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How to prepare your email subscriber list for the holiday season

Isn’t it hard to believe that the holiday season is upon us again? It feels like just a few weeks ago we were throwing off our sweaters and digging out sandals for the summer. Our snow shovels and winter hats have been collecting dust, unused and stored for cooler weather. It’s time to start pulling out the winter gear and, similarly, now’s the time to prepare your holiday email subscriber list.

Email marketing was responsible for a total of 24% of holiday sales during the 2018 holiday eCommerce season. That means email marketing alone brought in nearly $170 billion in revenue for businesses during November and December of 2018.

7 steps to prep your email subscriber list for the holiday season

So, before you gear up to send out your Black Friday messages, let’s get your email list and email strategy ready for holiday sales with these seven steps:

  1. Clean up your email subscriber list.
  2. Get new email subscribers.
    • Gather all your subscribers in one place.
    • Test your integrations and forms.
    • Ask to be whitelisted (or ask for a reply!)
    • Re-share your opt-in to encourage new subscribers.
    • Pair up for a collaboration.
    • Ask for referrals.
  3. Build new email segments.
  4. Update and fine-tune your automations.
  5. Superpower your transactional messages.
  6. Mark important dates on your calendar.
  7. Make a plan for the holiday season.

Ready? Let’s jump in.

Gift-Wrapped Box Represents Holiday Email Planning

1. Clean up your email subscriber list

The first thing to do to get your email list ready for holiday promotions is to clean up and remove inactive subscribers.

Think of it like doing a deep clean before you start putting out the holiday decorations.

Start by segmenting your list into people who haven’t opened in more than 90 days. If you haven’t emailed in more than 90 days, then you’ll need to start with people who haven’t opened in the 90 days before that. It could even be up to a year since they last opened.

Next, you’ll send that group of subscribers a special series of emails to ask if they still want to hear from you.

These messages should be short and to the point.

You can use humor to encourage open rates if it works with your brand. Remember, your subject line is very important for these messages. They can’t click to stay on the list if the subject line doesn’t get them to even open the email.

Here are some sample subject lines:

  • Long time, no see!
  • Is this goodbye?
  • We miss you
  • Was it something we said?
  • Do you still want updates from us?

The content of these messages should be straight-forward with a single call-to-action: Click here to keep getting our messages.

Communicate the benefits of staying on the list, whether that’s access to exclusive sales, notifications about new products, or never missing an episode of a podcast or blog post.

Send at least three re-engagement messages to this segment of the list, removing anyone who did click to stay on the list from the segment.

After sending those three emails — if they never clicked to stay on the list, remove them. This might be painful if you’re focused on list size, but a smaller list size actually helps with your engagement and deliverability.

You’re paying to send them emails that are ending up in spam folders and trash bins, all while hurting your deliverability to the people who really want your messages.

Time to let them go.

2. Get new email subscribers

After you’ve bid farewell to some unengaged subscribers, it’s time to build your list back up. You’ll do that in a few different ways, including collecting up all the subscribers you have across multiple systems, testing your email subscription forms for any leaks, and running campaigns to get more subscribers.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these processes below.

Gather all your subscribers in one place

If you’re like most business owners, you’re collecting contact information from your customers in several different places, like your eCommerce system, your landing page software, your CRM, and even your social media accounts. Remember all those email addresses you collected when people wanted to join your Facebook group? Did those addresses actually make it to your email system?

Collect up all those email addresses that you have explicit permission to use, and add them to your email list.

Test your integrations and forms

Next up, test your integrations and forms to ensure that the people who are joining your list are actually making it onto your list. A good way to test is to use a special email address so you can track each form individually.

Rather than create a bunch of free accounts, you can modify your existing Gmail email address, for example, and still check whether or not you receive your test messages. To illustrate this, your email address might be hikingfan@gmail.com. You can add a plus sign after the first half (before the @ symbol), and any words you want after, ending up with something like hikingfan+reddit@gmail.com.

This is really handy if you’ve got several different lead magnets or signup forms to test. Examples of these test addresses might look like this:

  • hikingfan+footerform@gmail.com
  • hikingfan+popup@gmail.com
  • hikingfan+leadmagnetA@gmail.com
  • hikingfan+leadmagnetB@gmail.com

Just don’t forget to delete all of those dummy subscribers after you’re done testing!

Ask to be whitelisted (or ask for a reply!)

One way to get your subscriber list ready for the holiday is to ask your new subscribers to whitelist your email address or add you to their address book.

Another way to get whitelisted is to have them reply to an email from you. Most ISPs will automatically add an email address to the address book when you’ve sent them an email. By simply asking a question — like “What is the biggest problem you’re facing” or “Which is your favorite style” and asking for a reply (instead of a click), you can improve your deliverability, strengthen your relationship with your subscribers, and get some customer feedback all at the same time.

Re-share your opt-in to encourage new subscribers

Once you’re sure that your opt-in is running like a well-oiled machine, it’s time to share it with the world to get even more subscribers. Here are a few ways you can share your opt-in to get new subscribers.

Share on your social media profiles

This includes Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can share as a post as well as in your header image.

Post in related and appropriate Facebook Groups (as allowed)

If you’re a member of a Facebook group that allows promotions, share your free opt-in.

Pin it

Pinterest can be a massive traffic generator, especially around the holiday season. As a matter of fact, 72% of pinners say Pinterest inspires them to shop when they aren’t actually looking for anything. Your freebie can be just the hook they need to start buying from you.

Update your website

If you’re already promoting your website on social channels and ad campaigns, make sure your opt-in lead magnet is easy to spot. If you’re looking for ideas to promote your lead magnet, check out 70+ ways to promote your email opt-in.

Pair up for a collaboration

The holiday season is also a great time to partner up with other businesses that have similar client profiles. You can create a collaborative product, or simply promote each other’s products to your own lists.

Remember — you can’t exchange email subscriber lists (that’s strictly against CAN-SPAM regulations), but you can certainly tell your customers how great the other person’s products and services are.

Another great option is to create a buyer’s guide that includes products from multiple businesses. You can create it once, and then have everyone share it because their products are featured!

Ask for referrals

Another easy way to build your email list is to ask your existing customers to invite their friends to shop with and buy from you. We all have an innate desire to display what we’ve learned, found, and discovered.

One of the best ways to encourage your customers to share is to give them something to give, and something to keep.

This can be a special offer for each of them, including a discount for their purchase, free shipping or even a gift with purchase.

Asking for referrals doesn’t just have to be for the holiday season. You can build an automation system that works with a specific segment, like automatically asking for the referral after someone makes their fifth purchase.

Red Bow Gift Box Illustrates Holiday Email Campaign

3. Build new email segments

Now that your list is clean, and you’re beginning to grow your subscriber list, it’s time to dig into your email system and build new email segments.

An email segment is a collection of people from your email list who meet certain criteria.

