December 12, 2014 Helpful Tips

Many firms do a significant percentage of their business in the weeks leading up to Christmas and Hanukkah. Here are several tips to help make you more successful over the holidays—and keep reading to learn how to carry that success over into next year.

Holiday Prep List for Small Business

Ramp up your online presence.

If you’re not selling online, now is the time to start. ComScore, a research firm that tracks and analyzes marketing data, says online spending is up 16% this year compared to last, including the first-ever billion-dollar day on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The National Retail Federation (NRF) says nearly half of all consumers find holiday gift inspiration online. Don’t miss your chance to inspire them!

Offer holiday specials with limited-time discounts or additional bonuses for buying now. Service businesses can do this too, offering gift certificates for your service. If you’re not selling online, then offer persuasive descriptions on your website, along with an incentive to visit your location or contact your business.

Cross-promote.

Consolidate the marketing efforts you’re making via different outlets and make it all work together. Create holiday promotions both on your website and on your social media channels. Start a Facebook page for your business if you don’t already have one. If you do, update it at least once a day. Set up a Twitter account and use hashtags to draw attention to your tweets. Customize the look of your pages for the holidays.

Work your email list, sending special promotional offers and customer appreciation events. Send a few throughout the holiday season, and make them good for a limited time only. Reach out to customers you haven’t seen in a while, perhaps offering them an extra incentive. The NRF reports a third of consumers keep track of sales and promotions via email.

Go mobile.

Make sure your website works and looks good on smartphones and tablets. Consider offering check-in incentives for sites like Yelp and Foursquare to help build a buzz about your business. It doesn’t have to be much, just something fun and festive.

Make it easier for customers to do business with you.

Online, that means offering free or low-cost shipping and having a hassle-free return policy. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and that transactions go through smoothly. Make it easy for people to get in touch with questions or comments, and answer them promptly and courteously. Have every possible security measure in place to protect your customers’ financial information. Make it easy to track orders and shipments.

In person, ensure your customer service is friendly and professional. Extend your business hours to make it as easy as possible to do business with you. Have enough staff on hand. Make your place of business festive. Serve apple cider and holiday cookies, or give out mini-candy canes. Shoppers who leave with a smile are more likely to come back—and tell their friends.

Offer gift cards for purchase.

Consumers love them! The NRF says four out of five shoppers plan to purchase at least one gift card during the holiday season, spending a total of $173 on gift cards alone. This year, it predicts a $32-billion dollar market for them. Get some of that for yourself.

Manage your inventory.

There’s nothing worse than not being able to give your customers what they want. It may be too late to beef up stock on some items right now, but if you can replenish stock of items that are selling well, do so. Now would also be a good time to take a look at some of your slower-moving or high-inventory items and offer them at a discount.

How to Beat the Post-Holiday Retail Slump

Once the holiday crush is over, keep that sales momentum going into the New Year!

Launch a reward program.

Use the purchases made during the holiday shopping season as the first step in a reward program. Offer incentives for additional purchases and referrals. And give out discounts that can be redeemed during the slower months of January and February. People that have bought from you for the holidays are great prospects as repeat customers.

Keep up your marketing and promotion.

Not everyone stops shopping after December, so be there to catch the available dollars. Plan a post-holiday sale that will help you clear out your excess merchandise and get ready for spring. Promote online and in your store if you have one.

Continue to think seasonally and strategically.

January offers its own benefits as people make their resolutions to start fresh, turn over a new leaf, lose weight, be more organized, and so on. Plot out the holidays and other seasonal events for the entire year and plan promotions and deals.

If your business is seasonal or cyclical, every year that passes will give you more insight. Apply the knowledge and construct a strategic plan for the year. Make a master calendar including trade shows or industry events you might want to participate in, as well as advertising opportunities from your local media.

Do a rigorous post-mortem and year-end assessment.

How did your website perform? What was your social media engagement like? Did you have any staffing issues? What kind of customer feedback have you received? The only way to continue to improve is to recognize what could be working better and make it happen.

Make your own resolutions.

If you got caught short in some areas this holiday season, make sure it doesn’t happen again. Plan your marketing strategy well in advance. Six months ahead isn’t too soon to calendar actions and start getting the pieces in place.

Network.

Make as many contacts as you can, especially if the winter holidays aren’t your biggest time of year. Refer and recommend customers to other businesses when appropriate, and ask those businesses to do the same for you. Nothing is better than doing business with someone your friends and colleagues trust, and it’s a no-brainer source of potential business.

Don’t forget to follow up.

Check in with people who visited your website or reached out to your business but did NOT buy from you. Sometimes, it takes several contacts to close a sale, especially in a service business. Persistence can pay off.

Similarly, don’t forget about existing customers. Continue building those relationships and give them ongoing chances to do business with you. When appropriate, offer additional products or services that will complement what they’ve already bought. It costs far less to keep a customer than to get a new one.

Take a breather.

This may sound contrary to all the tips we listed above, but it’s really not. While making all your plans to move forward, it’s okay to take some time to sit back, regroup and reorganize, especially if you’re just coming off a very busy holiday season. Taking the time to get re-energized now can serve you very well in the months ahead.

Top Articles on Business Tips

How to Sell Products Online

Top 10 Sales Tips to Grow Your Business

Social Media for Small Business

Let's Get Started

In just 15 minutes, you can be on your way toward applying for a small business loan. Start by telling us a little about yourself.