Alyssa Smith: "We don't need to be Bill Gates"

If you follow me on Twitter, it's no secret that I'm a big fan of jewellery entrepreneur Alyssa Smith.

Admittedly her product range is aimed mainly at female customers, but I'm still holding out hope for a bespoke design as soon as I'm in a position to place an order!

In the meantime, it's been great to see Alyssa's public profile grow and grow, thanks in no small part to her endless and tireless efforts on Twitter, endorsements from celebs like Suzi Perry, and occasional appearances as the back end of a bus.

Now she's not only international on the web, she's also national on the TV, following an appearance on Channel 4 News.

My first impression as I watched this was that Alyssa had almost been put there as a target for the 'no' side of the debate - as though being a successful entrepreneur makes you the bad guy when so many others fail.

But in the end it turned out to be a fair and balanced discussion of the value of education even for those who go on to create a job or business of their own (like me!), the topics - like business finance - that are missing from university degrees when preparing people for self-employment, and the risks involved with trying to go into business on your own.

Like Channel 4 News, who chose Alyssa's quote as the title for this segment on their website, I especially loved the line "We don't need to be Bill Gates", which sums up my own approach to self-employment perfectly.

I'm not trying to be a billionaire, I just feel lucky that I get paid for doing something I really love doing, and I price my services accordingly - enough so that I can afford to pay my bills and live reasonably comfortably, but not so much that I'll be able to retire in 2015.

The fact is, if I'm not getting paid to write, I write other stuff for fun anyway, so I may as well have enough work to fill my day, hopefully without getting swamped.

Maybe that's one of the most important things in an entrepreneur - a genuine desire to work in their chosen profession, and to give it the effort it requires.

From what I've seen of Alyssa, she's definitely not lacking in effort, and it's great to see she's being rewarded for the blood, sweat and tears I know she's put into her business.

Visit Alyssa Smith's website here or follow her on Twitter.

So here it is... Merry Christmas?!

It's Chriiiiiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas!!!!!

OK yes, I know the 'winterval' is not yet upon us, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be starting your marketing campaigns now.

As I've pointed out in the past, the Christmas 'buy cycle' is a laggardy one, and you need to factor in lead times for:
  • shoppers' travel plans home for Christmas (1 week)
  • delivery/collection (at least 1-2 weeks, maybe 4 weeks or more)
  • shoppers' browsing (1-2 weeks)
  • your own restocking delays (typically 2-4 weeks)
  • organic SEO efforts to take effect (anything from 0 days to 4-6 weeks)
Read that list from bottom to top, and you have your run-up to Christmas in chronological order, but add up all of the delays and you've got a lag time of around three months on any online marketing you choose to carry out for Christmas.

Factor into this the simple fact that you don't want your campaigns to come to fruition on Christmas Day itself, and that your initial marketing efforts are likely to need to be spread out over 4-6 weeks in their own right, and you soon find yourself in the middle of summer, planning your Christmas campaign.

Or you should do, if you want it to be successful...

Riding the Buy Cycle

Think I'm exaggerating? Take a look at this Google Trends chart of searches for 'Christmas gifts' and 'Christmas presents' over the past few years...

Not surprisingly, the drop-off after Christmas is precipitous, and search volumes remain very low for the first half of each year.

But volumes start to rise exponentially in August, roughly doubling in each subsequent month until Christmas arrives, and there's no trend like a rising trend if you're trying to make money.

Early Adopters

Does anyone seriously start their Christmas marketing campaigns in August? Erm... well, yes they do, actually.

In fact, my local pub had Santa hats on its ale pumps in July, along with a 'Book now for Christmas' hoarding and leaflets on the tables.

Yes, really.
You might think this is too early - and when the landlord started singing Christmas songs on the karaoke (I'm not joking) it did get to be a bit too much - but when they're booked up for Christmas while the other bars and pubs are cutting prices, it will be worth it.

It's not just bricks-and-mortar businesses that are getting on their Buy Cycles early this year:

Beth is a 'safe pair of hands' when it comes to marketing copy, so it's good to see her clients are already putting her talents to work on their Christmas campaigns.

And she has her own valuable insight on how to build up towards Christmas without being quite so obvious as wearing Santa hats in July - her post 'The C Word' is well deserving of a read for more evidence-based reasons why you should start early, and how best to go about it.

Beat the Crowd

So what are the best options for organic SEO campaigns in the run-up to Christmas 2014?

Looking at the Google Trends data again, it's clear that worldwide, people prefer the term 'Christmas gifts' to 'Christmas presents', but in the UK the two are on roughly equal terms over the years - so include both of them as primary keywords in your on-page text content.

In the UK, the past decade has seen a clear shift away from mass-market shop-bought gifts, towards more independent, artisan and even home-made presents.

An outcome of the turbulent economy and people's desire to save spending money? Or a return to traditional values of 'It's the thought that counts', rather than a materialistic consumer market?

Either way, it's worth focusing on the bespoke or hand-crafted elements of your products wherever possible, to tap into this clear breakout trend.

Beyond that, the old rules apply - 'top Christmas gifts', 'gifts for men', 'gifts for Christmas' and 'gifts for her' are all rising trends at the time of writing, so get your copywriter working now on your Christmas Gift Guide, and make sure it's distributed to your email subscribers and posted on your website well before November arrives.