Here are some of the most popular segments in eCommerce marketing, and what they mean:

  • Big spenders: These are the people who have purchased the most from you — often the top 5% to 10%. You can target these customers with new product releases and higher-priced products.
  • New customers: New customers are the ones who have made their first purchase from you in the last 30 days. It’s nice to reward them for buying from you with a special offer on their next purchase.
  • Churning customers: These are customers who have purchased from you more than once, but who haven’t purchased in an extended period of time — often 60 to 90 days. Verify these time frames against your average customer buying behaviors. Use a win-back campaign with a special offer, like a free gift with purchase or free shipping, to get them back into buying.
  • Frequent buyers: Frequent buyers might not always be big spenders. They’re often looking for something new or exciting, so send them your latest and greatest!
  • Specific category buyers: Depending on what you’re selling, you may have categories that appeal to specific customer groups. A great example is a clothing retailer that sells for both men and women. You can segment people who purchase only one type or the other and target your promotions accordingly.
  • Customers by region: When it comes to holiday-centered segments, it can be helpful to group customers into geographic areas, which is especially useful if you’re going to have shipping deadlines. This way, you can tailor your emails to warn of upcoming cutoff dates for holiday orders.

Of course, these don’t have to be the only segments you create! Your creativity is only limited by the capabilities of your email service provider.

4. Update and fine-tune your automations

This isn’t directly related to your list prep for holiday promotions, but it’s a really important element of your overall email marketing strategy.

Set aside some time to review all of your running automations and transactional messages to ensure that they’re up-to-date, and helping to drive improved conversion rates.

Automations and funnels are a series of emails that are sent based on a customer’s activities on your website or in your email list. They’re triggered when someone takes those specific actions that you’ve defined.

A good example of an automation, or funnel, is your welcome series or an upsell series of emails after someone buys a smaller product. When you’re reviewing these, make sure they’ve got relevant dates and offers that align with your upcoming holiday promotions.

And don’t forget to check your links!

Before launching your holiday promotions is a great time to build upsell and cross-sell automated messages. Cross-sell products fit into the category of “People who bought this also bought,” while upsells are often accessories and services related to what they bought.

These messages help your customers fill their holiday gift bags and stockings with goodies from your store, based on what they already know and love.

Plus, those automated messages can help you sell more year-round!

5. Superpower your transactional messages

Transactional messages are also emails that are sent based on someone’s activity. The difference is that they’re related to their specific shopping and purchasing activities.

Transactional emails include order confirmation messages, shipping confirmation, and delivery confirmation. It can also include abandoned cart emails.

If you’re not already sending abandoned cart emails, this is the time to turn them on. An estimated 70% to 80% of eCommerce shopping carts are abandoned, and abandoned cart emails can recover anywhere from 3% to 12% of those transactions.

Not sure how those numbers affect you? Here’s how that could impact your bottom line:

  • Completed orders per month: 100
  • Average order size: $100
  • Estimated abandoned carts (75%): 300 cards abandoned
  • Abandoned Revenue: $300,000
  • Recovered Revenue (3%): $9,000

And if you think your transactional emails have to be 100%-related to their current purchase, think again! In these messages, you can include cross-sells (other products that customers who have purchased this have also bought) and upsells (including accessories and services related to their new product purchase).

Your transactional messages are also a great place to remind your customers of deadlines, like the last day for ground shipping in time for holiday delivery.

6. Mark important dates on your calendar

Speaking of dates, the last thing you’ll need to do to get your email marketing strategy ready for the holiday season is to mark important dates on your calendar — including anything you need to do for those dates, like update messages in your automations and transactional messages.

As an example, in your abandoned cart email, you may add some text or a graphic with your shipping deadlines for holiday delivery, simply as a gentle nudge to remind someone that they don’t have a lot of time if they’re planning on gift-giving.

After that initial deadline has passed, you’ll want to update that text and graphics to promote expedited shipping. And if all the shipping deadlines have passed, then you may want to promote a gift card instead.

And when the holidays are over, don’t forget to take all those mentions back out of your automated emails and transactional messages!

Set a reminder now in your favorite task management system or on your calendar.

It’s easy to think now that you won’t forget it, but after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, updating those messages will likely be the last thing on your mind.

7. Make a plan for the holiday season

Tying into marking important dates on your calendar, making a plan for your holiday emails benefits both you and your subscriber list. You’ll be less stressed about meeting your deadlines, and your list will get well put-together emails with plenty of time to make their shopping deadlines.

Things to include in your plan:

Shipping deadlines

One of the biggest challenges around the holidays is shipping deadlines. If your deadlines are too early in the season, you might miss some of those impulse buyers. On the other hand, if they’re too late, then you run the risk of a shipping delay ruining the customer’s holidays.Sales and special offers

While most people are always bargain hunting, holiday shopping brings out the hunters in all of us. By planning your sales, you can encourage customers to purchase earlier in the holiday season — reducing your stress in processing orders and reaching your goals, and their stress in making sure that their gifts arrive on time.

Last chance

Some of the most important dates in your holiday planning are the last chance to arrive for the holidays. You’ll need to factor in production time and shipping time for all of your shipping methods.Wrapping it all up

There you have it! Seven things you can do right now to get your email list and strategy ready for holiday marketing. Of course, these tips aren’t just great for the winter holidays. You can use them for any holiday that resonates with your business, from Valentine’s Day to Mother’s Day and beyond. Happy holidays, indeed!

Image by: David Beale on Unsplash

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Influencer Marketing: the $68M secret you don’t know

Pura Vida Bracelets reported $68.3 Million in revenue for 2018 leading to an incredible acquisition by Vera Bradley — and they credit a lot of that success to influencer marketing.

Gretta Rose van Riel used influencer marketing to build multiple 8-figure ecommerce brands.

Scott Paul got LeBron James to promote his business for FREE! (Okay, there’s more to that story, obviously – but you’ll have to keep reading to find out the rest).

But how? And what the heck do they know that you don’t?

I’m going to give away their secrets, and fill you in on the absolute best insights from the genius influencers and marketers on the front lines making it happen.

Oh, and if those numbers don’t impress you, maybe this one will:  $10,000,000,000

That’s the predicted size of the influencer marketing industry within the next 5 years, according to Mediakix, a media company that has been closely monitoring growth and trends since 2015.

While that’s not quite as big as a googol, it’s still an enormous number and some truly impressive growth for a business category and marketing channel that was virtually non-existent a decade ago.

Upfiv Websites + Marketing is the perfect ecommerce companion to your influencer marketing campaign.

Influencer marketing was destined to be a juggernaut from the very beginning. As soon as social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube made it possible for the average person to become a content creator — someone who could create their own brand, their own following, their own influence — the game officially changed. A new player stepped forward, one that would force marketers to alter their playbooks in ways that, at the time, seemed unimaginable.

Quote about influencer marketing

Jane Doe became Jane Dough, and before we knew it, the modern social media influencer was born.

