23 More Creative Ideas for Small Business Holiday Marketing

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  1. Exhibit at holiday shows. See if local crafts fairs or gift shows accept commercial vendors and, if so, rent a booth.
  2. Hold a Black Friday sale for your B2B business. (It doesn’t have to be on the real “Black Friday”—pick another Friday during the holiday season.)
  3. Send real holiday cards, not e-cards. They’re more likely to get noticed.
  4. Send Thanksgiving or New Year’s cards. They’re also more likely to get noticed than cards sent during the Christmas season.
  5. Hold a holiday open house for prospects. More relaxed than a regular party, it offers an opportunity for them to drop by at their convenience and learn more about your business.
  6. Capture customers through their kids. Hold a kids’ contest like a make-your-own-ornament contest or holiday coloring contest. Give a big prize or just give everyone small prizes, like candy canes.
  7. Make any business kid-friendly by providing a kids’ space with toys or books to keep tired, fussy children occupied while parents shop.
  8. Get listed in local bloggers’ holiday gift guides. It’s too late for most print gift guides, but there’s still time to get your products or services spotlighted by relevant bloggers. Reach out with a free sample.
  9. Feed the crowd. Hand out free cookies or beverages to energize tired shoppers.
  10. Make them comfy. Provide seating so shoppers’ companions can sit down if they don’t want to shop.
  11. Give it away. If your business is located in a mall or shopping area, station an employee outside to give away free samples of your product or service to passersby.
  12. Hire masseuses to give shoppers free foot or shoulder rubs in your store if they buy something.
  13. Have Santa come to your business. If you’re in a shopping district, join with other businesses to hire a Santa. You can even set up a photo booth and have photos taken with Santa and ask for donations.
  14. Hold a “12 Days of…” sale, event or contest. Give away a different prize every day, offer a different discount every day or spotlight a different product every day.
  15. Give away useful items with each purchase, like good-quality tissue paper or ribbons for gift-wrapping. Put your business’s name on it and you’ve got a marketing tool, too.
  16. Give away gifts with purchase. Offering items that can serve as stocking stuffers makes customers more likely to buy so they can get the gift.
  17. Try a two-for-one sale. This works great for subscription items; offer customers a free gift subscription or half-price gift subscription when they renew their own membership or subscription.
  18. Get personal. Instead of holding a big party for clients, take them out to lunch individually during the holidays (or early in the New Year if they’re too busy).
  19. Provide entertainment. Hire musicians to play in your store or restaurant, or right outside to attract customers in.
  20. Display holiday-themed art by local artists in your restaurant, coffee shop or bar and offer it for sale.
  21. Sell gift cards for shoppers who can’t make up their minds. Be sure to keep them by the point-of-sale as a last minute impulse buy.
  22. Create personalized food gifts by printing your business logo on M&Ms, candy bars, cookies or candy wrappers.
  23. Print a personalized 2015 calendar to give out to your clients. A restaurant could include photos of popular dishes; a dog wash could showcase cute dog breeds.
  24. The above is an excerpt from the article, “33 Creative Ideas for Small Business Holiday Marketing.” For more information, please visit www.sba.gov.

Christmas Lighting Safety Tips

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Decorating the tree with Christmas lights is a long-standing tradition in many homes. To ensure that this year’s holiday season will be filled with fun (and not with worry!), below are safety tips for setting up Christmas lights.

Choose the right Christmas lights for your tree

Christmas lights come in different options. You can have them clear, multicolor, LED, or in traditional styles. Whichever you choose, it’s important to know whether or not they are appropriate for your Christmas tree. Some lights are rated for indoor use only, while others are safe for outdoor use. Make sure to read the package or the label of your Christmas lights before purchasing them. Look for the lights that are “UL or ETL Approved”, which means that the lights are tested safe for use.

Inspect Christmas lights for damage

Busted lights are inevitable, especially if you have prelit Christmas trees. Some lights get damaged in storage or in transit, while others are simply defective to begin with. Faulty lights are a safety hazard, and it is important that you check every wire, bulb, and fuse to ensure that your lights pose no danger. Before purchasing your Christmas lights, look for frayed and exposed wires, broken bulbs, and loose connections. If you’re buying online, you may not immediately see product defects until you receive your order, but you can always ask for replacements if your lights are malfunctioning.

