Untitled design (25)

Your definitive guide to holiday email marketing

Whatever your niche or sector, email marketing is a promotional medium that will generate amazing results — if you do it right. Harness that power for holiday email marketing and you stand to increase brand awareness, grow your audience and boost your bottom line, big time.

Studies show that more than 50% of U.S. consumers check their personal email account more than 10 times a day. And it’s their favorite way to receive updates from brands.

During the holiday season, eight in 10 shoppers are influenced by online information before making a purchase.

When we say holiday email marketing, we’re not just talking about Christmas or Thanksgiving. There are countless annual holidays and celebratory seasons out there. By tapping into the right ones, you can transform a promotional email into an invaluable profit-generating tool for your business.

Guide to holiday email marketing

We’re going to show you how to create a holiday email marketing strategy for your business from start to finish — a definitive guide that you can use for seasonal success all year round.

  • A few steps to get started with holiday email marketing.
    • Know your audience.
    • Consider your email subject lines.
  • Building your holiday email marketing strategy.
    • Create a holiday-themed design.
    • Share holiday gift guides, deals and teaser emails.
    • Produce a holiday marketing video.
  • Holiday email marketing optimization and retargeting.
    • Set up referral rewards.
    • Deliver post-holiday or follow-up emails.
    • Embrace email automation.
    • Don’t forget holiday email mobile optimization.
  • Research, track and refine your holiday email efforts.
    • Benchmark your results.
    • Peek at your competitors.
  • Conclusion and next steps.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

A few steps to get started with holiday email marketing

Whether your holiday email efforts are centered on Hanukkah, Christmas or Groundhog Day, to enjoy maximum promotional success, you need to start planning early.

Get together with your colleagues or team to decide on the holidays you feel will work best for your business and mark them in a dedicated content planner as early as possible. This will give you ample time to prepare, plan, create and deliver.

But, before you start creating content, the first thing you need to do is get under the skin of your customers.

Know your audience

If you don’t know who you’re aiming your holiday email marketing efforts at, it’s unlikely you’ll see any return on investment (ROI). That said, you should build a holiday-specific buyer persona so that your marketing communications will resonate with your audience.

By building a solid customer profile or persona, you’ll be able to personalize your emails to offer a level of personal value to all of your recipients, based on their preferences and needs.

Armed with your buyer persona (or personas), you should make sure that your existing email lists are up to date and your subscribers are segmented into sub-lists (such as repeat customers, frequent buyers, new subscribers, special offer redeemers, etc.) so that you can enhance the personalization of your content for maximum results.

Consider your email subject lines

If you’re going to send out a holiday email, you need to get your subject lines right. It’s the headline that will make people click though, after all.

Tip: Always aim to make your email subject lines short, sweet and relevant.

Here are a couple of our favorites from Black Friday for your reference:

  • “Let’s sweeten the Black Friday Deals with …”
  • “Are you taking time for YOU this Black Friday?”

Once you’ve taken the time to plan, get to know your audience and create effective email subject lines, it’s time to start rolling out your strategy.

Building your holiday email marketing strategy

Acorns Greenery Illustrate Holiday Marketing Design

When creating content for your holiday email marketing strategy, you should always try to speak to your customers on a personal level, remaining conversational while designing your emails in such a way that makes your intent clear and concise.

These tips will help you create promotional email content that works for any holiday or occasion.

Create a holiday-themed design

When it comes to holiday email marketing, a digestible design coupled with striking themed imagery will excite and inspire your customers. And that’s likely to result in action — people buying stuff from you.

By creating a holiday-themed email banner image and creating call-to-action buttons (“Buy now,” “I want one,” “Start shopping”) that match it, you’ll build a sense of festivity.

Plus, if you place your discount codes, deals or offers near the top of your holiday email, you’re more likely to encourage click-throughs and increase sales.

Share holiday gift guides, deals and teaser emails

When you’re creating a holiday marketing email strategy, it’s important to provide a unique level of value while offering exclusivity and, of course, creating urgency — for example, “Quick, buy now while you still can!”

