In our industry, we think of Christmas as the busiest and most profitable time of the year. Some businesses build their whole marketing program around this one holiday.
But the savvy business owners understand that having year-round sales is what keeps that balance sheet in the red.
Some say they never have much business for Valentine’s Day but fail to ask themselves why. The reason simple. They don’t plan for it. They don’t understand what kind of gifts their customers really want and need. They don’t market it.
And, equally as important is that they don’t believe it can be profitable.
Valentine’s Day isn’t just a time for lovers. Although, we create gifts for this particular target group, there are so many others who have money and are willing to spend if for a Valentine’s Day gift for “Someone Special. But we tend to forget all about them. This is where uderstanding your market and planning for it comes in.
“Someone Special” can be a mom’s child, a sister or brother, your mom and dad, a teacher, employees, clients and customers, a favorite neighbor or just about anyone else you can think of.
If you’re one of those people who think that Valentine’s Day isn’t profitable, humor me as I play out a typical senario for you.
You’ve bought your chocolates, red and white ribbons, and all those cute plush animals that everyone is going to love.
You’ve created your gift designs, filled the shelves of your store or photographed them, and put them on your website. You’re all set and ready to go.
You stand by the front door of your store, smiling as you wait for the customers to arrive. Or you wait by the phone, first patiently and then not so patiently, willing it to ring.
But the dang thing doesn’t ring. And the people barely give your store a glance as they pass by on their way to the cafe down the street.
What went wrong?
You forgot one thing — how to make your store or your website stand out in the crowd.
Did you really think your gifts were so special that everyone would flock to buy them?
Where else could they buy a gift that has the same message as your cute little devil perched on a box of chocolates?
Yeah, you guessed right. All the flower stores, candy stores, lovey-dovey stores, and even the restaurants and hotels are trying to grab the same customer that you are.
So, what did you do to make them choose you?
Did you buy all those cutesy devils, frogs and teddy bears because you liked them?
Were the boxes of chocolates on your “need to have” list because vendors and other people in the business said that is what everyone wants?
Did you take the time to really get to know your customers and find out what THEY really want? And, did you even consider who your customers are or may be and how you were going to reach them?
We tend to build our businesses based on guesses. We guess that our customers are going to want a cute gift basket. We guess that our customer remembers who we are, knows what we sell, and is anxious to give us their business. We even guess who these customers are going to be.
But guesses aren‘t what build successful businesses at Valentine‘s Day or any other time of the year. Guesses are just that — guesses.
What we need are facts. And the only way to get those facts is by going to those people that we want to spend money with us and finding out what they really want or need.
What problems do they have that we can help them solve with our products?
Any business can increase its profits, not only during the holidays but throughout the year, by simply finding out exactly who its customers are and what those customers want.
And then delivering it!
And do it better than anyone else!
And don’t do it quietly either. If you don’t blow your own horn, someone else will just use it for a spittoon!
Make some noise. Let the world know what you offer that is different from the trendy chocolates and toy animals. If you did it right, you know exactly what your customers want that only you can provide and you let them know that you listened and you have it.
So where do you find these customers and how do you ask them?
You probably have them already. There are those who bought from you during the holidays. They are your most valuable asset. They liked what you offered then enough to buy from you and, if your customer service was as good as you claim, they had a good experience with your company.
Are you letting these nuggets of gold slide through your fingers as they search for Valentine gifts? Not if you’re smart!
Don’t wait until the page of the calendar turns from January to February before taking action. Hogtie them while they still remember you and that exceptional service and product you provided for them during the holiday season.
And the easiest way to lead them to you and your store or website is two magical little words — Thank you!
Send them a post card, a letter, or even an email as soon as the holidays are behind you. If you’re reading this article in early January, now is the time! Tell them how much you appreciate their business. Perhaps even offer them a discount or gift for a limited amount of time if they will be so kind as to answer a brief survey for you.
Not just any survey. But a carefully planned one. A survey that tells you who they buy Valentine gifts for and what kind of gifts they want.
And, you may be surprised. Of course, there will be the traditional sweetheart type gifts for a spouse or lover. But even these may be different than you would think. How about the diabetic wife who needs to control her carbs but also needs to be told how much she is loved and appreciated? What kind of gift can you provide for her?
This gift was created for a diabetic teenager. The buyer wasn’t going to find a suitable gift on the shelf at his local WalMart or Costco. The market is wide open for gifts for those who are gluten-free, carb-free, fat-free, and other health-related issues as well as for those who just prefer to eat healthy.