Do not overload power strips with Christmas lights

While holiday lights look spectacular when strung together, it is unsafe to plug them all on a single power strip. A power strip or extension cord can hold up to three sets of lights at a time. Plugging more than what is recommended will overwork your power strip. Use multiple extension cords when necessary to avoid fire hazards.

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Never hang Christmas lights on metal trees

Metal trees are a great alternative to sprucing up your holiday décor, but they can also be dangerous when draped with Christmas lights. A metal tree can become charged with electricity which can electrocute anyone who touches the tree. It can also make your lights short out which could lead to fire.

Turn off Christmas lights when not in use.

As with any kind of appliance, Christmas lights should be unplugged when not in use. This will not only help you save electricity, but will also prevent your holiday lights from overheating.

Safety should always come before aesthetics. If you are unsure of what to do with your Christmas lights, call a qualified electrician who can help you out with your concern. Keep your holiday merry and headache-free by observing these Christmas lights safety tips. Enjoy the season!

The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “5 Christmas Light Safety Tips.” For more information, please visit www.christmastreemarket.com.

10 Creative Ideas for Small Business Saturday

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  1. Invite B2B customers to a thank-you dinner or other special event.
  2. Invite B2B prospects to a “getting to know you” party.
  3. Stand out by holding your holiday party before Thanksgiving, or after the New Year when customers are more business-minded and thinking ahead to 2015 budgets.
  4. Stand out (and save money) by holding a holiday breakfast or luncheon instead of a full-scale evening party.
  5. Join forces with other small business owners in the area to hold a weekend “sidewalk sale.”
  6. Cross-promote your business with cards, brochures and flyers in complementary businesses’ locations.
  7. Put discounts or coupons for other nearby businesses’ products or services in customers’ shopping bags, and have them do the same for you.
  8. Hold a special sale for your best customers only, at a time when you’re normally closed.
  9. Choose a charity to get involved with, and get customers involved too. Offer a discount or free gift card for customers who volunteer a certain amount of time to the charity or donate a certain amount.
  10. Join other businesses to host a gift-giving tree. Find a local charity, put a tree in the business district or shopping area, post Christmas wishes on the tree, and have customers pick a wish and buy the desired gift.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “33 Creative Ideas for Small Business Holiday Marketing.” For more information, please visit www.sba.gov.

Rain Raises Roof Collapse Risks After Snowstorm

rain-snow-window-pain-fbProperty damage risks are rising today as rain begins to fall on snow-covered roofs following the recent snowstorm. Add rain to that mix and this means the risk of roof collapses is heightened, cautions the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

“If possible use a snow rake to try to remove what you can safely from the ground,” says Dr. Tim Reinhold, IBHS senior vice president for research and chief engineer. “Flat roofs are the biggest risk when it comes to snow and ice accumulations. These types of roofs also are the most difficult when it comes to clearing off the snow and they may not drain as well once the snow begins to melt. The best advice is to hire a contractor to clear the roof.”

How much snow is too much for your roof to handle?

How much snow is too much for your roof to handle?

If your roof is still covered following the snowstorm, use these IBHS guidelines for helping to determine how much weight could be bearing down on the roof.

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Fresh snow: 10-12 in. of new snow is equal to one in. of water, or about 5 lbs per square foot of roof space, so you could have up to 4 ft. of new snow before the roof will become stressed.

Packed snow: 3-5 in. of old snow is equal to one inch of water, or about 5 lbs per square foot of roof space, so anything more than 2 ft. of old snow could be too much for your roof to handle.

Total accumulated weight: two ft. of old snow and two ft. of new snow could weigh as much as 60 lbs per square foot of roof space, which is beyond the typical snow load capacity of most roofs.

Ice: one in. of ice equals one ft. of fresh snow.

Find more advice for protecting your property against damage from severe winter weather at disastersafety.org/freezing_weather.

Snow removal: To avoid roof collapse, snow removal should begin prior to reaching the snow load limit of the roof.

