Happy New Year everyone!
Sorry for not blogging as much as I've wanted to and I've resolved to change that for 2013. Things have been extremely busy for me lately as I just got back from CES 2013 in Las Vegas just over a week ago and there's a ton of follow up to do with all the companies I visited for Futurelooks and MEGATechNews. We also did some amazing coverage so you can check that out over here (Futurelooks CES 2013 Coverage) and here (MEGATechNews CES 2013 Coverage) if you're into computers, gadgets and other techie stuff.
Like any business, there are periods of the year where things seem to die down quite a bit. In some cases it can be so slow that it can be quite terrifying for businesses that rely on more regular business. If you're wondering what that looks like, just look at the picture above, courtesy of Michael Kwan. In fact, that's what I look like this time of year because even my business goes through this slump around the January and February periods where advertisers start to cut back to reset themselves for Q2 when things start to pick up again. After the busy holiday season, people just don't seem to want to look at stuff that they might want to buy, possibly putting them into further debt, which I totally understand.
If you do have a business that has a dip sometime during the year, it’s important to take some extra measures to ensure that it's business as usual. And this might involve spending dollars that you might otherwise keep saved, in exchange for the potential pay off of more business down the road.
While cost cutting for those lean times is an effective means of riding it out, sometimes a bit of out of the box thinking is needed to stand out from the crowd. Let's face it. Email blasts only go so far, especially with SPAM filters set to kill these days. Here are three good ways that might help your business out.
Use Snail Mail and Direct Mailers
You mean like a pamphlet? Of course! It's proven that printed material is far more durable than an email. It gets passed around, left in weird places, and eventually, someone sees it. You’ll be guaranteed to reach someone out there, without the possibility that it might end up in the SPAM folder.
The key with a direct mail campaign is to make sure that what you’re sending is engaging and relevant to the person you’re sending it to. Make sure the graphic design of the flyers you’re mailing is well done so people will be inclined to open it. If possible, include some sort of incentive to get people to visit your site. Provide a coupon for 10% off or free shipping if you're a site that sells something tangible like a product or service. For Futurelooks or MEGATechNews, I might do a contest or some sort of co-promotion with a brick and mortar retailer like NCIX. This might even let me shave a huge chunk off the mailer because I could potentially get them to pay for it because they get the sales, and I get the exposure.
If you do that, you’ll have a much better chance of people visiting your site, meaning you’ll have a much better chance at making some more sales or getting someone to stick around and enjoy your content, picking up a new reader you never had before.
Run a Contest
Another way, that we alluded to in the previous point, is to generate some business for your online business, is to run a contest!
You could hold that contest directly on your website, or you could hold it on your social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. In fact, just recently, Futurelooks teamed up with NCIX PC to giveaway a Sapphire HD3 Mini PC System worth over $399 US. The prize was donated by Sapphire USA in exchange for the eyeballs that both NCIX PC and Futurelooks could provide for their brand. We got a great prize, the help of a great partner like NCIX PC, and the costs were minimal. In fact, they were ZERO because our winner was a local resident and we simply met up with him to drop off the prize.
Regardless of how you decide to hold the contest, make sure you do it in a fashion that lets you get potential leads. That could be asking for referrals and holding a drawing, where every referral you get means another entry into the raffle. Or if you hold the contest on social media, you could do some sort of trivia contest, or even choose a random fan of your business who “Likes” a certain status and shares it with his or her friends. We really like contests that encourage sharing because it helps your promotion spread quickly. We did the same thing in our HD3 Mini PC contest by encouraging people to share the contest on their Facebook and Twitter in exchange for more entries. In fact, the winner of the contest won because he took that extra step to share it to his Facebook friends. Everyone wins.
If you're not good with coming up with your own ideas, search the web or make sure you join up with a group of businesses that you can bounce ideas off of. This is something that Dot Com Pho is great for because you'll have a bunch of people that "get it" to talk to about your ideas. Just make sure that your contest falls within the boundaries of the law (which varies by geographical location).
Go Viral but not a Flu!
It's definitely flu season and nothing sucks more for a business than having your staff ill. Luckily, on-line businesses are less affected because we always find some way to jump on-line and work. But that's not the viral I'm talking about.
Recently, a friend of mine, Buzz Bishop, had a YouTube video go viral. His clip of 25,000 teddy bears being tossed onto a hockey rink during a Calgary Hitmen game netted himself over 3 million views and he was prepared by immediately monetizing his video content when he uploaded it. He ended up donating the proceeds to his charity but that was a welcome surprise because who knows what goes viral these days? You know, like Gangnam Style.
It's definitely a case of much easier said than done, but if you’ve got some extra time during the slow season you might consider dedicating time to try and make some content go viral. Creating viral content is about following certain trends, but also diving in to the unexpected, and therein lies the Gangnam Styles, Rebecca Blacks, and birds snatching children videos. One of the most important things to keep in mind when trying to create viral content is that you must be original. Again, I'll point to my friend Buzz again because he wrote a blog post that was slightly controversial, but something that every parent is probably thinking: I have a kid that I love more than the other one.
As a result, he had both good and bad publicity, but most importantly, had big news outlets calling him for interviews and comments left and right. People won’t share something they simply believe is a copy or rip off of something else and this was clearly something that was original. I totally get it because as a parent, I do think it, but I don't think I could admit it without some controversy, just like what Buzz experienced.
Whether you have viral content or never have viral content, the bottom line is to be ready to capitalize on the exposure and the feedback, good or bad. But most importantly, be ready to figure out a way to convert those views into viewers and readers for the long haul. Have something ready to roll just in case this happens to you, like a contest, or an email subscription drive to ensure that you can reach those people again.
Although these are fairly general tips/points that I've made here, the most important tip is to not panic. If you panic, then you can't be creative and think of ways to make sure that those lean times aren't going to kick your ass. As a business owner, you're in the drivers seat and it's up to you whether you drive off the cliff during a tough turn, or drift around it Initial D style with a load of Tofu in the trunk, not breaking a single brick of it. Style, execution, and a cool demeanor will get you through.
Do you have any tips to share for those lean times both offline or online? Drop a comment below!