The holidays will be here before you know it, and if that thought fills your head with dread rather than dancing sugar plums, take heart -- you can be ready for the season and capitalize on it if you make your list and check it twice now.
Business owners, particularly small business owners, always have much on their plates and the extra pressure that comes from October to January can be brutal. But this short checklist can help you seize the season.
Forecasting shoppers’ whims can be tough, but try to tune in and plan for best- and worst-case scenarios. Make sure you have enough stock and make sure you know when orders must be placed to arrive on time.
Also make sure you’re planning for any time off your staff might need. Your staff might need time for school parties and pageants, out-of-town visitors and even shopping trips, so make sure you’re ready to be down a man or woman or two. If you need a little virtual help while they’re out, Intelligent Office has a suite of services to help.
In addition to fliers and posters, make sure you have electronic promotion material that can: a) be uploaded and printed from anywhere (in case you run out while on the run), and b) can be shared across social media platforms. And make sure to ask you friends for shares and retweets to spread the word farther.
And while we’re talking tech, take advantage of Cyber Monday to offer an online deal that can generate buzz. Make sure your site is mobile friendly, since smartphones and tablets are often shopper’s best friends.
Craft fairs, open houses, holiday expos -- all can offer some lots of exposure for minimal investment. They also offer a great way to promote the virtues of shopping local and provide a great opportunity to grow your customer base via word of mouth.
Make sure your entire team -- whether that’s two people or 200 -- is aware of key dates and events tied to your planning. Post a calendar prominently and keep it up to date, or better yet, tap into tech again and create an electronic calendar and share it with all so they get updates in real time.
Create eye-catching signage with bold, bright simple messages to draw in new customers who might be strolling by. And use that same imagery for your online and social media presence to create brand recognition.
Crankiness doesn’t jibe with peace on earth and goodwill toward men, so make sure you and your staff say thanks and are friendly and engaging in all interactions with customers or potential customers.
Perks are a great way to inspire loyalty and lure repeat customers. Offer free gift wrapping or a discount on their next visit, a discount for referring a friend, a buy-one-get-one free deal -- anything you think will help set you apart from your competition and keep them coming back. Loyalty rewards also are a great way to inspire customers to return time and again.
The season of giving is a great time to partner with a local nonprofit organization. If you are a specialty food shop, donate 10 or 20 percent of a day’s proceeds to a local food bank. If you sell outerwear, hold a hat, glove and scarf donation drive to be given to the local homeless shelter. People are often bombarded with requests for giving this time of year, but if you make it easy for them it can help both nonprofits and your bottom line.
This isn’t all you can do to keep the season merry and bright, but it’s a good start that should help you end the year on a high note and enter the next with great momentum.