Holiday Marketing Primer for Small Businesses

holidays-tipsAre you ready to make the most of the holiday season?

A lot of businesses depend on the holiday season to make their sales for the year. In fact, twenty to forty percent of annual sales for small to mid-sized retailers happen the last two months of the year. If you fit in this category, you should have a marketing plan in place to capitalize on November and December. If you don’t have one in place yet, don’t panic, this blog post will help you get a promotional plan together in no time.

For some of you, the holidays are not your prime selling season. In fact, most customers forget about you until the holiday frenzy is over. If that describes you, there are still some things you can do to capitalize on this time of year.

If You’re In Retail

There are top selling dates coming up when people are shopping in droves, looking for deals.

  • Monday before Thanksgiving – November 21
  • Black Friday – November 25
  • Small Business Saturday – November 26

If you haven’t participated in Small Business Saturday in the past, this is a great program from American Express that offers their cardholders a statement credit when they shop brick and mortar businesses that are small and local. They provide free graphics and templates you can use to let customers know they can Shop Small in your store. Visit American Express to learn more. (Link:

What’s A Good Deal For You

You should have a good deal in place to help capture the most sales. What’s in a good deal? Think about what’s worked for you before. Has it been a straight discount or a value-added offer? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Get $10 Off when you spend $50 or more (basically 20% off)
  • Gift with Purchase (such as a free stocking stuffer)
  • Spend $30 and get $10 off your next purchase
  • Free Gift Wrapping with purchase

Get The Word Out

Once your deal is in place get the word out with in-store signage, an email campaign to your past and current customers and posts on your social sites.

In-Store Signage

Create signs you can display on your window, cash registers and throughout your store with the promotion. Take advantage of the increased traffic to grow your email list too. Encourage customers to sign up to receive additional savings in their inbox. They can sign up at the cash register or use their mobile phone to text to join. Email services such as Constant Contact offer this feature. (Link Constant Contact to:

Email Marketing and Social Posts

Repetition is important in order to ensure that everyone knows about your promotion. One email or post is not enough. So plan for at least 3 emails to promote your offer and at least 3 posts. You can send one with the details of the offer, a reminder half-way through the promotion and perhaps one more the day before the deal ends. Also, don’t forget to thank those who purchase or sign up for your emails.

Set It and Forget

You can schedule out your emails and posts in advance so you don’t have to worry about it when the holidays come. This way, you can focus on your customers and know that your marketing is running fine.

Using an email service provider will allow you to schedule the emails in advance. You can even schedule your emails to post to your social sites making the process even easier. You can also schedule posts directly on Facebook.

Not in Retail? You can still grow your business over the holidays.

If the holidays aren’t your season to sell, there are still some things you can do to capitalize on the busy season to stay top of mind with clients.

If you haven’t been sending emails to your clients, past clients and prospects, the holidays is a good time to connect with them and let them know that you’d like to start communicating regularly staring in 2017.

If you have been using email and social, you can create a special offering that gives them a head start on 2017 by offering them the opportunity to lock in a special offer now that they can use next year.

The holidays are also a great time to run a holiday contest that will help you get more fans, followers and subscribers. One of my business to business clients runs an annual Holiday Pet Photo Contest that helps her grow her email list and fan base. Your contest can be about the best decorations, food, anything that works with your business.

Are you a non-profit?

The holidays are also great time to receive end of year donations. Another great day to focus on is #GivingTuesday on November 29. It’s a global day of giving that can help you secure the resources you need for the coming year. For more details, check out

From 1 2 10

scoreBy Carlos Blanco, Pigs On The Roof

I love my mechanic, Tomas.  He was the former head mechanic at a major dealership here in South Florida.  A few years ago, Tomas ventured out on his own.  Specializing in German performance cars, Tomas employs his wife, son and an additional mechanic.  The shop is small and customers come from all over South Florida due the family feel and excellent, reasonably priced work.

The other day, I asked Tomas why he did not expand into the bay next door and grow the business.  His response, “Hell no, who needs the headaches!”

Sounds like Tomas has it right.  But, there is a major trade off when it comes to a “lifestyle” business.   In return for long hours, the owner makes a good living.  There is food on the table; nice cars; and the kids attend good schools.  There is nothing wrong with a lifestyle business.  There are millions of lifestyle businesses.  Just look your own neighborhood–the barber, the local cleaners, the corner bakery.   However, for the most part, one will never retire rich.  Tomas consciously made this decision.

