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NORAD Santa Tracker 2019

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

24/7 and 365 days a year, NORAD tracks everything that flies in and around North America in defense of our homelands. On Christmas eve, they have the very special mission of also tracking Santa.

NORAD stands for the North American Aerospace Defense Command.  NORAD’s Christmas tracking of St. Nick using satellite systems, high power radars, and jet fighters is run entirely by both military and civilian volunteers, almost 1,500 of at Peterson Air Force  base in Colorado.   It is funded by the Department of Defense’s budget.

It began 64 years ago on December 24th in 1955, the Santa tracker became a Christmas Eve tradition after a mistaken phone call to the Continental Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1955. CONAD, (NORAD’s predecessor) as it was known, had the serious job of monitoring a far-flung radar network for any sign of a nuclear attack on the United States.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command is a joint U.S.-Canadian operation that protects the skies over both countries.  NORA has taken over the Santa tracker since the tradition started. The military command center embraced and expanded the Santa tracking mission and has been rewarded with a bounty of goodwill and positive publicity

When Col. Harry Shoup picked up the phone that day, he found himself talking not to a military general, but to a child who wanted to speak to Santa Claus. A Colorado Springs newspaper had run an ad inviting kids to call Santa but mistakenly listed the hotline number.

Colonel Shoup figured out what had happened and played along. The tradition has since mushroomed into an elaborate operation that attracts tens of thousands of calls every year.  These calls are answered by wonderful volunteers and this adds to holiday spirit with the wonder of the children.

To provide an idea of the reach of NORAD’s Santa tracker, last year NORAD Tracks Santa drew 126,000 phone calls, 18 million website hits, 1.8 million followers on Facebook and 179,000 more on Twitter.  Santa and his sleigh may have had a hard time staying under the radar thanks to the site, which is accessible in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian Japanese, Portuguese, and Chinese.

“NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa–radar, satellites, Santa Cams and fighter jets,” reads the NORAD Santa Web site. “Tracking Santa starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system consists of 47 installations strung across the northern border of North America. On Christmas Eve, NORAD monitors the radar systems continuously for indications that Santa Claus has left the North Pole.

The moment that radar indicates Santa has lifted off, NORAD uses their detection system. Satellites positioned in geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles from the Earth’s surface and are equipped with infrared sensors, which enable them to detect heat. Amazingly, Rudolph’s bright red nose gives off an infrared signature, which allow satellites to detect Rudolph and Santa.

The third tracking system is the Santa Cam network. NORAD began using this in 1998, the year they installed the Santa Tracking program on the Internet. Santa Cams are ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras that are pre-positioned at many locations around the world. NORAD only uses these cameras once a year on Christmas Eve. The cameras capture images and videos of Santa and his reindeer as they make their journey around the world

The fourth system is made up of fighter jets. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots flying the CF-18 intercept and welcome Santa to North America. In the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15 or the F-16 get the thrill of flying alongside Santa and his famous reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and, of course, Rudolph.

Still, despite all that, “Santa is hard to track,” said Public Affairs Specialist Joyce Frankovis. “We actually never know which route Santa’s going to take.  It is just a matter of using that high-tech equipment to track him.”

The Santa Tracker call center opens at 6:00 am EST on December 24th.  Kids can call 1-877-HI-NORAD or 1-877-466-6723) or email:  noradtrackssanta@outlook.com to find out where Santa is.   The NORAD Santa trackers warned that Santa only comes if children are asleep so make sure they get to bed early, so he does not miss your house.   Enjoy tracking Santa and make sure you leave some milk and cookies for him and some carrots for his reindeer.

This year, children and the young-at-heart can track Santa through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

For more information about NORAD Tracks Santa, please visit www.noradsanta.org
For more information about NORAD, please visit www.norad.mil

End of Year Small Business Tasks to Complete

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By Debbie Gregory.

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It is amazing that in a few short weeks, 2019 will be over and we a new year will begin. VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association wishes all of our members, sponsors, colleagues and associates a happy, healthy and prosperous holiday season and new year.

We realize that December can be the peak of the selling season for so many small businesses. In addition, there are many other responsibilities and events with family and friends so time is at a premium.

Below are a few tips and tasks for ending your business year and things you should do in December that will position you right for 2020 as well as helping you to obtain the maximum tax benefits and comply with applicable laws.