  • For safe removal that won’t endanger you or damage your roof, consult a roofing contractor. Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) Regulations and Standards should always be followed when working on a roof.
  • Fall protection should always be implemented when working on a roof.
  • A heavy duty push broom with stiff bristles or roof rake may be used to brush off the snow down the slope of the roof.
  • Do not pull snow back against the slope or sideways since the snow may get underneath the cover and can break shingles.
  • A shovel or snow blower should not be used since they may tear up the roof cover system.
  • If you see indications that the roof is deflecting under the weight of the snow in certain areas, be sure to keep people away from those areas and seek the help of a professional snow removal expert.

Ice dams: The formation of ice dams can increase loads on the roof. See the project: Preventing Ice Dams on Businesses.

When the weather clears: Consider strengthening the roof before the next winter.

  • An analysis completed by a structural engineer can determine the maximum loads your roof can withstand as well as provide practical solutions to improve the strength of your roof.
  • The structural analysis should also include available retrofit reinforcement methods such as: increasing roof framing, wall bracing, columns, etc.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Rain raises roof collapse risks after snowstorm,” and “Reducing Roof Risks on Businesses.”For more information, please visit www.disastersafety.org.

Cooking Safety Tips for Thanksgiving Chefs

thanksgiving_shutterstock_89998036Thanksgiving is all about food and family – turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and family time. However, preparing holiday goodies can lead to disaster – the kitchen is the setting of more fires than any other room in the house, and cooking is the leading cause of fires in the home. The American Red Cross has safety steps to use while preparing the Thanksgiving feast.

The cooks should start by not wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking. Never leave cooking food unattended – stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If someone must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, they should turn off the stove. Other safety steps include:

  • Check food regularly while cooking and remain in the home while cooking. Use a timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on.
  • Keep the kids away from the cooking area. Enforce a “kid-free zone” and make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains—away from the stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  • Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  • Purchase a fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen. Contact the local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.
  • Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  • Install a smoke alarm near the kitchen, on each level of the home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “  Cooking Safety Tips for Thanksgiving Chefs.” For more information, please visit www.redcross.org.

Reducing Roof Risks on Businesses

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A Building’s Ability to Stand Up to Weight of Ice and Snow Depends on:

  • Live and dead load design
  • Age of the building and the roof
  • Condition of the roof
  • Elevation
  • Maintenance during or after a major snow storm

Factors Involved in Roof Load Capacity:
Live and dead load design:

  • Review available as-built structural plans to evaluate the live and dead load capacity of the roofs. You may find load information on the notes page or on a roof framing plan.
  • Roof dead loads are considered to be the weights of materials and equipment that remain constant, such as the weight of the roof deck, cover, and roof mounted equipment.
  • Live loads are those which may exert a variable pressure due to the surrounding environmental conditions such as rain, snow, and wind loads.
  • An analysis completed by a structural engineer can determine the loads your roof can withstand.

Age of the building:

  • Newer buildings may be better able to withstand heavy snow since more recent building codes provide much better guidance for snow loads, particularly the increased loads near changes in roof elevations where snow drifts and snow falling from the upper roof can build up on the lower roof near the step.
  • Older roofs can suffer from corrosion which can reduce their ability to resist high snow loads. Inspect the underside of the roof deck for signs of deterioration. A history of trapped moisture and leaks will accelerate the aging process of the deck.

Roof type:

  • Buildings with low slope and flat lightweight roofs, such as metal buildings, steel decks on steel bar joists, and wood, generally provide less protection from overload than heavy roofs, such as structural concrete.
  • The safety margins used by engineers are based on a combination of the weight of the roof (dead loads) and the snow loads (live loads).
  • Consequently, there is usually a larger margin of safety against excess snow loads for heavy roofs than for light weight roofs.
  • For low slope and flat roofs, the step-down area between roof sections is particularly susceptible to roof overload because of the tendency for ice and snow collection, especially during periods of windy weather.

Elevation:

  • Roof top equipment and roof projections, such as mechanical equipment that is over 2 feet tall, can cause snow accumulation due to drift, creating the need for higher snow load consideration in these areas.
  • An even more serious condition can be created when a taller building or a taller building addition is built adjacent to an existing building.
  • Unless the existing building is strengthened in the area next to the new taller building or addition, snow accumulation on the lower roof near the step could produce much higher loads than those considered by the original designer for the existing building.

