Tag Archive: holiday_season

Getting Ready for Your Busy Season

Getting Ready for Your Busy Season

Posted by Steve Strauss in Advertising, Sales and Marketingon Nov 20, 2012 9:04:36 AM

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngI saw a statistic recently that was pretty interesting: According to CNN, last year, despite all the bad news about the economy, Black Friday set a record with over $50 billion being spent with sales up 16% over the previous year. So that’s good news for small businesses this year, right?

 

  1. Wrong.

 

Here’s why: I recently saw some other statistics that are even more interesting, and for our purposes, far more relevant. According to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (click to download PDF),

 

  • The vast majority of small businesses see little to no benefit from Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In fact 91% of small business owners surveyed said that the two post-Thanksgiving shopping days had minor (or no) impact on their business.
  • As such, and not surprisingly, 81% said that they thought that Cyber Monday was overhyped.

 

At first blush, I was surprised at the results of the survey, but after thinking about it more it made sense. All of those post-Thanksgiving sales tend to revolve around big box stores. That’s who has the sales, that’s what the press focuses on and that’s where people put their attention.
Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

But that does not mean that the holiday season may not be important to your business, for instance many retail stores still rely on holiday sales. But whether December is your busy season, or yours occurs in the summer or fall, the question remains: How do you get ready for your busiest time of year?

 

Here are 4 tips to help you along the way:

 

1. Get your store or website ready: When you know more people, and new people, will be coming into your business, you need to put on your best face. If the store needs some paint and repairs, get to it. If your site needs some new content, do it. If you do your job right, not only will you impress them, but you will sell to them too.

 

2. Get your staff ready: Businesses that succeed during a busy season get their staff on board. This means getting them to have the right attitude. If you expect them to work extended or odd hours, make sure you make it worth their time and show your appreciation. Small gestures of thanks can have long-term benefits.

 

3. Choose a loss leader: If you want to increase sales, then try the loss leader strategy. Pick an item that you know will be popular and put it on sale. Discount it to the extent possible and then get word out via your advertising and social media. This will do two things:

 

  1. It will get people in the shop: Having a super deal on a super item will draw people in.
  2. It will get people to buy other things: The purpose of a loss leader is that, while you may not make a profit on the sale item, it will lead to more sales of other items, items that you will make a dandy profit on.

 

4. Prepare your e-strategy: These days, as you well know, people often check you out online before coming into your business. So before your busy season starts, it would behoove you to put a social media schedule in order and have people sign up for your e-newsletter to get early-bird word on special offers and sales.

 

Nov 20 pull quote.pngFinally, a word of caution: The worst thing you can do is get your promotions and programs all revved up and not be ready if they do, in fact, pan out. I once worked with a local pizza restaurant that had great pizza but no customers. So we put together a promotion and PR plan and before long, the local food critic came in are tried the place out. He loved it and the next Friday wrote a rave review in the paper. That night, the place was packed.

5 Ways Small Business Owners Can Prepare for the Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday season is a critical sales season for many small businesses. According to the National Retail Federation, many small- and mid-sized businesses generate as much as 20-40 percent of their annual sales in the last two months of the year. In recent years, the season itself has started expanding, and stores are no longer waiting to offer promotions.

Many businesses are starting to offer promotions as early as September in recognition of the fact that some shoppers are hitting the stores before Halloween. Online retailers seem particularly apt to stretch the holiday season, offering a full month of discounts (including free shipping) in the month of November. Retailers who followed this model last season realized some significant returns: Sales in December 2010 were six percent higher than the same month in 2009, according to the National Retail Federation. This was in stark contrast to the 2008 holiday season when retail sales dropped 2.8 percent from the previous year.

No matter when you start your promotions, there are many things small businesses can do to get the most out of the holiday sales season. The following are some tips:

Find ways to stand out that are not related to the products you sell. For example, decorate your store with themes that tie in with community events. Consider sponsoring holiday charity auctions at churches and civic organizations.
Tap social media to promote holiday sales events. Use mobile apps to draw attention to sales in real time. If you have a Twitter presence (and if you do, learn how to increase your followers here), analyze the hot items potential customers are discussing and gear your inventory and promotions accordingly. Use can use your Facebook fan page to briefly mention upcoming deals without using an aggressive sales push.
Reach out to customers with holiday cheer. It is important for businesses to send holiday cards to their loyal customers. However, if you are business that relies on a small number of repeat customers, be sure to write your holiday greeting cards by hand and include a personal note.
Plan ahead to handle holiday crowds. One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is waiting until the last minute to hire extra staff to meet holiday demand, so analyze your needs as early in the year as possible. Holiday staff can be recruited through temporary services, employee referrals, and newspaper and online ads.
Lay the groundwork throughout the year. Although the majority of your sales may occur in the last two months of the year, it is never too early to start building customer relationships and loyalty. Use techniques for attracting customers – such as mobile marketing, geography-based promotions, loyalty programs – throughout the year and then customize them to fit the holiday season. Customers that have shopped with you throughout the year could be more likely to visit your store first as they search for holiday gifts.