With this in mind, when crafting a holiday email, employing these additional tactics to encourage your subscribers to buy your products or services will yield positive results:

  • Create a holiday gift guide with tips, advice and consultancy on what’s best to buy this holiday season.
  • Send out holiday teaser emails leading up to the holiday in question, getting your prospects excited by promising to deliver exciting seasonal content, news, and offers. Our guide to email drip campaigns will help you get your timing and ideas just right.
  • Offer exclusive holiday-based deals, offers and discount codes. Encourage your customers to take action by placing a redemption time limit on the offers you provide.
  • Send last-minute emails offering free shipping or reminding your subscribers of their deal, offer or discount redemption deadlines.
  • Offer one-click or instant purchasing options.
  • Launch a holiday-themed competition, encouraging your email recipients to enter by replying to your email or sharing a piece of content via social media. Brand awareness and engagement in one neat promotional package.
  • Go the traditional route by designing and sending out an eye-grabbing custom graphic or image to use as a greeting card.

Be aware: While encouraging action and creating urgency works, don’t over do it.

Putting too much pressure on potential prospects to subscribe to your list or buy your products could hurt your brand reputation.

Offer deals and incentives and implement redemption time limits, but whatever you do, be natural and conversational when speaking to your customers rather than forcing their hands toward the shopping carts. Essentially, you should create excitement and leave the hard sales pitch at the door.

Produce a holiday marketing video

As humans, we’re visual creatures. In fact, 54% of today’s consumers want to see more video content from the brands they subscribe to or follow.

By creating a fun, inspirational or topical holiday-themed marketing video, not only are you likely to boost your brand awareness, but you’ll have a powerful asset to share in your promotional emails.

To help you on your quest to video marketing perfection, read our guide on different types of video content to move customers through the sales funnel.

Holiday email marketing optimization and retargeting

With your timing, content, deals, design, offers and visuals firmly in place, now’s the time to optimize your holiday marketing email efforts while thinking about retargeting subscribers to enjoy maximum value from your campaign. Here are four ways to do that.

Set up referral rewards

Reward repeat buyers or first-time holiday purchasers by sending a follow-up email offering an exclusive referral reward.

The reward could come in the form of a discount code, two for one offer, first dibs on brand new products or free shipping for a month — the choice is yours.

By prompting existing holiday customers to encourage their friends or relatives to subscribe to your email list, you’ll have a bigger, more engaged audience to target when the next holiday rolls around. A real win-win.

Deliver post-holiday or follow-up emails

Follow-up or retargeting emails work well when delivered near the end or shortly after your holiday marketing campaign.

When it comes to following up with a holiday marketing email recipient, there are several approaches you can take.

First, if a promotional email recipient has clicked through to a purchase page but for some reason, decided to stop their transaction, it’s possible to retarget them with a cart abandonment email.

Cart abandonment emails allow you to re-engage your subscribers with some sweet holiday messaging while reminding them of their previous purchasing activities.

If sent in a timely fashion, cart abandonment emails earn solid results. If you have a template up your sleeve that you can edit according to campaign or occasion, sending out these types of emails will take minimal effort.

It’s also possible to send follow-up or retargeting emails with personalized holiday gift suggestion or, as mentioned, free shipping or deals with expiration dates. These approaches boost engagement while creating a sense of urgency.

Whatever approach you decide to take when following up with a promotional email, it’s important to include a clear-cut call-to-action to guide your customers to the next stage of the sales process — whether it’s a product page or instant purchase shopping cart.

But, whatever you do, make sure you avoid these costly mistakes.

Tip: When creating calls to action for your promotional emails, keep it simple! Even adding a linked phrase like “Shop Now” can do the trick.

Also, you should make your links noticeable. Most clicked links have slightly larger text or are in all caps, with a different color than the rest of the text surrounding them. Red often works well.

Try to stick to just one link per email to keep your promotion simple and clutter-free.

You also can try using a linked image. Visuals immediately catch the eye and you can use them to incite a call to action. The example below features a clickable image that yielded the lion’s share of the clicks:

Holiday Email Craftsy

Embrace email automation

Email automation is a process that makes it possible to send time- or action-triggered emails to your subscribers with relevant content.

With automation, it’s possible to create and schedule emails to be sent to different segments of your subscriber base at times when they’re most likely to be engaged.

Essentially, you can set everything up and monitor your success with minimal intervention.

For a seamless, time-saving email retargeting experience, there’s no denying that email automation is your best option.

This practical guide will help you get started, saving you time and money in equal measures.

Holiday Email Woman Holding Phone

Don’t forget holiday email mobile optimization

Studies suggest emails that display poorly on mobile are usually deleted within three seconds. And, when you consider that emails are now opened more on mobile than desktop, making sure your holiday email marketing communications are optimized across all devices is essential.

It’s a make-or-break situation.

Your promotional emails must be fully mobile-optimized, offering a seamless level of user experience (UX) while looking great on screen. Otherwise, your customers will put them in the virtual trash bin, posthaste.