As brands continue allocating and shifting more of their marketing dollars towards influencer marketing (18% are spending between $100,000 – $500,000 per year, according to data shared by Bigcommerce), the biggest question everyone has is this:

How do I make this work for ME 

This guide will give you the resources, best practices, and actionable advice you need to create and execute a winning influencer marketing strategy for your business.

Let’s jump in!

Influencer marketing is about being picky: choose the right influencer

For most people, diving into the world of influencer marketing is like blasting yourself into space — you’re out of your element, there are a lot of unknowns, and it can feel suffocating.

At least, that’s how I imagine space…

Ask anyone who has invested any money into influencer marketing where to start and how to be successful from the get-go, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: it’s all about finding the right people for your business and your audience. Without the right people in place, you can still spend a lot of money but see very little return from what you put into it. The people you work with matter.

Here are a few tips for choosing the right influencer:

1. Know who wouldn’t be a good fit

When you’re trying to decide who to reach out to and partner with, sometimes the best thing to do is spend some time thinking about who you are not looking for.

cat fit in small box

That’s the advice I got when I spoke with Neal Schaffer. Neal is the author of “The Business of Influence,” and President of a social media agency called PDCA Social which works with Fortune 50 enterprises and Grammy award-winning musicians — so he knows a little bit about what works and doesn’t work when it comes to influencer marketing.

“Before looking for an influencer, visualize who the ideal influencer should be,” he says. “Marketers waste a lot of money and time reaching out to, and/or working with, influencers who weren’t a good fit to begin with.”

Ideal influencer quote from Neal Schaffer

Schaffer adds that in order to start identifying or disqualifying potential influencer partners, you should perform a simple litmus test. “If your content appeared on their feed, would it be a natural fit? If not, that influencer relationship will not be a natural fit either,” says Schaffer.

2. Don’t let the numbers fool you

Vanity metrics are kind of the name of the game when it comes to influencer marketing, but you have to be careful when it comes to making decisions based solely on follower counts and likes. Some things are not always as they seem.

sesame street one of these things is not like the other big bird

“It’s not all about the follower numbers, it is about an authentic following and reach & engagement,” says Meghan Connolly, a digital marketing expert and owner of Snowbird Social.

Meghan is skilled at knowing how to build a true community on social media. She grew her own dog’s Instagram following to over 40,000 and now helps other brands run successful influencer marketing campaigns.

“An influencer with 10k followers can have as much or more influence than one with 20k, if the 10k has followers who listen to him/her/them,” Connolly adds.

Meg Connolly quote about influencer engagement

When I spoke with Kurt Elster, Host of The Unofficial Shopify Podcast and ecommerce consultant for Jay Leno’s Garage, he agreed.

“When it comes to follower counts, bigger isn’t necessarily better,” says Elster. “In one recent campaign, we worked with several influencers. Our largest at 150,000 followers had zero clicks. Not sales… clicks! Our most successful influencer had 20,000 followers but tremendous engagement with his audience.”

Elster wants people to understand that follower count isn’t everything, and that oftentimes you’re better off partnering with a handful of smaller players than one highly expensive, too-good-to-be-true player.

“I’d rather have 10 influencers with 10,000 followers each than a single 100,000 follower influencer any day of the week,” he says.

influencer marketing numbers quote from Kurt Elster

3. Look to your brand champions first

It might feel like you need to go to the ends of the earth to find the perfect person to represent and promote your brand, but that’s not always the case.

Sometimes, the perfect influencer is right under your nose, according to Scott Paul, CEO at Wooly. “I wish marketers knew that the best influencers are actually their customers,” says Paul.

Best influencers are your customers according to Scott Paul

I talked with Scott because he co-founded and sold an influencer company and spent millions of dollars hiring influencers and building effective influencer marketing campaigns for major retailers (seriously — we’re talking about the absolutely biggest ones, single retailers hiring him to find 200,000+ influencers for their campaign). He shared a great perspective on the value of reaching into your own existing community to find winning promoters.

Scott recommended that, before you spend a lot of time and money searching for a Lebron James-level influencer, look in your own backyard.

LeBron James - Scott Paul's secret influencer
That’s a photo of Lebron “promoting” Scott’s company for free – you can read more about that here.

“Make sure you look deep at your customers and followers on social media before hiring an outsider to promote a brand,” says Paul.

4. Remember the 3 R’s

To find the right influencer, you have to take a number of factors into consideration — again, it’s not just about reach and follower counts. There are other things you should be thinking about.

Gretta Rose van Riel talked me through this idea and gave me some good pointers when I asked what else someone should be looking for and thinking about when trying to hire the right influencer. In the past, she’s used influencer marketing, including her own 16M+ followers, to build multiple 8-figure ecommerce brands. Today, she’s the founder of Hey Influencer, which she describes as a dating platform for matching influencers with brands.

“We use the 3 R’s to assess the right fit of influencers for our campaigns,” she says. “Reach (the size of their following), relevancy (their niche and type of content) and most importantly relationship (having a strong, trusting relationship with their followers often displayed by quality engagement).”

The three R's of influencer marketing by Greta Van Riel

To ensure that you’re on the right track when searching for an influencer to hire, spend time thinking about the partnership you want to build, the type of person you want to work with, the goals you want to achieve, the brand style you want to support, and the audience you ultimately want to engage and build trust with.

5. Become familiar with average costs before negotiating 

Before reaching out to an influencer and talking about price, it’s helpful to know what some of the industry averages are. The investment you make will ultimately depend on the social site you’re trying to tap into and how much true reach the influencer you want to work with has.

Alfred Lua of Buffer put together an impressively thorough resource on the topic that is worth digging into if you’re thinking about allocating any of your marketing dollars to an influencer marketing strategy.

Here are some benchmarks he shares in his article that you can use when talking with influencers about price:

  • Instagram – $10 per 1,000 followers or $250 to $750 per 1,000 engagement
  • YouTube – $20 per 1,000 subscribers or $50 to $100 per 1,000 video views
  • Snapchat – $10 per 1,000 followers or $100 per 1,000 views

how much do influencers charge by platform

When it comes to talking with influencers about your budget, don’t be afraid to negotiate — but don’t be surprised if the quotes you get fall closely in line with the averages compiled by Lua shared above.

6. Pick true partners

To be successful with influencer marketing, you have to be willing to spend a lot of time searching for the right people — people who are actually going to be worthwhile partners who can help you achieve your goals and grow your business. That means experimenting with people who might turn out not to be the best fit for your business, and ultimately being OK with it.

For Bobby Umar, President at Raeallan, it’s not about finding influencers that look good on paper — it’s about finding influencers who will go the extra mile for you when it comes to engaging with the people you’re trying to reach.