Pull Quote.png

With the holidays quickly approaching, small retailers should take advantage of an expanded shopping season and explore new ways to connect with customers. Do you have any unique sales tactics during the holiday season? What challenges and opportunities do you typically encounter during this time? Share your comments with the community below.

5 Ways to Rise Above the Noise of Holiday Promotions

Last year during the holiday season, my daughter decided that she wanted to get my wife a nice tea set because my wife had recently gotten into drinking all sorts of exotic teas. I thought that was a super idea. One Saturday during the height of the shopping season, we bundled up, gave my wife some lame excuse about where we needed to go, and headed to the mall where I knew there was a store that sold nothing but tea and related accessories.

I had been in the store once before and found it to be a calm, serene place. But boy, were we unprepared for what we encountered once we arrived. That holiday season the store had apparently caught Selling Fever. Everything was On Sale! (Except it really wasn’t). The staff was Super Excited! And while enthusiasm is great, fake enthusiasm is not, and hard selling enthusiasm is the worst. The woman who was “helping” us was 100% certain that the simple tea set my daughter had picked out “just would not do. I am sure that your mom would love some of this blended tea from India. And these stainless steel tea strainers would cap the present off very nicely,” she said.

A $40 present should really become a $110 present, according to the saleslady. When we demurred, she practically insisted. We left.

It’s not hard to understand how the tea store got it so wrong. The holiday selling season is a time when 1) many businesses make the bulk of their income for the year and 2) competition is the highest. But mistaking the need to sell with a hard sell is not the answer.

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss.

Instead, here are 5 ways to stand out during the holidays:

1. Become a destination: Instead of the hard sell, try the soft sell. Create a cozy corner where harried shoppers can have a rest. No pressure, no selling, just a rest stop. Offer everyone who comes into your shop some hot chocolate or a piece of candy. Or, have Santa arrive every Saturday afternoon for the month of December. That sort of thoughtfulness is what makes people want to patronize your business.

2. Have a special event for your best customers: In your e-newsletter, via your social media, or your channel of choice, announce a “Best Customers Only Event.” For these customers, open your store during the off hours, put a few great items on sale, serve cookies and punch and watch the register light up.

3. Donate to their favorite charity: Tell your customers that for every, say, $100 they spend in your store, you will donate $5 to the charity of their choice. You could have a form they fill out indicating the charity. Most people love that sort of generosity of spirit, and the chance to give to the organization of their choice (by shopping no less) and may help them turn to you for business instead of a competitor.

4. Give them a free coupon book: Remember when you were a kid and you would give your mom or dad a book full of coupons that said things like

“Redeem for one car wash”
“Good for one house cleaning”
“One free mowing of the lawn”

Well, why not do something similar for your customers, only specific to your business? This allows you to give your customers a present that would benefit you both.

5. Sell Gift Certificates: Because people love getting a bargain. What about selling $25 gift certificates that customers can use or give away – for only $20?

With a little ingenuity, your holiday season can be a successful one (and you won’t even have to hawk imported, expensive teas from India to make it that way.) How do you raise above all the other types of holiday promotions? Share your tips below with the SBOC community.

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

5 Ways Small Business Owners Can Prepare for the Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday season is a critical sales season for many small businesses. According to the National Retail Federation, many small- and mid-sized businesses generate as much as 20-40 percent of their annual sales in the last two months of the year. In recent years, the season itself has started expanding, and stores are no longer waiting to offer promotions.

Many businesses are starting to offer promotions as early as September in recognition of the fact that some shoppers are hitting the stores before Halloween. Online retailers seem particularly apt to stretch the holiday season, offering a full month of discounts (including free shipping) in the month of November. Retailers who followed this model last season realized some significant returns: Sales in December 2010 were six percent higher than the same month in 2009, according to the National Retail Federation. This was in stark contrast to the 2008 holiday season when retail sales dropped 2.8 percent from the previous year.