With testing, time and development, you can ensure that all of your emails work perfectly on mobile devices. But the most effective solution is to use an email marketing tool like Upfiv Email Marketing that will optimize your designs automatically.

Doing so will allow you to preview them across devices before sending them to your recipients, resulting in time and money well spent.

Research, track and refine your holiday email efforts

Sector or niche aside, your marketing success as a business owner will depend on your ability to test and refine your activities for future holiday campaign success.

Testing your holiday emails boils down to good common sense.

In terms of checking and testing your emails before sending them, you might catch typos or broken links, or discover a better way to lay out a module. And by measuring the success of your emails after your campaign, you’ll be able to identify what works well in addition to areas that require improvement.

If you don’t have a marketing team to test your emails, you should send a test to yourself or a trusted friend. It really does help to see your newsletter as it appears in your readers’ inboxes.

Plus, if you’re starting a drip campaign, or continuing one, it’s important to ensure your campaign is functioning optimally.

Here are two tried and tested strategies to ensure you holiday email efforts work for you time and time again.

Benchmark your results

By using email campaign data to your advantage, you’ll be able to benchmark your holiday email marketing efforts, empowering you to make vital improvements during the next seasonal period.

The best way to benchmark your campaign efforts is by analyzing metrics — such as open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates — based on the performance of individual emails. You can do this through platforms like Google Analytics or your email marketing platform’s built-in performance data, using your discoveries to understand your strengths and weaknesses.

By drilling down into your performance data, you’ll be able to decide the best and worst times to send emails, the types of content or offers that work best, and figure out which elements of your holiday marketing efforts need improvement, so you can take action where necessary.

If you measure, track and benchmark your efforts on a continual basis, you’ll keep evolving, increasing your holiday marketing sales year after year in the process.

Failing to do so will only dilute your promotional email efforts.

Peek at your competitors

The best thing about holiday email marketing is the fact that the holidays (in their various forms) happen every year, offering a fresh opportunity to dazzle, amaze and engage your audience every 12 months.

One of the best ways to get inspiration for your holiday marketing efforts is to look at what your competitors are doing.

Follow them on social media and sign up for their email lists to gather as much intel as possible.

Peeking at the competition is great because not only can you utilize the best parts of their campaigns to your advantage by placing your own spin on their ideas and delivering them to your customers, but you can also spot content gaps to exploit.

For example, if your competitor is doing a “12 offers of Christmas” campaign — sending out a different deal each day on the lead up to the big day — you could evolve this idea by delivering an email that includes a “12 days of Christmas advent calendar” graphic that your customers can open for exclusive deals and content.

With holiday emails, the sky really is the limit. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to look at what your competitors are doing with their holiday email marketing activities.

Conclusion and next steps

There’s no doubt about it: for businesses of all shapes and sizes, the holidays offer a prime opportunity for increasing your sales, boosting brand awareness and growing your audience.

By planning early on and delivering content that will inspire as well engage your audience in equal measures, you stand to enjoy great success with your holiday email marketing campaigns.

“Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches — at scale.” —David Newman, author of “Do It! Marketing”

As a quick recap, here is a rundown of the best general practices for holiday email marketing:

Be clear and direct

Always have a clear goal for every promotional email you send to make your communications concise and impactful. Plus, if you’re looking to attract new subscribers, make sure your opt-in information is easy to read, letting prospective subscribers know what you intend to do with their contact details.

Stay recent and engaged

When dealing with your email marketing lists, make sure you remove any subscribers who are inactive or unresponsive, giving yourself the space to focus your efforts on new customers or existing recipients who are likely to engage.

Exert no pressure

Adding a sense of urgency to your holiday emails with deal and discount code expiry messaging, for example, is effective. But, don’t over-pressure your holiday prospects as it could damage your brand reputation. Make sure your communications are as natural as possible, leaving the hard sales pitch at the door.

Test your emails

Measuring, tracking and testing your emails is essential to your ongoing holiday marketing success. Testing your emails before you send them will ensure you capture any typos or formatting issues across devices.

And, by drilling down into your performance data, you’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t, empowering you to make improvements for future campaigns.

Care for your customers

Make sure you reward loyal subscribers with exclusive content and incentives, and always remember to offer a unique level of value with every single piece of content you send.

Whether it’s a greetings card, gift guide or an exclusive discount code, you should always strive to keep your holiday email recipients coming back for more.

This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Christina Berry, Emma Wilhelm, Macdara Bracken and Mira Lynn.

Untitled design (20)

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!

 

Untitled design (18)

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