“Some influencers only do the minimum amount of work. Others work over and beyond to build relationships and truly engage their audience,” says Umar. “Knowing the difference between the two will really set you apart when it comes to your influencer marketing.”

some influencers only do the minimum

I spoke with Umar because of his experience leveraging influence and building community. He has over half a million social media followers and has helped thousands of business leaders leverage their influence and grow their business with influencer marketing.

Some influencers aren’t what they seem, so it’s important to spend time doing work upfront to try to identify which ones are legitimate and which ones aren’t, according to Bill Widmer, Co-owner of The Wandering RV. Bill Widmer is a content marketing expert who’s worked with Shopify, Bold Commerce, and dozens of other high-growth online businesses, using influencers to build up backlinks to his 10x content.

When I asked him about what his biggest tip was when it comes to hiring influencers, he had this to say:

“Understand that it’s completely possible (and very easy) for “influencers” to buy followers and likes en mass,” says Widmer. “Before you hire an influencer, do your due diligence to make sure their followers are real and actually engage with their content,” he adds.

it's possible for influencers to buy followers and likes

On the flip side, some influencers might not look like they have much influence when you consider the size of their audience, but looks can be deceiving.

There’s a growing trend in partnering with micro-influencers — people who have a smaller following but a more active, engaged, and loyal audience. These can be some of the best people to work with when you’re experimenting with influencer marketing — but people don’t realize it. They get stuck on follower counts and end up missing out on smaller partners who might actually be able to help you more than a big celebrity influencer would.

When I spoke with blogger and influencer Brittany Porcelli, she agreed. “The biggest myth is that micro-influencers will not help your brand,” she says. “Often times micro-influencers are more willing to do more for your brand — more posts, more Instagram stories, etc., and are willing to put their resources towards a longtime partnership.”

micro-influencers are willing to do more

Joel Hansen is a Business Development Manager at Skidmore Group. He also helps brands like Adobe, Canucks, Clippers and Linkedin with youth engagement.  Hansen agreed with Porcelli when I asked him about the value of micro-influencers.

“The biggest myth I believe that stands to be true is ‘the more followers an influencer has the more effective a campaign can be’. You’d be surprised the amount of impact a variety of micro influencers or a local community leader can have compared to a celebrity account with 40% dormant followers,” says Hansen.

Finding true partners, and working to build long-lasting partnerships with them over time, will ultimately make your investment in influencer marketing much more worthwhile in the long run.

To find great partners, consider exploring influencer sourcing platforms like HireInfluenceTribeFamebit, or Upfluence.

Influencer marketing is about more than likes and followers: Use influencers as content creators

Launching a successful influencer marketing campaign isn’t just about connecting with the right influencer — to be effective, you have to take it one step further: you need to find the right influencer who can help you create the right content for your audience.

Influencers only exist because they create content that resonates with an audience. While we’re here to discuss how to optimize influencer marketing, it all leads back to creating great content.

Content is still king.
You can hire a dazzling influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers, but if at the end of the day they can’t help you connect with your audience, you’re just wasting your time and money. That’s where content comes into play.

Here’s a real life example — through my advertising agency, my team and I have done some crazy stuff, like helping a client scale from $20k to $4M in a year. As an ads company, we’re accustomed to paid promotion as a means of delivering content, and less accustomed to leveraging an influencer’s influence to deliver content.

In both cases, the content is the real draw that creates value with an audience. The influencer / paid promotion are just the vehicles.

Influencer + Content is the key formula for influencer marketing. Here are a few tips that will help ensure that you’re set up to build winning content into your influencer marketing campaigns:

1. Evaluate influence AND content 

A big part of your time discovering and evaluating prospective influencers should be spent looking at the other content they create for themselves and for the other brands they work with.

Ted Rubin, CMO at Photofy, supported this line of thinking when I asked him about how content plays a role in influencer marketing campaigns. Rubin was the Chief Social Marketing Officer of Collective Bias (an early entrant to the content and influencer marketing space). Today, he’s a well-known speaker, author, and consultant. Here’s what he told me:

“The vast majority of ‘influencers’ are simply talented content creators,” says Rubin. “Treat their influence like you would good content. Consumers like it, share it, and rely upon it to help make decisions…so measure it the same way you would media.”

social media influencer are great content creators

In other words, don’t choose to work with an influencer solely based on the size of their audience and the level of engagement they receive. Evaluate the type and quality of content they create, and decide if it aligns with your brand and your audience.

2. Throw out the cookie cutters

Every influencer will approach content differently. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Because of the unique relationship and opportunity that exists, you should spend time developing an individual content strategy for each influencer you work with.

“Work with individual influencers to brainstorm ideas for co-creating content,” recommends Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, Host, Punch Out With Katie and Kerry.

When I asked her to elaborate on what she meant, she said, “each one has more reach on one platform or another, and specializes in certain types of content. Some would be perfect for live tweeting your conference sessions, but others are qualified to handle on-site interviews or to create original video content.

“Know your influencers and create a strategy that maximizes each one’s unique talents and abilities,” she adds.

create an influencer marketing strategy

Spending time upfront to think about the unique content a particular influencer could create for your brand and audience will help ensure that you’re building a more interesting and compelling library of content in the long run. It’ll also help you experiment with different types and styles of content in order to learn what your audience likes and responds to best.

3. Look within your existing community

When you’re looking for good content partners, sometimes it’s as easy as looking within your existing community.

“Influence is everywhere, so consider not just collaborating with micro and nano influencers but also with your followers, your fans, your customers, your partners, and even your employees,” says Neal Schaffer.

David Brier, Chief Gravity Defier at DBD International, took this idea one step further when I spoke with him about where to go to find great influencers. Looking at your existing community is one thing — but what about even looking to your own profile?

“BECOME the influencer you seek. Seriously. Too many seek some “impact” from others who have done the hustle,” he says. “The BEST influencer marketing is to elevate your own profile to become an influencer.”

become the influencer

And that’s not just talk for David.

Daymond John (yes — the Shark Tank guy) calls Brier “brilliant with branding.” Grant Cardone calls him “a branding genius,” and Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer of Gary Vee’s VaynerMedia, when asked about David’s bestseller said, “This is not only an outstanding book on branding but is an excellent example of branding, design and content I keep in my office. I only wish I had this book at the beginning of my career.”

Before you spend too much time evaluating talent agencies and negotiating with top-dollar influencers, find out if you have any passionate and willing content creators within your own audience (it could even be you!). Going this route will allow you to spin up campaigns sooner — you won’t have to spend time educating influencers on your products and business because they already know it well).

It’ll also likely cost you less money — brand loyalists and brand champions might help you in exchange for free products or because they simply want to see your business continue to succeed.

Influencer marketing isn’t a “quick fix”: measure influencer campaign success

Because influencer marketing pretty much always requires you to allocate a significant portion of your marketing budget toward something that might not make a directly attributable impact on your business, it’s important to think about how you’re going to ultimately measure success.