I don’t know what Tomas’ business grosses.  But my guess is just shy of $1 million annually.  In my opinion and experience, it’s not hard to grow a business from zero to $1 million.  Yes, you read  that correctly.  With the assumption that you have a product/service that somebody wants, growing a  business to $1 million can be easy because:

  • With a limited set of customers, every customer can be made to feel special
  • Small number of employees, most of whom are known before being hired, makes it easier to deliver better products and services
  • Any process or procedure can be adjusted, corrected or implemented immediately
  • Employees tend to work harder and smarter because there is a real connection with the owner and the business
  • The owner has the pulse of every aspect of the business
  • Cash flow issues, when they surface, are usually covered with personal funds or a personally guaranteed credit line.

But what  if you want more?  What if you want to grow your business to $10 million or more?   To do so, you need SCALE:

  • Sales – When you are a small business, customers came to you. With great services and products and possibly a pricing advantage due to your small size, “word of mouth” and referrals drive sales.  This all changes as you try to grow the business.  Many times the owner is forced into a business role that he/she is not comfortable with.  As growth continues, the business requires sales people to fuel revenues.
  • Cash – With growth comes the potential for major cash flow issues. For example, payroll is due and there is not enough in the bank to cover.  Most small business fail due to lack  of access to cash.  Securing credit lines or other sources of cash for working capital is critical to growth.
  • Automation – To grow, delivering customized services and products becomes a challenge and introduces more cost into the business. Wherever possible, manual tasks must be automated.  Likely for the first time, the business faces a major investment in information technology.   Documented processes and procedures are critical.
  • Long-Term – There are many moving parts to a growing business. Many times investments are required today in order to grow revenues, deliver better products/service or reduce costs in the future.  Often relegated to large corporations, annual planning, quarterly reviews and monthly financial reporting must become part of the business.
  • Employees – As you grow, you need to hire more and more employees. Now, more complex human resources challenges come into play–attracting quality candidates, competitive  wages, benefits, background checks, terminations–becomes a major business priority.  This complexity takes greater hold as many state and federal employee and safety laws begin to apply.  And one bad termination can lead to a lawsuit , which can be the ruin of the growing business.

I’ve had the fortune of starting and selling two businesses, one of  which employed over 125 employees.  Growth is a decision.  From initiation, we made growth a priority for the businesses.  This meant that everything we did was with SCALE in mind, from the types of services we provided to the kind of customers we wanted.  Although very hard at times, sticking to SCALE allowed us to grow the businesses and ultimately sell them at a very nice multiple.


Funding Your Business When Banks Say, “No!”

By Carlos Blanco, Pigs On The Roof

monkey cashOften people have the unfounded notion that banks provide financing to start-ups and early stage businesses.   The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.

Banks are not in the business of losing money.  So, by definition, they only lend money to individuals and businesses who they believe have a very good chance of repaying the load.  Worst case, a bank may fund a marginal borrower based on collateral the bank can collect should the loan default.

So what is a start-up to do?  How about a business with an unproven track record?  How do these people get the funding they need to get the idea off the ground or fuel early growth?

Before exploring funding types and options, the first thing to look for is a mirror.  Yes, a mirror.  Anyone seeking financing should look at themselves in that mirror and honestly answer these key questions:

  1. Am I a good founder? Do I have a history of success?  Do I have a great team?
  2. Is my idea/business simple to understand?
  3. Am I in a market that’s growing or one where I can take share?
  4. Do I have a first mover or competitive advantage, intellectual property?
  5. Can I show early traction or at least a real proof of concept?
  6. Am I willing to give-up a realistic portion of my business for the money I need?
  7. Am I ready to detail my business in the form of a plan?

Assuming the honest answer to each of these questions is “yes”, you can move forward to exploring funding types and options.

Funding Types

  • Using your own assets or cash to fund the venture, at least at the start.
  • Money to be repaid according to the agreed upon terms.
  • Giving up a portion of the company/idea in return for capital, with no guarantee that the company/idea will succeed.
  • Combination of the above

Generally speaking, for a typical start-up, debt financing is limited to credit cards or loans collateralized by some other, usually personal, assets.  And the type of funding that is appropriate depends on the stage of your business.

Seed.  The initial funds required to build a prototype and/or prove the business concept.  It’s the riskiest investment for yourself and a possible investor.  It’s also the hardest type of funding to attract.