Or there is the daughter who wants to tell Mom and Dad how much she loves them and Valentine’s Day is the ideal time to do it. Would they prefer a beautifully-designed gourmet gift or perhaps a gourmet dinner that can be drop shipped to them? Theatre or movie tickets can be artfully incorporated into a creative package.
The female professional who has a secret sister or the grandmother who wants to remember the grandkids are potential customers.
Another thing to consider while planning for this holiday is to create a niche where none exists. Valentines Day is not traditionally a corporate or business giving holiday, but it could be.
Plant a suggestion in your corporate customer’s mind that this could be an ideal time to let their customers know how much they are appreciated.
Many of our customers think “cutesy”, “lovers”, “romantic”, “flowers” and “chocolates” when the day is mentioned. Suggest to them that “elegant” and “beautiful” can apply as well.
There are a large number of single people, both young and old, who don’t have sweethearts or lovers to remember them. Your financial planning or bank professional customer could increase his standing with his widowed clients by sending them an “Appreciating You” gift on Valentines Day.
Property managers may be interested in “We Love our Residents” small gifts that could be hung on each apartment door. Or the commercial property manager could be convinced to use this holiday to say thank you to his tenants.
Apartment complexes will often remember their residents with small gifts or even a large one that will be given through a drawing or contest to one resident on Valentine’s Day. Offer to create these gifts for them.
Check with your local assisted centers and ask for a list (or number if privacy is an issue) of seniors living there who have no one to remember them on this special day. There is no way you could provide gifts for each of them as the numbers will probably be large. But this is a great time to create an “Adopt a Grandparent” day. And draw your customers, friends, and even potential new customers into the idea.
Create a sample gift and then advertise locally that they can order this gift and you will deliver it to one of the seniors who have no one to remember them. I would keep the price relatively low for these. If you market this correctly, it can be an ideal way to benefit your business, those who buy the gift, and the senior who receives it.
And even though there are many other possible niche markets, we all know that the girlfriend or wife is usually the one that is the typical recipient. So I’m not suggesting that you neglect this market. The husband or boyfriend will probably spend more money on these gifts than the grandma giving to her grandkids.
Men are not known as early shoppers so these are usually last-minute purchases. That is why they tend to head to the florist or candy store where they know they can pick up a “safe” gift quickly.
But once again, find out what types of gifts men are more likely to buy. You may think that the “naughty but nice” gifts would be the #1 choice for men, but I‘ve never sold one of these to a man. The ones I have sold have all been purchased by women.
Because men usually wait until the last minute to buy that Valentine gift for his sweetheart, you can reach them before they head to that florist or candy store. If you are wise, you will act now and let them know that you can save them the stress of last minute shopping. The power of suggestion works wonders.
Look for places where men tend to congregate and find ways to market there. How about your local fire stations or the bars that men stop by for a drink after work. Ask if you can leave flyers with an easy to use order form and, if possible, a sample basket.
According to Hallmark, Valentine‘s Day is the second biggest day of the year after Christmas for the sale of cards.
If you play your cards right, you can make it your second biggest day of the year for gift baskets!
Having a profitable Valentine’s Day for your business will take a little planning and some creative marketing. But if you do it right, it can be one of the more profitable holidays of the year. Here is a summary of tips to help you make it profitable.
- Make some noise. Let the world know what you offer that is different from the trendy chocolates and toy animals.
- Your best customers are your 4th quarter customers. Don’t wait until February to hogtie them while they still remember you and that exceptional service you gave for them during the holiday season. And the best way is a simple Thank You.
- Don’t forget to offer the kind of gifts that are hard to find for this holiday. How about the person on the low-carb diet or the gift for the professional to give to a secret sister or for the grandmother to send her grandchildren?
- Create a niche where none exists. It isn’t traditionally a corporate gifting holiday but you can make it one by suggesting that this is an ideal time for businesses to let their customers know how much they are appreciated. Instead of cutesy, suggest elegant and beautiful and provide it.
- Your financial planning or bank professional customer could increase his standing with his widowed clients by sending them an “Appreciating You” gift on Valentines Day.
- Property managers may be interested in “We Love our Residents” small gifts that could be hung on each apartment door.
- Men are usually the ones who wait until the last minute and then head to the florist or chocolate shop. Look for places where men tend to congregate and find ways to market there. How about your local fire stations or the bars that men stop by for a drink after work. Ask if you can leave flyers with an easy to use order form and, if possible, a sample basket.
For more ideas to help you grow your gift business