  • Charitable Donations – This is the time to make them and it also the season for giving. If you have a pass-through entity such as an “S” corporation, you will benefit on your personal income tax too if you itemize deductions.
  • Check-in with your Accountant – This is an excellent time (if you have not yet done so) to discuss your taxes for 2019 to make sure you are doing all you can to mitigate the final number and plan ahead for 2020. Additionally, the final payment of 2019 estimated taxes is due January 20, 2020 so make sure you avoid any penalties for late or insufficient payments to cover them.
  • Check-out Legal Changes – There are all types of new laws on the horizon on the federal, state and local levels. These might include but not be limited to the new federal overtime laws. Your state minimum wage rate often changes at the beginning of new year and of course there are always various new income tax laws as well as new laws on defining an employee from an independent contractor.
  • Corporate Board Meeting – The end of the year is a good time to hold it if you have not done so already. Many states require corporations even those with a sole owner to do so and elect officers and directors as well as to take specific actions.
  • Compensation Plans – This is the time to plan to compensation plans employees and set them for 2020. You should keep in mind when doing this the cost of employment taxes such as social security and Medicare which will cost your company more in FICA with the maximum going up to $137,700.
  • Benefit Programs – This is the time to determine your benefits for employees such as medical plans, retirement plans and other benefits. Do so by keeping in mind some of the new 2020 rules that set new limits on 401(k) contributions and other retirement plans as well as health reimbursement for medical coverage
  • Employee Bonuses – This is the time for your year-end bonuses especially if 2019 has been a banner year. You will want to share the wealth with employees who helped make 2019 successful for your company as well as yourself if you are a shareholder-employee company. Keep in mind the cost of employment taxes too.
  • Inventory – This is the time with the end of the holiday season to review your inventory carefully. You should take a physical inventory and review items that you want to get rid of via a big sale and donate to charity or discard and write them off.
  • End of Year Purchases – This is often an excellent time to upgrade your equipment, computer systems, etc. By purchasing these items at the end of the year, it will provide you a write-off on your taxes and prepare you with what you need to begin 2020
  • New Date – It is a new year and you need to update anything with a date including your website, your website copyright and any collateral to reflect that it is 2020.

Happy New Year!

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Recap:

In Part 2 of our holiday preparation series we went over planning deals for your past customers, putting together your holiday messaging, preparing your inventory and packing materials and getting your site prepared for the holiday rush. In Part 3, we will finish out the series with the graphics you will need to create, your PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns, updating your holiday policies, and readying your site for buyers.

 

Create All of the Holiday Graphics & Imagery You Will Need:

It is best to create all needed graphics and imagery well in advance of the holiday season. Adding cute little holiday touches really helps people feel festive when shopping with you. Take the time to update your website, logo, headers, and social channels with fun holiday touches. You will also want to create fun graphics to go with all your promotions, deals, and bundles. Make them eye-catching, colorful, festive, and fun!

 

Plan, Write & Review Your Holiday PPC Campaigns (Pay Per Click):  

If you utilize Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns, you will want to make sure that they reflect the same promotions, deals, and discounts that you are planning to push on your website and social channels. These campaigns are also best run during the peak buying days mentioned earlier. Typically you want to focus holiday campaigns from December 14th-24th.

 

Review & Update Any Policies & Procedures That Can BE Affected During the Holidays:

Since we are specifically talking about eCommerce businesses you will want to make sure that your holiday shipping time frames and procedures are front and center on your site. You may want to consider creating a holiday FAQ page that covers typical questions your customers may have during the holiday season so they know what they can expect. Items such as:

  • Special hours
  • Last days to order to ensure delivery by December 24th
  • Dates certain types of shipping will no longer be available

 

Test & Update Your Website Security & Performance:

Security is always a concern for consumers when shopping online. Make sure that your site is ready for the holiday spending season by:

  • Having an SSL certificate installed and configured or update the one you have
  • Make sure that your hosting package can handle the holiday traffic
  • Make sure your site is totally up to date
  • Make sure your site is running properly and as fast as possible
  • Make sure that your site looks proper both on a computer and on mobile

 

If you plan accordingly, tackle any possible issues, you will have a lower stress, more profitable, and more productive holiday eCommerce season.

 

Happy holidays and we hope this is your biggest holiday season ever!

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Recap:

Part 1 of our holiday preparation series went over the days you should focus on and preparing your holiday deals. Part 2 will cover planning deals for your past customers, putting together your holiday messaging, preparing your inventory and packing materials ready, and getting your site prepared for the holiday rush.

 

Prepare Special/Exclusive Holiday Offers for your Current/Past Customers:

People who have purchased from you in the past are very likely to purchase from you again. Target them with an exclusive deal! Special discounts, free shipping, or other perks offered to past customers shows them that you appreciate their business and loyalty counts with in your business.

 

Prepare All Holiday Mail/Email Messaging:

Make sure that you pre-setup all holiday-related emails and newsletters. Make sure your auto-responders are setup and ready to deploy when the holiday season begins. Put together template responses to commonly asked questions so replies are quick and easy.