Start-up.   With the product built/business concept proven, this is funding to initiate business operations and secure the initial customer base.  The focus is on market entry and securing as many customers as possible.

Expansion.   With a significant customer base and the business operational, this funding is for expansion.  The focus is on professionally managing and scaling the business so as to grow revenues as quickly as possible.

Depending on the business/product and “cash burn”, the start-up and expansion stages could involve multiple funding rounds—i.e., early stage, second-stage, etc.

Funding Options

  • Your own money to “bootstrap” the concept/business until you have other options.
  • Many popular sites are available for this purpose.
  • Friends and Family. Anyone close to you with money that believes in your business concept and you.
  • Accredited Investor. As defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission (Regulation D, Rule 501):
    • Individual whose net worth, or joint net worth with that individual’s spouse, exceeds $1,000,000.
    • Individual who had an income in excess of $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with that individual’s spouse in excess of $300,000 in each of those years and has a reasonable expectation of reaching the same income level in the current year.
  • Individual Angel and/or Fund. Professional, individual investors or funds that pool professional investors’ money in order to invest in businesses.
  • Venture Capital. Funds that come in many sizes and can invest across the spectrum of stages: seed, start-up, expansion, mezzanine and IPO.  Typically invest at the exclusion of previous investors and can take a controlling position in your business over time.

Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.  For example, self-funding is the easiest to secure (you can’t turn yourself down), but it is limited by the amount of cash available to you.

amount effortAt the opposite side of the spectrum, you have venture capital funding, which could potentially mean a lot of money.  However, VC funding takes an enormous amount of work and the chances of success are slim to none.  Think of this option as winning the lottery and then potentially paying a high cost for that privilege.

Each funding source has its own nuances and serves a particular purpose.  The type of funding you pursue should tie to your cash needs and the size of the idea.  The bigger the market potential, scope of idea and possible return, the more venture capital makes sense.  Think Facebook, for instance.

For a small, local business, say a bakery or barbershop, self-funding and cash from family and friends makes the most sense.  Of course, the area in the middle is a bit more complicated, and this is where accredited investors and angels play a key role.

The following table, at a macro level, compares the various options.


Take it from someone who has raised private equity more than once, the cost of raising capital is very significant, both in terms of time and money—it’s realistic to take more than a year working at securing funding, without any guarantee of success.   And if your venture is successful, it will likely be the most expensive financing you ever secure.


How to Acquire and Convert More Leads Into Sales

By Sandi Abbott, Xpresso Marketing

Do you know where next month’s sales are coming from?Arrow_Comic-300x300

The lifeblood of a business is sales and most businesses owners spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to generate next month’s sales. But what if I told you that you could do this without spending a lot on acquiring new customers?

It’s easier than you think and the answer is right in front you – it’s your current customers.

Before you start looking for new sales leads, look at what you can do to get previous and current customers to generate the sales you need.  That’s why it is important to keep in touch with your customers; they are your greatest source of repeat business and are much easier sell to than new customers. They’re your secret goldmine.

Here are some stats to perk you up (yes, sometimes numbers can be as eye-popping as coffee!):

  • 90% of sales come from current and returning customers.
  • It costs 6-7 times more to gain a new customer than to retain an existing customer.
  • Repeat customers spend 67% more.
  • After 10 purchases, a customer has already referred up to 7 people.

How can you stay in touch with customers? The most cost-effective way to stay top-of-mind is with email marketing. So, be sure to collect email addresses at the point of sale, your website and social media.

Next, have a plan in place for communicating with current and past customers.

Let’s look at a few email-marketing strategies to address each of the strengths we mentioned:

Generating Next Month’s Sales: Look at past sales to determine when your best months are. Also take into account traditional sales periods for your industry.

Then create an editorial and promotions calendar for your communications. This way, you’ll be communicating with your customers at a time when they are most likely to purchase.

For example, a florist interested in capitalizing on Mother’s Day will start emailing their Mother’s Days Specials in April and have a strong promotion in May, a week before the holiday.

Ensure Customer Satisfaction: If you want customers to come back, you’ll need to ensure they have a good experience when they purchase. A great way to do this is by surveying your customers periodically to get their feedback on their most recent sale.

Get More Revenue Per Transaction: It’s easier to upsell a current customer. If they’ve already purchased your basic line of products, you could get them to purchase additional items as well. Or, create a buy one and get a discount on your second purchase deal that you can promote exclusively to existing customers via email.