Here are a few tips to consider as you think about what you’re trying to get back from your influencer marketing campaigns:

1. Be willing to play the long game 

The first thing you need to realize is that influencer marketing is not a get rich quick scheme. It can take a while to see any sort of return or impact.

“Do not expect people to buy your product straight away when they first see it promoted from an influencer,” says Nathan Chan, CEO of Foundr Magazine.

I talked with Nathan, who used influencer marketing to build Foundr from nothing to one of the top 10 business magazines in the app store in just a couple of years, about this idea of having patience (which as an entrepreneur is really, really hard to practice). Chan recommends trying anyway and to not be discouraged just because you’re not seeing sales skyrocket right away.

“Be prepared to play the long game, a lot of those influencer’s fans will follow your company, and eventually buy over time,” he says.

play the long game with influencer marketing

Chan also wants people to realize the additional long-term benefits of building out an influencer network for your brand — benefits that don’t always appear right after launching a campaign.

“It’s not just about generating a return, it’s about the content and the long game and building your brand using influencers overtime,” says Chan.

Ted Rubin, mentioned earlier in this article, agrees. He says that the idea that you get immediate and instant return from an influencer in the form of sales is a myth.

He explains that there’s this mistaken belief that, “influencers actually influence people in the way that they jump up to go buy something when those you are paying as influencers tell them to.”

Rubin adds, “there are perhaps a handful of people who can make something like that happen and they don’t come cheap. The majority of “good’ ones create great content that consumers like to read and watch, and via that ability provide a great deal of reach and attention.”

2. Know which metrics truly matter

When you’re thinking about what success looks like in an influencer marketing campaign, you also have to recognize the difference between views and true engagement.

“I’m glad that the industry overall is maturing but I think that many people fall into vanity vs true engagement metrics,” says Brian Wallace, Founder and President of NowSourcing.

When I spoke with Wallace, who, in addition to running his company, is a Google Small Business Advisor and on the SXSW Advisory Board, he confirmed something that I’ve been hearing from many other experts in the industry. “If you are just counting a number of likes, you’re likely to be disappointed and in many cases those numbers are going away,” said Wallace.

disappointed with influencer marketing

In other words, don’t get distracted by big numbers. Focus on how your audience is engaging with and responding to influencer content to truly understand how it might be impacting your business and relationships with potential buyers.

3. Recognize the true value of an influencer marketing campaign

When you’re spending real dollars, it’s easy to want to dig into the exact financial impact of a campaign — you want to be able to measure direct ROI. But with influencer marketing, you have to understand that the return is significantly more complex. It goes back to being willing to play the long game and seeing what impact you can make to your business over time and in what ways.

Nathan Chan, mentioned earlier in this article, shares an example to help bring this point home:

“When working with influencers it shouldn’t be treated as a transaction and measured just on ROI. This is only one measurement of success on working with a particular influencer,” says Chan. “What about the content they create for you? If you paid Kylie Jenner to do a post, the post, yes, might make you $$$ from her followers, but what about the ability to use that image of her with your product in your PPC ads? What is the cost of that? These are the things that you need to be looking at for a successful influencer marketing strategy / campaign!”

Instagram Influencer Kylie Jenner

Chan is essentially saying that although you might not see an immediate or direct return on your investment, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to add value to your business down the road. The point is that you are building a library of content that you can repurpose in a number of ways and on a number of platforms.

4. Be true to your primary objectives

Before getting too deep into launching an influencer marketing campaign or hiring influencers, you have to set some clear objectives.

“Know the specific objectives for why you want to work with influencers and how you will measure their success,” says Neal Schaffer, mentioned earlier in this article.

Schaffer explains that setting clear objectives will help you evaluate performance during a campaign and allow you to make the right adjustments along the way.

“Every influencer will deliver different results, so being able to measure and compare their effectiveness will allow you to achieve greater ROI by shifting more budget to well performing influencers,” says Schaffer.

This willingness to plan ahead and make decisions in real-time is the difference between launching a one-time influencer marketing experiment that doesn’t show clear ROI and building a repeatable, scalable strategy that brings measurable ROI and value to your business long into the future.

Influencer marketing is a repeatable process: How to be successful

In most cases, you’re probably not going to experience overnight success when you launch an influencer marketing campaign. It’s going to take time, experimentation, and effort.

That being said, there are some things you can do that can help ensure your success:

1. Be patient and put in the time

Influencer marketing is just as much an art as it is a science. You have to understand that going into it. There’s an art to building community and content that will resonate with people.

Spock is a scientist

Ted Rubin, mentioned earlier in the article, mirrors this line of thinking:

“Influencer marketing, when used to its best effect, is about building a network of business relationships that will yield results over time,” he says. “You’ll get as much out of the program as you put into it. So if your goal is to find a platform, and make this like programmatic advertising, and do whatever you can to automate the process… you will be throwing the majority of your budget down the drain.”

2. Know where it fits in your overall strategy

Don’t just invest in influencer marketing because it’s the latest buzz word you’re reading about everywhere. Instead, decide if it’s actually a worthwhile tactic to test in order to meet your goals and better serve your audience.

Sofiya Deva agrees. She’s the VP of Marketing at Zen Media and has won both a gold ADDY and a platinum Hermes award, and has worked with incredible brands like Chase, the US Navy and Tupperware.

“If you want to invest in influencer marketing, make sure you understand how it fits into your larger marketing strategy, and more importantly — your customer journey,” she says.

invest in influencer marketing

Deva believes that before jumping into this particular tactic, you should ask yourself, “What will engaging with these influencers allow your customers/clients to do, say and be?”

Joel Hansen, who currently directs CIMC (Western Canada’s largest marketing/PR conference) and works with brands like Adobe, Canucks, Clippers and Linkedin with Youth Engagement, echos what Deva says with some very practical feedback on what he likes to see from brands that reach out to influencers, “A brand guide and overview of the marketing campaign and how you play a role in shaping the outcome can be a very helpful foundation to introduce a relationship. I always appreciate when there is proof that they’ve done the research on my content and know my audience demographics. Lastly, a couple references from other influencers they’ve worked with always goes a long way.”

build a relationship with influencers

When I talked with Sujan Patel, one of the most recognizable names in growth hacking and founder of Mailshake, about this topic, he suggests that people should not get too enamored by the idea that influencer marketing has a guaranteed and immediate return no matter what.

Instead of putting all your eggs (and money) in one basket, he wants people to focus instead on what truly matters.

“Influencer marketing can drive huge sales and drastically grow your business,” Patel says. “It can be and has been for certain companies but it’s not always the case. It’s worked well for direct-to-consumer companies and ecommerce businesses but, as time passes, the things that worked a few years ago will become less effective and played out. Don’t get caught up in the sexy-ness of an influencer marketing campaign…instead, focus on building a product and brand that people love.”

sexy influencer campaign

3. Build out your network

If you’re going to experiment with influencer marketing, don’t just dip your toes in — do a cannonball.

