It’s a tried and trusted tactic by some of the biggest companies in the world: gift cards. So why can’t it work for you? Ahead of this year’s holiday season, this week’s Trending on Thursday details why it’s a great idea to offer gift cards to customers as easy presents for friends and family. We also take a look at some recent data regarding small business owners’ optimism, why city leaders should offer greater incentives to small businesses and advice for building a great company culture.

See this week’s roundup below and tweet us at @MarlinBusiness with your tips for driving holiday sales.

  1. Whether you own a retail store, beauty salon, restaurant, housecleaning service or other small business, gift cards can be a great way to spark newholiday sales. Gift cards aren’t just for big, national chains anymore; in fact, a new study reports half of U.S. consumers are very open to buying gift cards from small, independent retailers. Small Biz Trends’ Rieva Lesonsky has 10 great tips for using gift cards to boost holiday sales. She also includes a nifty infographic further detailing the survey findings- check it out!.
  1. According to a recent article by the Wall Street Journal’s Austen Hufford, small business optimism reached the best level of the year in October, though the presidential race has increased small-business uncertainty to a 42-year high. Hufford pointed out that many economists look to the report for clues on hiring, wage and business investment trends in the broader economy and for a read on domestic demand. We’ll update next week with how small business owners are faring now that America has made its choice.
  1. trendingnov102Small businesses are the backbone of urban economies: They play a critical role in creating jobs for local residents. Yet too often city leaders and economic developers are not prioritizing small businesses when allocating resources to drive growth, focusing their strategies instead on the attraction and retention of large businesses. This Governing article by Janis Bowdler and Kim Zeuli provides some compelling statistics and reasons for city leaders to support the growth of small businesses with the same resources and intentionality as they do with their efforts to attract and retain large businesses.
  1. In 2015, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence ranked cybercrime as the No. 1 security threat in the country. Despite popular belief, cyber criminals actually prefer small businesses simply because they are easier to infiltrate. As technology advances, cybercrime tactics used to steal your business’ sensitive data will advance as well. And according to a recent study, over 70 percent of cyber attacks specifically target small and medium-sized businesses. Eugene Bekker’s Business 2 Community article outlines the top four cyber threats that could impact your small business’ data security.
  1. Imagine a brand with no purpose or values, no guiding beliefs or principles. A company that exists for no other purpose than to sell product. How happy do you suppose that brand’s customers would be? Now, imagine a brand with a culture of commitment to being the best at what they do. A company with a culture of innovation and solving customer problems. The difference is night and day. Adam Fridman’s recent Inc. article explains that, without a strong culture, brands struggle to attract, retain and engage employees, which ultimately negatively impacts customers and sales.