Maintenance:
Keep an eye out for any signs of roof or ceiling deflection that might suggest water is beginning to “pond” on your roof.

Finding Solutions

Maintenance before and after a snowstorm can minimize risks

Maintenance: Conduct periodic roof inspections during and after a snow fall, during which fluctuating temperatures may lead to thawing and refreezing of ice, rain and snow.

  • If safely possible determine the weight a 1 ft. x 1 ft. area of snow by using a bucket and scale. A fish scale works well to weigh the bucket with snow.
  • Compare the weight of the snow with roof snow load capacity.

How much snow is too much for your roof to handle?

Snow removal: To avoid roof collapse, snow removal should begin prior to reaching the snow load limit of the roof.

  • For safe removal that won’t endanger you or damage your roof, consult a roofing contractor. Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) Regulations and Standards should always be followed when working on a roof.
  • Fall protection should always be implemented when working on a roof.
  • A heavy duty push broom with stiff bristles or roof rake may be used to brush off the snow down the slope of the roof.
  • Do not pull snow back against the slope or sideways since the snow may get underneath the cover and can break shingles.
  • A shovel or snow blower should not be used since they may tear up the roof cover system.
  • If you see indications that the roof is deflecting under the weight of the snow in certain areas, be sure to keep people away from those areas and seek the help of a professional snow removal expert.

Ice dams: The formation of ice dams can increase loads on the roof. See the project: Preventing Ice Dams on Businesses.

When the weather clears: Consider strengthening the roof before the next winter.

  • An analysis completed by a structural engineer can determine the maximum loads your roof can withstand as well as provide practical solutions to improve the strength of your roof.
  • The structural analysis should also include available retrofit reinforcement methods such as: increasing roof framing, wall bracing, columns, etc.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Reducing Roof Risks on Businesses.” For more information, please visit www.disastersafety.org.

Prevent Snow Shoveling and Snow Blowing Injuries

snow-blower-fb--shutterstock_93794509General Tips for Safe Snow Clearing

  • Check with your doctor. Because this activity places high stress on the heart, you should always speak with your doctor before shoveling or snow blowing. If you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, consider hiring someone to remove the snow.
  • Dress appropriately. Light, layered, water-repellent clothing provides both ventilation and insulation. It is also important to wear the appropriate head coverings, as well as mittens or gloves and thick, warm socks. Avoid falls by wearing shoes or boots that have slip-resistant soles.
  • Start early. Try to clear snow early and often. Begin shoveling/snowblowing when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid dealing with packed, heavy snow.
  • Clear vision. Be sure you can see what you are shoveling/snowblowing. Do not let a hat or scarf block your vision. Watch for ice patches and uneven surfaces.

man_shovelingTips for Snow Shoveling

  • Warm-up your muscles. Shoveling can be a vigorous activity. Before you begin this physical workout, warm-up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise.
  • Pace yourself. Snow shoveling and snow blowing are aerobic activities. Take frequent breaks and prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or other signs of a heart attack, stop the activity and seek emergency care.
  • Proper equipment. Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you. Space your hands on the tool grip to increase your leverage.
  • Proper lifting. Try to push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, do it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine. Never remove deep snow all at once. Do it in pieces.
  • Safe technique. Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.

Tips for Snowblowing

  • Never stick your hands in the snowblower! If snow jams the snowblower, stop the engine and wait more than 5 seconds. Use a solid object to clear wet snow or debris from the chute. Beware of the recoil of the motor and blades after the machine has been turned off.
  • Proper supervision. Do not leave the snow blower unattended when it is running. Shut off the engine if you must walk away from the machine.
  • Safe fueling. Add fuel before starting the snow blower. Never add fuel when the engine is running or hot. Do not operate the machine in an enclosed area.
  • Avoid the engine. Stay away from the engine. It can become very hot and burn unprotected flesh.
  • Watch the snowblower cord. If you are operating an electric snow blower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times.
  • No tampering. Do not remove safety devices, shields, or guards on switches, and keep hands and feet away from moving parts.
  • Watch for motor recoil. Beware of the brief recoil of motor and blades that occurs after the machine has been turned off.
  • Keep children away. Never let children operate snowblowers. Keep children 15 years of age and younger away when snowblowers are in use.
  • Understand your machine. Read the instruction manual prior to using a snowblower. Be familiar with the specific safety hazards and unfamiliar features. Do not attempt to repair or maintain the snowblower without reading the instruction manual.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “Prevent Snow Shoveling and Snow Blowing Injuries.” For more information, please visit www.orthoinfo.aaos.org.