Don’t just work with one influencer. Instead, work with and learn from many.

“Work with multiple influencers at once, and use those relationships to cross-promote each influencer’s post,” says Bill Widmer, who was mentioned earlier. “Tag them in one another’s posts and help them grow off each other’s audiences as well as your own.”

Gretta van Riel has similar advice to share.

“What you’re looking for is audience overlap amongst your influencers. This repetition will mean far higher conversion rates as consumers often need to be exposed to a brand several times before purchasing,” she says. “We look for what we call influencer ‘clusters’ or groups of influencers that share very similar audiences for example family members, friendship circles or the fact they’ve all been on a recent reality tv show for example.”

Blogger and influencer Brittany Porcelli recommends building a strategy that leverages both major and micro-influencers to get the best reach and engagement possible.

“Use a combination of influencers and micro-influencers with higher engagement to help drive purchase,” says Porcelli. “Micro-influencers help push your message through the lower funnel.”

4. Keep experimenting with influencer marketing

Finally, never stop experimenting and learning—even while a campaign is still running.

Larry Kim, CEO at MobileMonkey and founder of WordStream (which was acquired by Gannett for $150 million), explains why you need to be constantly testing in order to experience the full potential that influencer marketing has to offer.

diminishing return of influencer campaigns

“There is a diminishing return due to audience fatigue. The first time you partner with an influencer, your products/services are totally new to that audience,” says Kim. “Over time, the novelty wears off. It’s similar to the concept of “Ad Fatigue” in online advertising. Thus, you need to keep changing the content campaign being pushed by your influencers, and periodically switch influencers you partner with, too.”

Goldie Chan, founder of Warm Robots, agrees. Goldie is the top LinkedIn Video creator with the longest running daily video series on the platform amassing over 5 million views and counting earning her the title of, “The Oprah of LinkedIn” by Huffpost. She’s also a global keynote speaker and digital strategist.

“Influencer marketing is constantly in flux,” she says. “One day a platform may be the number 1 way to drive traffic and the next day, it may fall completely flat. It’s not always influencer-specific, on occasion it is the overall health of a platform that can determine campaign success.”

measure influencer marketing success

Wrapping Up

Influencer marketing is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. It’s not a golden nugget or a silver bullet. Like most marketing tactics, it’s easy to plan but hard to implement effectively.

It takes time, money, and effort. You’re going to fail, but you’re also going to learn, and through the process, you can build a strategy that meets the needs of your business, and more importantly, your audience.

Partner with Upfiv Websites + Marketing to add simple, affordable ecommerce tools that will help you take your influencer marketing campaign to the next level.

This post was co-authored with Rob Wormley.

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How to ‘sleigh’ your holiday marketing campaigns

The holidays are fast approaching and it’s time for business owners to start preparing. Brands are strategizing and starting their holiday marketing campaigns earlier every year, and it’s no surprise since small businesses claim the holidays account for more than 30% of their total yearly sales.

Shoppers are checking off all the people on their lists, so it’s vital that you are top-of-mind when they’re brainstorming where to go to satisfy their retail and holiday needs.

8 ways to ‘sleigh’ holiday marketing campaigns

With some timely prepping and extra effort, you can certainly “sleigh” your sales goals this holiday season with these ideas.

  1. Be festive and fun with your branding.
  2. If all is calm, then all is bright.
  3. Provide answers by creating a gift guide.
  4. Get festive with a unique holiday special.
  5. Make the holidays a win-win with a contest.
  6. Partner up because the more the merrier.
  7. Give back to get more.
  8. Don’t forget to spread the love.

Use these eight festive marketing strategies to increase sales, get in front of more people, and make 2019 your best year yet.

1. Be festive and fun with your branding

Whether you have a brick-and-mortar store or your brand lives online, this is the time of year to go big on branding.

People are dazzled by holiday lights and tinsel everywhere they look, so don’t let your business seem blah next to all the others.

You know what your email inbox looks like in December. It’s overflowing with festive emails and clickable content.

  • Do your emails reflect the excitement of the holidays?
  • Does your business look like it’s a holiday headquarters?
  • Are your store windows flashing holiday cheer?

If not, let’s fix that.

Bedazzle your logo

One easy way to get festive is to change your logo to cliche holiday colors like red and green. Think that’s too corny? Here are 15 famous brands that have altered their logo for the holidays. If that’s still too off-brand for you, try working with more muted variations like white, gold and silver.

Add festive graphics

The next way to “sleigh” your holiday marketing campaigns is with some festive graphics. Catapult your website visitors into the holiday spirit with a temporary holiday home page banner.

Next, share holiday-themed graphics on social media throughout the season. Post fun holiday quotes, announce sales or seasonal specials and share important information using these exciting graphics. The good news is they can be reused throughout social media, emails and online.

Being festive shows your customers you’re in the holiday spirit and it adds personality to your business.

It’s also a smart way to humanize your brand, which will improve sales and the reputation of your brand in the long-term.

2. If all is calm, then all is bright

Holiday Marketing Campaigns Cat With Lights

Holiday-crazed shoppers are anything but calm. Thankfully, this craziness creates a sales opportunity for you.

Make it a stress-free holiday by simplifying things for your customers.

Offer a gift wrapping option, extend your store hours, grant free shipping or delivery, validate parking, and simplify return policies.

You can appeal to the rare proactive shoppers or inspire people to shop early by offering an early-bird special or layaway option.

Not only can you make the shopping experience stress-free, but also fun!

Host a special shopping event and holiday party that brings your community together. Your customers will have fun and get their shopping done at the same time. Talk about a win-win situation.

But, it might not be possible for your business to offer all of these options.

During this stressful time, you can be a light to your customers. Simply providing a snack to a weary shopper or helping someone carry something to their car can change someone’s day.

Next-level customer service and a simple smile go a long way — especially during a time of year when shopping malls become a battle zone and your customers are trying to get through the chaos.

By adding a little extra zen to their errand running, your will quickly entice them to stay longer in your store and on your website.

3. Provide answers by creating a gift guide

While we’re discussing ways to make life easier for your customers, let’s talk about a clever way to promote many of your products simultaneously: gift guides.

Match the typical holiday recipients — husband, daughter, grandma, best friend — with your corresponding products.

If your own selection of products or services isn’t wide enough to span this group of gift recipients, you can add other companies’ products. Just be sure to choose like-minded businesses and those who complement your brand without any competition.

Not only does bringing in outside sources improve the quality of your gift guide, it also has the potential to expand your audience reach.

How? Contact the brands and tell them you’re including their product in your gift guide. Chances are, they will be happy to share that guide with their followers too, which puts your brand in front of a whole new audience.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll return the favor in their own holiday marketing campaign and include you in their content in other ways.

Gift guides make great content for email newsletters, social media and blog posts.

These helpful guides are popular and come from brands and influencers alike.

