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Posted at 03:58 PM ET, 11/23/2012

Social marketing becoming increasingly valuable for small businesses during the holidays

A husband-and-wife team, we own a company called One Girl Cookies, which specializes in artisanally crafted desserts of all sorts. We started 12 years ago, strictly as a wholesale and delivery business which then evolved into a retail business as well.

We have two cafes in Brooklyn, N.Y., one of which is in Dumbo, an area hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.  The damage to our shop, opened only nine months ago, was extensive and reached upwards of $100,000 in repairs and lost revenue. This experience, more than any other, has been a defining moment in terms of who we are as business owners.

As this holiday season quickly approaches, our perspective on it and how it affects our business has been altered. Historically, a third of our annual sales take place in the month of December. A large majority of those sales are corporate and many are from repeat customers.

Though many of them were unaffected directly by the storm, from what I can tell the indirect impact from the storm is going to be great. For instance, we work with many fashion companies that sell to boutiques in lower Manhattan. Almost all of those businesses sustained significant loss of revenue because they were without electrical power for an extended period of time. It is inevitable that they will be ordering less from their suppliers this year.  In essence, the ripple effect is going to be great and we anticipate that having a negative impact on our sales.

 In order to recoup some of our losses, it has become clear that we need to be much more aggressive in marketing ourselves. In some respects, it is a survivalist approach.  Though our business is strong enough to sustain a weak holiday season, bills for the reconstruction need to be paid and the holiday season provides us with an immediate opportunity to try and make a dent in that debt.  The situation has energized us and called us to action.

Our approach will be two pronged: marketing and promotion. For the marketing side of things, we are hoping to ride the wave of national attention given to small businesses, particularly those that sustained storm damage. Small Business Saturday is playing a key role in promoting the message that small businesses need help from their local and national communities. 

We will continue to promote our offerings, as well as Small Business Saturday, on the social platforms that have been so useful to us in the recovery process. We have benefitted greatly by using Facebook and Twitter to communicate to our national fan base about the state of affairs here. Many who are not in the Northeast have a strong desire to help in some way and shopping with us gives them the chance to do that. It is a directly personal way to help because many of those individuals have a preexisting relationship with us. This makes the act of contributing more fulfilling. Of course, we will utilize in-store signage and window displays as additional marketing tools.

In addition to corporate and online revenue channels, we are working hard to develop other areas of our business, particularly dessert tables for events, gift certificate purchases and small grab-and-go items in our shop. Essentially, we are trying to be a well-rounded, one-stop shopping spot for gifts as well as party desserts.

Aside from putting a lot of muscle behind our seasonal marketing efforts, we will offer an array of gift items that are specific to the season, both in terms of flavors and packaging. This is something we do each year and has always proven to be successful. Beyond that, we will extend a 10 percent discount on our cookbook and have in-store promotions for Small Business Saturday. This approach, which we hope will drive sales, embodies the personality of our company in a very unique way. It will give those who are not familiar with our beginnings and story a chance to learn more, thereby strengthening their relationship with One Girl Cookies.

Despite all of these efforts, there are economic factors that will impact our holiday business. A major one is whether corporations will have the budgets for gift giving this year, as a large percentage of our holiday business is dependent on those orders. As with any economic upheaval (Hurricane Sandy, the recession, 9/11) it can go one of two ways. Either businesses will decrease gift giving or eliminate it altogether. The latter, of course, would have a significantly negative impact on us.

The holiday season is a crucial time for us. A disappointing season makes for a disappointing year with no time left to turn the tide.

Dawn Casale and David Crofton are owners of One Girl Cookies, a Brooklyn, NY-based bakery with locations in Dumbo and Cobble Hill.  

 

 

By Dawn Casale and David Crofton  |  03:58 PM ET, 11/23/2012

 
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