 

Make Sure You Will Have the Inventory & Shipping Items:

You not only need to make sure that you have enough products to sell, you also need to make sure that you have all of the packaging materials, promotional materials, and gift wrapping materials you will need to process and ship out your orders. Trying to scramble to find these materials when orders are waiting to go out, can add a lot to your holiday stress not to mention cost business.

 

Make Sure You Have These Items:

  • Packaging materials: boxes, labels, tape, envelopes, bubble wrap, etc.
  • Promotional materials: business cards, inserts, flyers, discount cards, etc.
  • Gift wrapping materials: gift boxes, cards, ribbon, wrapping paper, etc.

 

Plan Out All Holiday, Website, Newsletter, Social Media & Blog Content:  

Customers spend a lot of time shopping around for the best deals from trusted sellers. Creating and sharing holiday-specific content helps your exposure, helps build trust, and can showcase your expertise and products. Schedule your social posts to go out more than once to ensure they are being seen. It is important to repeat your message without being annoying.  Create content that helps your customer gain interest in your upcoming deals and products.  You might consider telling your story regarding various products.

 

Content Ideas to Help Get the Ball Rolling:

  • Holiday gift guides
  • Stocking stuffer ideas
  • Last-minute gift guides
  • Coming soon landing pages for your holiday promos or products
  • How-to to make life easier, more productive, or more enjoyable
  • Product comparisons
  • Customer review compilations

 

Stay tuned for part 3 of this series – we will finish out the series with the graphics you will need to create, your PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns, updating your holiday policies, and preparing your site ready for buyers.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

If you own and run an eCommerce business, you should have your holiday plan in place well before Halloween begins. As the holidays close in, we all have more demands on our time with the stress, preparation, and activities that the holiday season brings. It will make your life exponentially easier if you prepare and plan for the holiday season well in advance of it starting.

 

The more you can have created, planned for, have in place and are ready to roll in advance, the better off you will be as the holiday season unfolds. The holidays, as you know, are where retailers make the bulk of their entire yearly sales.  If plan for the season correctly, you can more easily grab a significant piece of the holiday spending pie.

 

Areas of Focus to Increase Customer Sales for the Holiday Shopping Season:

  • Put together your promotional calendar
  • Plan out any promotional codes and bundles you will be offering
  • Prepare special/exclusive holiday offers for your current/past customers
  • Prepare all holiday mail/email messaging
  • Make sure you will/do have the inventory
  • Plan out all your holiday website, newsletter, social media, and blog content
  • Create the holiday graphics and imagery you will need
  • Plan, write and review your holiday PPC (Paid Per Click) campaigns
  • Review and update any policies and procedures that may be impacted by the holidays
  • Test and update your website security and performance

 

Put Together Your Promotional Calendar:

The first step is to put together a detailed holiday plan including a calendar of what you want to promote and when for the coming season. You will want to jot down the important shopping days and what promotions you would like to run for those days.

 

Popular Online Holidays for 2020:

  1. Cyber Monday –  November 30, 2020
  2. Black Friday – November 27, 2020
  3. Thanksgiving –  November 26, 2020
  4. Small Business Saturday
  5. Green Monday – December 9, 2019 &
  6. Christmas Eve – December 24, 2020
  7. Christmas Day – December 25, 2020

 

Some of the Most Popular Online Shopping Days: 

  1. Cyber Monday – December 2, 2019 & November 30, 2020
  2. Small Business Saturday –
  3. Black Friday – November 29, 2019 & November 27, 2020
  4. Small Business Saturday – November 30, 2019 & November 28, 2020
  5. Thanksgiving – November 28,2019 & November 26, 2020
  6. Day Before Thanksgiving – November 27, 2019 & November 25, 2020
  7. Saturday After Thanksgiving – November 30, 2019 & November 28, 2020
  8. Sunday After Thanksgiving – December 1, 2019 & November 29, 2020
  9. Green Monday – usually the 2nd Monday in December 9, 2019 & December 14, 2020
  10. Christmas Eve – December 24, 2019 & December 24, 2020
  11. Day after Christmas – December 26, 2019 & December 26, 2020
  12. New Year’s Eve – December 31, 2019 & December 31, 2020

 

Don’t forget to use December 26th as a great day for post-holiday clearance sales. This day really appeals to gift card recipients and people hunting for deals.

 

Plan out any Promotional Codes and Bundles to Offer:

On your calendar, you should have a clear plan for all promotional codes or deals. Write out what they are, when they start, and when they will end. Create catchy promo code names that will be easy for customers to remember. Put together bundle deals to entice customers and up-sell your other products. Announce all sales, bundles, and promo codes on your site and in newsletters, and social media content.

 

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series – we go into planning deals for past customers, putting together your holiday messaging, preparing your inventory and packing materials ready, and getting your site prepared for the holiday rush.

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