The Cold Stress Equation: Workers Suffering from Frostbite or Hypothermia

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Hypothermia:

Normal body temperature (98.6°F) drops to 95°F or less.

  • Mild Symptoms: alert but shivering.
  • Moderate to Severe Symptoms: shivering stops; confusion; slurred speech; heart rate/breathing slow; loss of consciousness; death.

What Should Be Done:

  • Call for emergency help if needed (i.e., Ambulance or Call 911).
  •  Move the person to a warm, dry area. Don’t leave the person alone. Remove any wet clothing and replace with warm, dry clothing or wrap the person in blankets.
  • Have the person drink warm, sweet drinks (sugar water or sports-type drinks) if they are alert. Avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, or hot chocolate) or alcohol.
  •  Have the person move their arms and legs to create muscle heat. If they are unable to do this, place warm bottles or hot packs in the arm pits, groin, neck, and head areas. DO NOT rub the person’s body or place them in warm water bath. This may stop their heart.

Frostbite:

  • Body tissues freeze, e.g., hands and feet. Can occur at temperatures above freezing, due to wind chill. May result in amputation.
  • Symptoms: numbness, reddened skin develops gray/white patches, feels firm/hard, and may blister.

What Should Be Done: 

  • coldstress-thermo-oshaMove the person to a warm dry area. Don’t leave the person alone.
  • Remove any wet or tight clothing that may cut off blood flow to the affected area.
  • DO NOT rub the affected area, because rubbing causes damage to the skin and tissue.
  • Gently place the affected area in a warm (105°F) water bath and monitor the water temperature to slowly warm the tissue. Don’t pour warm water directly on the affected area because it will warm the tissue too fast causing tissue damage. Warming takes about 25-40 minutes.
  • After the affected area has been warmed, it may become puffy and blister. The affected area may have a burning feeling or numbness. When normal feeling, movement, and skin color have returned, the affected area should be dried and wrapped to keep it warm.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “The Cold Stress Equation.” For more information, please visit www.osha.gov.

This Thanksgiving, Travel Safely on Trains, Planes, and Buses

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For people traveling by air, bus or train, the Red Cross reminds them that the seasonal flu can occur as early as October. If people have come in contact with someone who is sick, perhaps the trip should be postponed as they may be contagious for a week before symptoms appear.

Other safety tips to avoid the flu while traveling include the following:

  • Remember that everything someone touches has to be touched by someone else – luggage handlers, etc. Handle one’s own belongings as much as possible. Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes and use them to wash hands or wipe down surfaces such as armrests.
  • Bring one’s own pillows and blankets – they can act as a shield against the seat itself.
  • If someone has to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or sleeve.
  • Avoid touching the face or eyes.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “Travel Safely During Thanksgiving Holiday.” For more information, please visit www.redcross.org.

Heavy Snow? Be Careful of Roof Collapse

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Evaluate Your Risk of Roof Top Snow/ Ice Accumulation

  • Melting snow tends to more quickly run off of steep sloped roofs with slopes greater than 3 in. of slope in 12 in. of horizontal distance, particularly the steeper ones that are typically found on houses in northern climates.
  • Ice and snow tend to more readily accumulate on low slope and flat roofs over porches, lanais or parts of a home that are next to a taller section of the house, especially during high winds.

Snow Removal May Be Necessary to Prevent Roof Collapse

If you are in the “danger zone” according to chart above or if the loads you estimate based on the thickness of the various types of snow and ice exceed 20-25 psf, you should consider removing snow from your roof.

For safe removal that won’t endanger you or damage your roof, use a snow rake with a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing on the ground or hire a snow removal contractor.

The above is an excerpt from the article, “Heavy Snow? Be Careful of Roof Collapse .” For more information, please visit www.disastersafety.org.