Coming only once every four years, Leap Day is an ideal occasion for small-business owners to do something special for customers, colleagues, even charities.
"Leap Year offers a bonus day so it's an excellent time for small-business owners to offer extras to their clients and customers," says Susan Wilson Solovic, CEO of It's Your Biz, a video news and information site for small businesses. Some businesses are taking the opportunity to promote it as a day to give clients free consulting or offer discounts.
Here, four small businesses describe how they're planning something special for Feb. 29.
No. 1: Provide free advice to potential clients.
Boston-area businesses can get free marketing advice if they take advantage of a Leap Day promotion offered by HB Agency, a B-to-B marketing firm in Newton, Mass. On Feb. 29, the firm will provide half-hour marketing sessions free of charge to anyone who signs up.
Called "An Extra Day the HB Way," the promotion grew out of lunch meetings at the firm. Its 15 employees were asked to create a "Leap list" of projects they've been putting off or something creative they've wanted to try but haven't had time to do.
"We're inviting people to either come in or phone in and receive free public relations, marketing and branding consulting," says Mark O'Toole, the agency's managing director of public relations and content marketing. "Maybe they'll turn into clients or maybe they won't. The idea was to showcase the fact that we're thinking creatively about the day and want anyone who comes in to walk away with some fresh ideas."
No. 2: Show business colleagues you appreciate them.
There's no such thing as a free-from-business lunch. So Sean Smith, president of Third Street, a six-person advertising agency with offices in Chicago and Indianapolis, decided to use Leap Day for social lunches to show appreciation.
"Entrepreneurs find themselves most often engaging with clients or vendors when there's a specific need or deadline to be tended to," Smith says. "Our Leap Lunch is focused on letting all those people who are key to our success know that we appreciate our collaboration without a context of a need."
Third Street's chief creative officer is having lunch with a production partner, and the chief operating officer is treating the firm's banker to lunch. Even junior members of the team will enjoy a Leap Lunch. "Our newest employee is going to reach out to the person at Indiana University who connected our firm to her," Smith says. "She'll be expressing her appreciation for making that connection." As for Smith, he'll likely end up having every meal with local reporters that day. "I'm going to try to have coffee with one journalist, lunch with another and dinner with a third," he says.
No. 3: Offer a seminar with free, but valuable content.
Oak Mortgage Group, a Dallas-based mortgage bank, plans to offer Facebook marketing training on Leap Day to area real-estate agents. "We're always trying to build relationships with Realtors, and Leap Day is a great day to do this," says Zach Daniel, a loan officer who will be leading the seminar.
Oak Mortgage decided on the seminar because of positive response to a similar Realtor event it offered recently, showing how to do branding on Facebook and how to reach out to leads in a systematic way.
To promote the 90-minute lunchtime seminar, the firm will naturally run Facebook ads. It also will partner with a title company that will host the event. "We're going to try to play up the idea that you have this extra day so why not use it to get ahead in your business," Daniel says. "By creating a unique event on an already unique day, we'll build momentum and create greater feelings of fondness toward our company than if we billed the event as a normal event on a normal day."
No. 4: Create a fun event that fits your brand -- and helps charities.
Employees at Bullfrog & Baum, a public-relations firm with offices in New York City and Los Angeles, know a little something about frogs. The offices are filled with everything from gummy frog candies to stuffed frog toys because founder Jennifer Baum's late mother-in-law happened to be a fan of all things frog-related. With Leap Day on the horizon, it only made sense to create a frog/leap-related event.
Four amphibians will compete in a Leap Day race at the firm's New York City office to raise money for four local food charities. "This event is a good fit for us on many levels," says Jennifer Baum, president of the 12-year-old firm, whose clients include restaurants and other companies in the hospitality industry. "It's frog-focused, which speaks to the name of our company. It's original and fun, which is how we like to describe ourselves. And it's for a variety of good food-related causes, which speaks to our commitment to the industry in which we work."
The race will be broadcast live on Ustream, and through Six Degrees, anyone can send donations to the charities. Baum plans to match the donations collected by the winning frog, which could be the Arsonist, a fire belly toad, for the Share Our Strength charity; Beefsteak Tomato, a baby tomato frog, for Citymeals-on-Wheels; PhilLeap, a white tree frog, for Edible Schoolyard; or Alistair Cummerbund Higginbottoms IV, a fancy tree frog, for City Harvest.
Lambeth Hochwald is a freelance journalist, whose stories have appeared in magazines such as Coastal Living, O The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple and Redbook. She is also an adjunct professor at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.