Get More Referrals: Encourage referrals by offering a friends and family discount they can forward to a friend or share on social media. You may also consider a referral program.

Another way to encourage referrals is with a customer survey as we previously mentioned. You can also ask your customers to give a testimonial you can share on your site. Or, better yet, share a review on LinkedIn or Yelp.

Let’s get those sales caffeinated! If you need a little help with your email marketing, give us a ring at 305.507.7199 or just shoot us a message

Miami Herald Small Business Makeover: Heywood Wakefield

orlando espinosa score miami dade leonard RiforgiatoFor Leonard Riforgiato, the path to small business ownership began in the 1990s with an abandoned company trademark and a passion for antiques.

After selling heirlooms and collectibles in storefronts around South Beach for decades, he turned his attention to Heywood-Wakefield, a vintage furniture brand his customers were buzzing about. Founded at the turn of the last century when two still-older furniture companies merged, Heywood-Wakefield incorporated unique designs and a creative use of bent wood to produce durable and stylish beds, chairs, night stands and other pieces designed for the home. Prices range from $540 for a bar stool to over $1,500 for a bed.

“I got interested in Heywood-Wakefield by accident,” Riforgiato said. “I noticed that, over the years, a lot of people came into my stores asking for vintage Heywood-Wakefield furniture.”

He researched the company, unearthing a trove of information. Heywood-Wakefield chairs and other now-iconic pieces had been made in Gardner, Mass., since 1897, continuing until the late 1970s. Gardner, with a population of 20,000, is the self-styled “Furniture Capital of New England”; in 1983, the Heywood-Wakefield Company Complex, where the well-known furniture was originally made, was added to the National Historic Register.

The company’s lineage impressed Riforgiato. “Once I found out the trademark had expired, I saw an opportunity to keep the brand alive,” he said. “I purchased it, kept the Heywood-Wakefield name and decided to go into the furniture business making these amazing pieces that people loved.”

That was back in 1992. Today, nearly 22 years later, Riforgiato no longer sells Heywood-Wakefield furniture in showrooms, instead operating solely online from his home in Miami. “The cost of operating a showroom became quite high over the years,” he said. “Real-estate costs were going through the roof, so I decided to use the power of the Internet to grow the business without having a brick-and-mortar building to show the furniture.”

Riforgiato was so passionate about the company’s history that he continued to produce Heywood-Wakefield furniture in Massachusetts. He began production in Gardner in 1992, but in 2011, he moved to a factory in nearby Winchendon.

With annual revenue of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, Riforgiato estimates that his company sells over 200 pieces of furniture per year. Relying heavily on client referrals to drive sales, he spends more time making furniture than he does on marketing it. He wanted to take the offline conversations his customers were having and bring them online in hopes of increasing sales.

To find answers, Heywood-Wakefield turned to the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover to help him figure out how to best incorporate tools like social media and a revamped website into a growth plan. The Herald, in turn, brought in Miami SCORE, a nonprofit organization of volunteers who have been successful entrepreneurs. SCORE volunteers use their business acumen and provide mentoring services to small business owners free of charge, putting them on the road to success. SCORE identified three counselors to turn Heywood-Wakefield’s online marketing around.

The SCORE team included Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media, who has over 25 years of experience in branding and social media. He has also led training programs for entrepreneurs both in the U.S. and abroad. Rosi Arboleya, a consultant and creative director at Perpetual Message, a local marketing company, has over 30 years of experience working in the advertising and marketing space. Her expertise is in Web development, social media and developing online marketing campaigns. Frank Padron is a consultant who specializes in digital marketing, online branding and SEO. He has over 20 years of experience working in digital and works with We Simplify the Internet (WSI), an Internet marketing firm in Coral Gables.

After the first of three meetings with Riforgiato, the counselors identified several issues with Heywood-Wakefield’s marketing strategy. One of the company’s immediate problems was a lack of exposure on social media. Another factor impeding sales was the company’s website. It wasn’t very user-friendly and couldn’t handle e-commerce, so customers weren’t able to buy Heywood-Wakefield furniture online. Heywood-Wakefield wanted to take the online plunge, but with a limited marketing budget of just a couple thousand dollars and orders to fill, it seemed daunting.

“Many times, small business owners are so busy running all aspects of their companies that they tend to place a low priority on things they don’t know about,” Espinosa said. “So, suddenly things that seem important to company sales like social media and online marketing are put on the back burner because the company is unsure about how to approach it.”

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