Make a mental note to tap some local or like-minded bloggers in your industry who release gift guides and take the time to email them. Ask to be considered for their guide this year or if there’s another way you can work together. You miss all the chances you don’t take.

In addition to a gift guide, brainstorm other ways your products and services can be incorporated into the holidays.

  • Can they be used in a holiday recipe or used in a unique way at a holiday party?
  • Can they make holiday shopping easier?
  • Maybe something you sell would be a nice donation for a charity or can become a tax write-off?

Get creative and think about how you can make your business more holiday-friendly.

4. Get festive with a unique holiday special

The next way to improve your holiday marketing campaigns is to boost sales with a holiday special.

Limited-time offers excite customers and drive extra traffic in store and online.

If you have an eCommerce store, try offering free shipping, discount codes or a small gift with purchase. Even a small stocking-stuffer can persuade a shopper who is on the fence about a sale.

A holiday special, no matter how small, also provides that added incentive for last-minute shoppers on the hunt for a last-minute deal.

After the holidays, most retail businesses experience down time. Keep customers checking back with your business long after the holidays are done by providing a coupon with holiday purchases for a future purchase. That way, customers are willing to revisit your store to take advantage of this new incentive.

5. Make the holidays a win-win with a contest

Another unique holiday marketing idea is to host a contest.

Advertise an attractive gift package and announce the winner a week or two before the holidays are over to keep the excitement going through the season.

To enter your contest, ask people to follow you on social media, share your post and/or tag some friends.

Another entry option is to create a quick landing page with an email capture form, or use a survey tool like TypeForm to capture email addresses and contact information.

Not only will you excite your audience with a fun contest, but you’ll drum up some new followers and capture some extra email addresses, which you can market to year-round.

Social media is a great platform for these contests and giveaways.

Because social media posts gain impressions by engagement and shares, contests often become popular content on timelines, spreading your cause and also increasing brand awareness.

Contests engage your audience and influence loyal fans (or new ones!) to participate. Amplify your voice and share your contest via emails and any other communication channels you’re already using. The more shares and engagement you can create, the more you expand your organic reach online to get in front of more and more eyes over the holidays.

Holiday Marketing Campaigns Wrapped Presents

6. Partner up because the more the merrier

They say the more the merrier, right? Bring that mentality to your business and leverage this friendly time of year to find some new partners. Team up with other businesses in your neighborhood or industry and run a holiday special together or invest in some seasonal advertising that promotes both of you.

If you have similar goals or complementary resources, you can even throw an event together. If an in-person event isn’t possible for your business, partner with a like-minded brand online to host a holiday giveaway on social media or find another way to co-promote to each other’s audiences.

Sharing is caring, and if you can discover a lucrative way to become allies with a fellow business, it’ll be sure to boost sales this holiday season.

Partnerships open new doors and introduce the possibilities of endless opportunities all year.

If it’s not the right time to work with another business, why not join forces with your loyal customer base?

Make holiday shopping a family affair and attract kids with holiday cookie decorating or hiring a Santa Claus for photos. Try your best to find these partnerships long before the holidays begin — the more time for planning and working out details the better.

7. Give back to get more

The holidays are a popular time of year to give back too, and that can have a positive effect on your marketing. Consider partnering with a charity to spread some holiday cheer to those who are less fortunate.

There are many ways to aid a charity as a business, and you can use your status to also get your community involved as consumers by either donating money, buying an extra item to donate, or offering their own time or volunteer hours.

Doing the right thing and helping others feels great, but it’s also a smart business move.

Working with a charity gives you newsworthy content to share on social media and within your content marketing, such as on blogs and within emails. An added bonus is the fact that people respect and promote businesses that are trying to make a difference.

People are happy to make a purchase for a good cause. Your decent deeds improve any word-of-mouth marketing and positive talk about your brand.

8. Don’t forget to spread the love

If you only take away one strategy from this article, be sure to spread the love this season.

Do everything in your power to make your customers feel appreciated. That means being extra thankful and grateful in all communications and interactions.

Send an email just to thank your audience — no selling or advertising involved. Share a social post with pictures of customers and revel in joyful memories.

While holiday shopping lists are what bring your customers in during the season, your love and quality customer service will bring them back year after year. Use this time of year to build your community and strengthen the relationships with your audience through gratitude.

This is where small businesses can stand out. Every business is competing with one another for shoppers’ purchases. Small businesses — even those with loyal buyers — are no exception.

There are ways to compete with big box stores, but excellent customer service and genuine interactions are a big way to get ahead.

While department stores herd customers like cattle and people become numbers, you can make a difference with targeted marketing and embracing small interactions with each customer you encounter.

You’ll capitalize on all the good service you’re sharing when people happily leave positive online reviews and don’t hesitate to tell their friends about your great store.

It’s never too early to start planning your holiday marketing campaigns

It’s smart to plan ahead and start preparing for the holiday season as early as you can.

Here’s a holiday marketing checklist to help you get organized before you begin implementing the marketing strategies listed here.

As the holidays roll around, stock up on hot chocolate and take time to prepare your team and business. A strong holiday marketing campaign will help you stay on people’s radars before, during and after the holiday season. It’s time to crush those sales goals. You got this — “sleigh” away!


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4 business filings to handle before the end of the year

The years move by quickly when you’re a small business owner. Blink on January 1, right after you’ve made your entrepreneurial New Year’s resolutions, and before you know it, it’s Q4 and the end of the year all over again.

Entrepreneurs often multitask their way through Q4. They prep their business for the first quarter of the new year, celebrate the winter holidays with their team, and file required documents to remain in good standing with the state.

4 business filings to handle before the end of the year

Which types of paperwork do small businesses need to file before the year ends? Here’s a look at a few common documents and reports startups must file to stay in compliance.

  1. Annual reports.
  2. Delayed filings.
  3. Articles of dissolution.
  4. Reinstatement filing.

Let’s look at each of these important year-end business filings in more detail.

Business Filings Organizing Paperwork

1. Annual reports

Filing an annual report is due — you guessed it — annually with your local Secretary of State.

Is an annual report the same as an initial report? Not at all.

An initial report, sometimes called a statement of information, is filed when a small business owner first incorporates or forms a limited liability company (LLC).

Initial reports share basic information about the business and its activities with the state. This information includes the name and address of the business, addresses of its members, the name and address of the company’s registered agent, and a brief description of what the company does.

Annual reports, on the other hand, record any changes the business may have experienced throughout the year.

This includes updating any changes made to the business name and/or address, member addresses, changes in registered agents, or drastic alterations to business activities.

You may submit an annual report that reflects many changes made to the business throughout the course of the year, or the report may only note a few changes.In either case, annual reports must be filed in a timely manner to avoid incurring penalties.

When is my annual report due? This is a great question because due dates vary depending on the state you do business in.

Your legal formation, from an LLC to an LP, also reflects the frequency in which your annual report filing is due.

