is on his way. Retailers compete to tell you about the many specials they're offering at 4:00 a.m., on Friday morning.
However, you, small business owner, may be paralyzed with fear because you haven't started your Christmas marketing, and even worse, you don't know where to start. Never fear, all is not lost. In fact, your failure to compete with all those other voices, is probably a good business choice.
Sure, Black Friday IS still the biggest retailer shopping day. But just think, do you have the inventory, staff and space to handle mobs of people? Can your nerves handle it? Will you need one week, to recover from that one day sale? Sure, a blockbuster Black Friday is the equivalent of a business person's sugar plums. But, in all actually, none of us small business owners can handle Walmart-sized shopping crowds.
There is still plenty of time to market to your target audience. Most of them haven't finished their Christmas shopping. In fact, ShopperTrak, a retailer analytics provider, insists there are nine more days left. And you, small business owner, can take advantage of them, without unruly mobs, fights and security guards. Eight of those biggest sales days are in December. According to ShopperTrak, the second biggest sale day, after Black Friday, is December 23rd; just two days before Christmas.
Email marketing is magic SEND THEM A PERSONALIZED EMAIL
How do I reach those shoppers, you ask? Well, holiday email marketing is a great start. You've been diligently collecting those email addresses all year, haven't you? (I see some of you shaking your heads, no; well, you can just skip to the next paragraph.) Now is the perfect time to put those addresses to great use. Create personalized, Christmas themed emails, that tell your addressee about your goods and services. Don't forget, your audience will shop after Christmas, too. So make sure they know you'll have things to offer after the most givingest time of the year. (Yeah, I know that's not a word.) Social media
GET SOCIAL WITH THEM
There are a few things you can do, that will differentiate you from your competitors. Decorate your profile and cover. You decorate your Christmas tree, don't you? Doing the same with your profile and cover let browsers know your posts are current and get's them into the holiday spirit.
Create Christmas offers, they can't resist. You know your customers and what they like. Tailor your ads for the things that they like to buy. Emphasize the information that your audience will deem important. Don't make them hunt for it. Also, don't make the information compete with a busy background.
Don't just sell. Share something about you and your brand. Profile staff. Not only will you personify your business, you'll make your staff happy, too.
I could go on and on. But, I won't. Just because I have some marketing to do. However, no matter what marketing ideas you incorporate, make sure you analyze the results. The analysis will help you determine which things work and which ones don't. They'll also help you in 2018. You'll have an idea of the things that make your audience tick.
Happy 2017 Christmas marketing.
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Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn's CEO
LinkedIn is now wholly owned by Microsoft. But you know that, don’t you? Unlike most big-ticket tech purchases, this one didn’t draw much attention from the public. Yes, you heard about it in the news, but, unlike many other acquisitions, there was no fanfare, bells ringing on Wall Street, or big announcements that were dubbed “Breaking News.” In fact, quiet acquisition has been Microsoft’s style since it began acquiring businesses in 1994, either wholly or by purchasing substantial stakes.
Microsoft quietly finalized its outright purchase of LinkedIn on December 8, 2016. Microsoft paid $26 billion, or $196 per a share, a $65 premium over the stock’s $131 per share, June 13, 2016 closing price. LinkedIn joined a stable of previous Microsoft purchases, or interests, like; Skype Technologies, Hotmail, a $1 billion interest in Comcast, a $200 million interest in Best Buy, and a $605 million interest in Barnes and Noble, to name just a fraction of its subsidiaries.
Microsoft has changed its acquisition strategy. Instead of playing catch-up in key technological areas, Microsoft now seeks to either get into “a market early or create new ones.” While the LinkedIn purchase did not cause a media frenzy, the “acquisition has a fairly strategic rational of combining Microsoft’s user presence with a business-oriented network.” The benefit for LinkedIn users may be, the business network finally growing into the networking powerhouse visualized in 2014.
BEFORE THE MICROSOFT SALE
Prior to its sale, LinkedIn was the go-to site for business to business, social networking. Users joined, created their profile (rather offhandedly), and then amassed as many connections as possible, like they were collecting chips at a poker table. Very few users actually “networked.”
Of course, there were power users. Users who understood the network’s benefits and used them to parlay connections into profits. But overall, LinkedIn became the professional Facebook. You collected users and boasted about the number of connections that you had amassed. Part of this lackadaisical attitude could be attributed to LinkedIn and its “let it flow” approach to user instruction.
Per CEO, Jeff Weiner, (at a presentation to Morgan Stanley) LinkedIn’s mission was to “connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” Initially, LinkedIn achieved that goal; it saw membership climb from 32 million users to 277 million users in five years. At the same meeting, Weiner intoned that LinkedIn would, in the future, “create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.”
That’s not what happened. Instead, in 2015, LinkedIn faced staggered growth. It continued to acquire new members, but its unique member acquisition didn’t grow throughout 2015. Advertising on LinkedIn, an 18% profit driver for the network, dropped from 35% to 10%. Correspondingly, LinkedIn’s share price dropped.
LINKEDIN AFTER THE MICROSOFT SALE
After the sale was finalized and regulatory approvals granted, LinkedIn/Microsoft began making changes. LinkedIn’s first change was its introduction of ProFinder. ProFinder, introduced in March 2016, is a business to business, freelance matching service. Businesses that need services, i.e., accounting, design, marketing, or other services, create listings on the network. Seekers receive five business proposals, before the service request is closed.
LinkedIn initially built its service provider base by invitation. There is now an application process. LinkedIn performs all the service matching. ProFinder reviews the service request, and then contacts service providers, via email. Service providers are allowed 10 opportunities to submit proposals, before they are required to upgrade their account to Premium status.
UPDATED COMPANY PAGE
LinkedIn is encouraging users to update their company page. Prior to the sale, the company page was a feature buried deep within LinkedIn. The feature was always there, just hard to access and utilize. LinkedIn now encourages company pages.
To use the feature, LinkedIn personal pages must meet six criteria, like, a company email address (no @gmail or @yahoo here  ), have an established personal profile and have a moderately developed profile with external links. (There are three other criteria, but in the interest of time, they are not listed.) LinkedIn cites several reasons in support of its company page. The foremost is to use a company page as a branding tool.
CHANGES ON THE HORIZON
In a joint press conference, on June 13, 2016, the two companies proposed changes that they foresee for LinkedIn. One change is a unified business presence across the internet. Specifically, the companies propose using a single LinkedIn profile as an identifier on all Microsoft products, and elsewhere.
Another proposed change is an “intelligent” newsfeed. Per the announcement, LinkedIn’s newsfeed with provide real time information about a user’s network, profession and industry. Per the new LinkedIn, the newsfeed will become “a new daily habit.”
For those familiar with Cortana, it is proposed that the digital assistant will make its appearance on LinkedIn. For the uninitiated, Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Siri. Windows 10 users know Cortana is lurking in the lower left hand corner of your screen. The new LinkedIn wants Cortana to prepare you for next business meeting. (I guess that means your assistant won’t have to keep your calendar anymore.)
LinkedIn is slowly becoming the professional social network it always wanted to become. In the past six months, it has quietly undergone changes. From ProFinder, online company promotions, to anticipated changes, LinkedIn promises to become a networking powerhouse. All users can do is wait and see.
 To obtain a Company page, using a public email service, like gmail or yahoo, businesses can create a group page.
DISCLAIMER: This article was originally published in Lehigh Valley Business and on our blog, in March 2017.
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