No matter when you start your promotions, there are many things small businesses can do to get the most out of the holiday sales season. The following are some tips:

Find ways to stand out that are not related to the products you sell. For example, decorate your store with themes that tie in with community events. Consider sponsoring holiday charity auctions at churches and civic organizations.
Tap social media to promote holiday sales events. Use mobile apps to draw attention to sales in real time. If you have a Twitter presence (and if you do, learn how to increase your followers here), analyze the hot items potential customers are discussing and gear your inventory and promotions accordingly. Use can use your Facebook fan page to briefly mention upcoming deals without using an aggressive sales push.
Reach out to customers with holiday cheer. It is important for businesses to send holiday cards to their loyal customers. However, if you are business that relies on a small number of repeat customers, be sure to write your holiday greeting cards by hand and include a personal note.
Plan ahead to handle holiday crowds. One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is waiting until the last minute to hire extra staff to meet holiday demand, so analyze your needs as early in the year as possible. Holiday staff can be recruited through temporary services, employee referrals, and newspaper and online ads.
Lay the groundwork throughout the year. Although the majority of your sales may occur in the last two months of the year, it is never too early to start building customer relationships and loyalty. Use techniques for attracting customers – such as mobile marketing, geography-based promotions, loyalty programs – throughout the year and then customize them to fit the holiday season. Customers that have shopped with you throughout the year could be more likely to visit your store first as they search for holiday gifts.

Pull Quote.png

With the holidays quickly approaching, small retailers should take advantage of an expanded shopping season and explore new ways to connect with customers. Do you have any unique sales tactics during the holiday season? What challenges and opportunities do you typically encounter during this time? Share your comments with the SBOC community below.

From A to Z: 26 Ways to Say Thank You this Holiday Season

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, small business owners should take time to say thank you to the people who serve as the backbone of their company – employees. Some owners may be in the position to throw an extravagant end-of-year party or give significant bonuses. However, if you are looking for something that won’t be cost prohibitive but will still be meaningful and memorable, consider the following A-to-Z list of small business holiday gift suggestions.

Athletic club memberships can be expensive, but picking up a month or two could be a nice gesture.

Baskets of almost any variety – from fruit and candy to games and puzzles to thumb drives and mouse pads

Charitable donations in your employees’ names to organizations of their choice or a large donation (i.e. a percentage of sales) given to a charity your employees select

Desk organizers that run the gamut from pen-and-pencil sets to leather iPad holders.

Entertainment events with a holiday theme, i.e. a folk concert, an art exhibit or a book signing, held on company grounds

Food items personalized based on your knowledge of an each employee’s palate – from organic jams to exotic cheeses

Gift certificates to restaurants certainly, but also spas, sporting events, local travel, cooking lessons, or art exhibits

High-end “Secret Santa” where employees exchange services or products and have a chance to network in the process

International potluck dinner as a less expensive alternative to a glitzy party and potentially a greater boost to morale and camaraderie

Java sample packs from online retailers like eRoast or local microroasters that offer a wide variety of coffee flavors

Kid-friendly party for employees’ children, stepchildren, nieces and nephews, or grandchildren

Logo-endowed items, ranging in extravagance from stainless steel coffee mugs to backpacks to carry-on luggage

Membership to a wine or beer of the month club

Notecards or stationary personalized with employees’ initials

On-site classes in anything from financial planning to yoga

Photography sessions for employees and their families, all to memorialize special people, events and moments

Quiet time during the day in the form of extended coffee breaks or a walk outside

Red and green – or silver and gold – decorations, hand-painted to the liking of each of your employees

Seats to a local theater, concert hall or sporting event

Time off of at least half a day or several opportunities to leave early or come in late during the holiday season

Umbrellas, mittens, scarves and other gear for inclement winter weather

Vendor discounts from your major suppliers from cellular service to computer equipment

Wine or beer tastings on a Friday evening after work, which can be less expensive than an office party and just as festive

X-box and Wii games, karaoke competitions and gambling tables as part of a grownup night of fun

Yearbook for the company, incorporating recipes, photographs, holiday stories and original poems contributed by employees who choose to participate

Zoo or other experiential party in an outdoor location, as long as climate conditions allow

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So there you have it: 26 gift ideas for your employees this holiday season. Whether you are an out-of-the-box type or someone who likes to have fun with your staff, there is a perfect gift out there that says “thank you” just the way you want to say it. How do you show your employees that you are thankful for them? Do you plan to use any of the recom