For example, if you have incorporated in the state of Alabama as an LLC and do business in that state, your annual report is due each year. However, if you incorporated as an LLC in Idaho and do business in Idaho, your annual report is due on a biennial basis, that is, every other year.

The best way to avoid any confusion about annual report filings is to contact your local Secretary of State.

They will be able to provide you more information about your annual report filing requirements. You may also find it helpful to refer to MyCorporation’s “cheat sheet” of annual report due dates, updated to reflect the current deadlines for all 50 states.

2. Delayed filings

In general, I recommend that anyone starting a business forms an LLC or incorporates as soon as possible.

However, what happens if you plan on opening your doors for business in November or December? Should you still move ahead and incorporate the business in the few remaining calendar months of the year? Or is it more beneficial to opt for a delayed filing instead?

Typically when a small business owner decides to form an LLC or corporation, the process begins as soon as they submit their application form and pay a filing fee. However, one should not expect that their effective date of incorporation will be the day after they filed the paperwork.State processing times can range anywhere from a few days to weeks.

As a result, it may be difficult to predict the exact date you are officially in business.

A delayed filing, on the other hand, delays the effective date of incorporation. This allows entrepreneurs to file their incorporation paperwork 30 to 90 days in advance and set an exact start date for the business.

More often than not, small business owners will choose to set their start date in the next calendar year. Why would they choose to put it off until next year instead of opening their doors right now?

Tax savings

Once you are considered to be “active” as a business by the state, you are required by the IRS to collect, report and pay taxes for that tax year. This is true of businesses that have only been active for two months.

A delayed filing allows you to avoid paying taxes for two (or less) months in business within that calendar year.

It also ensures you do not pay other fees associated with starting your business, like annual report fees.

Set a specific start date

If you’re sticking to a strict timeline for opening up shop, a standard incorporation filing does not guarantee the business will be active within that timeline.

A delayed filing helps guarantee a specific incorporation date for the business.

You’ll know when you’ll officially be in business, and will be able to set the wheels in motion towards preparing for that exact date.

Delayed filings are prioritized

Concerned that your delayed filing may get tossed into a backlog somewhere? Don’t worry!Most states place delayed filings in a priority queue.

This ensures that the state will be able to address and approve delayed filings quickly without you wondering when — and if — they’ll get to your paperwork.

Get a head start elsewhere

Does your small business still need to file for an employer identification number (EIN) or a business license?

Opting for a delayed filing gives you a good sense of when your business will be officially active.

Use the extra time to get the rest of your ducks in a row. Some of these may include but aren’t limited to obtaining EINs, business licenses and permits, getting a lease on a retail space and opening a business bank account.

3. Articles of dissolution

There are many reasons why a small business may file for a dissolution, and not every reason is negative. Some businesses voluntarily dissolve because they have simply run their course or the owner has decided to pursue another venture.

Once you know you are ready to shut your doors for good, small business owners cannot simply hang up a “closed” sign and walk away from the storefront.Corporations and LLCs must file articles of dissolution.

This is a formal closure of the business, which alerts the state that the business is no longer active. As such, the company will no longer be required to file annual reports or continue paying state fees and taxes.

How does a small business owner file a dissolution? Here’s a quick primer for steps to follow in dissolving a business.

1. Secure the vote

Let’s say your business was a corporation. Corporations have a board of directors. That board must be able to approve decisions made by the company.

Before dissolving the business, you would need to meet with the board of directors and take a vote to pass the dissolution.

This vote must be approved by a majority of shareholders. Otherwise, the business will not be able to dissolve.

For LLCs, a formal meeting must be held with the LLC members to approve dissolution.

The one entity that would not need to have a formal meeting or conduct a vote is a sole proprietorship. This is because a sole proprietor conducts business as an individual. Hence, they would be able to dissolve their business without requesting a meeting or vote.

2. File articles of dissolution

This is an application that announces the intent to dissolve the business.

You must include the name of the corporation or LLC, the date the dissolution will go into effect, and the reason for dissolving the company. Are you registered to do business in another state? If so, file an application of withdrawal in that state. This ensures that the business is no longer considered active in another state or responsible for filing annual reports and paying state fees.

3. File Form 966, Corporate Dissolution or Liquidation

Let’s go back to the corporation example. If your corporation was able to secure a majority vote in favor of dissolving the business, it would need to file Form 966 within 30 days of filing articles of dissolution.

4. Cancel business licenses

Small business owners must cancel all business licenses and permits issued to their business.

5. Notify employees

Do you have a staff of full-time employees? You must inform them that the business is in the process of being dissolved as soon as possible.

Make sure you account for their W-4 state and federal withholding and provide each employee with information about the date they will receive their final paychecks, among other important information.

6. Pay off remaining business debts

Once the remaining debts of your business have been paid, the owners can liquidate and distribute the remaining assets to members and shareholders within the business.

Business Filings Black Man Signing Document

Last but not least, take the time to review the “Closing a Business Checklist” provided by the IRS. This list provides additional actions small business owners must take before they close their doors for good.

Remember to file an annual report for the year you go out of business, file final employment tax returns for any employees you may have, and make final federal tax deposits.

Depending on the entity your small business incorporated as, you may also need to report the shares of partners and shareholders, allow for S Corporation election termination, and file final employee pension and benefit plan documentation.

Links throughout the checklist will help guide small business owners to the appropriate PDF forms to fill out and file.It is a bittersweet, emotional process to shutter any business.

However, filing a dissolution is necessary before the year is up. This ensures your business avoids paying next year’s fees and filing annual reports for a business that is no longer considered to be active in the eyes of the state.

4. Reinstatement filing

Sometimes a business accidentally falls into dissolution. This may happen if you forget to submit your annual report or have a check bounce on filing fees.

We all make mistakes, and the good news is that an involuntarily dissolved small business doesn’t need to remain so.

If you find that your business was involuntarily dissolved this year, you may file a reinstatement to reinstate the business before the year ends.

Much like dissolving a business, reinstating a business comes with a few steps.

1. Determine why the business fell out of good standing

One of the examples listed above might be the reason. However, if you don’t know what happened, contact your local Secretary of State to find out why you were dissolved.

2. File reinstatement forms with your respective state

Depending on the reason why you fell into bad standing, a reinstatement application could be accompanied by another document such as a delinquent form. If you are unsure of which forms to file, reach out to your Secretary of State.

In addition to providing more information about how your business fell out of compliance, they may provide a list of necessary forms to file to ensure you do not forget anything.

3. Pay any outstanding fees associated with your business

Generally, you’ll need to pay a reinstatement form filing fee. However, there may be other penalty fees associated with your business.

Once these have all been paid and your application has been approved, you may successfully reinstate your small business.

Head into the New Year knowing you have your small business back in good shape and the peace of mind of being back in compliance with the state once more.

The above content should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.

Image by: Niklas Kickl on Unsplash