What’s at the top of every small business owner’s holiday wish list? More sales! It’s no wonder. For many small businesses, the holidays are their make-or-break season, often bringing in half their total annual income.
Holiday sales are critical for more than just retail or e-commerce companies — small businesses in personal services, hospitality, travel, even many business-to-business industries depend on the holidays to make their year.
So you’ve got to get out there and make the most of the weeks remaining in 2014. To help, I’ve developed a number of key strategies that can boost your sales this holiday season. You’ll find even more do-it-now tips in my free “2014 Small Business Holiday Success Guide,” including “99 Ways to Get More Holiday Customers.” Download it here.
Share your own holiday tips with other small businesses on social media using the hashtag #HolidaySuccess.
Bundle up for big sales
Want to make more money from each customer? Think “bundles.”
After all, why sell just one book when you can offer a Jane Austen-themed bundle with a few books packaged with tea and a teacup, wrapped and ready to ring up?
Bundles solve customers’ holiday shopping dilemmas, and they’ll spend more for the convenience. Here are some ways to bundle up for big holiday sales:
• Provide themed bundles. Think “for him,” “for her,” “for pets.”
• Gift-wrap bundles so they’re ready to give.
• Feature bundles both on your display floor and your website.
• Create bundles at different price points to reach more customers.
For the holidays, think outside the (gift) box. Partner up with with other local businesses this season to increase your holiday impact — and stretch your dollars. Join with complimentary businesses to do joint promotions, or package products and services together. You might even team up with another business to share costs hosting a holiday party.
During this festive time of year, have some fun decorating your business and entertaining your customers. For most people, shopping is also a form of entertainment –— not just a necessity. So make your establishment as inviting and engaging as possible.
Deck the digital halls
E-commerce stores, too, depend on good holiday sales. Driving customers to your site and then getting them to buy takes marketing, merchandising, customer service and even holiday “decorations.”
Send special holiday e-mails, because, according to Forrester Research, e-mail marketing is the most effective way to encourage online customers to return. Messages help keep you in front of customers, even during the holiday rush. Getting started with mailings is easy. If you have a small list of e-mail subscribers, turn to MailChimp for free help that includes design.
Make merry with your messages by telling your customers about:
• Special holiday discounts for returning customers.
• New products or services for the holidays.
• Special holiday services, like free gift wrapping or expedited shipping.
• News and tips they’ll find useful.
• Order status and tracking information.
And always think mobile. Remember, 49% of e-mails are opened on a mobile device. Make sure your e-mails look good on screens of all sizes.
Even online sellers have to “merchandise” their wares by figuring out how to best present and promote their products. Arrange your virtual store windows to sell more by jazzing up your website with holiday decor, creating holiday landing pages and bundling goods or services.
Make it easy for customers to find your business, by updating your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) and buying search engine ads (SEM).
For social media mileage, add share buttons to products so customers can post gifts on their wish lists to their Facebook and other pages and market your products for you.
And offer free shipping on purchases over $100.
Ring in the new year with new sales
The holidays are critical for service businesses, too, especially those in personal services and hospitality. Step up your marketing now if you want to enter 2015 with a better bottom line.
Reach customers with gift certificates and holiday events, like buy-one-get-one promotions or bring-a-friend party.
Show your customers you care, by donating a portion of one week’s sales to charity, or donate your services to a community group to increase visibility.
Finally, keep holiday customers returning in the new year — and attract new ones — by launching a reward program for frequent users and referrals.
Ask your best customers to tell their friends and family about you — and then reward them when they do. Create a program for the holidays that provides incentives for your customers to return and tell others about you. Offer discounts to redeem during the slower months of January and February.
The holidays can be nerve-wracking for small businesses, but they can also be the key to success. So get out there and sell!
This article originally ran in USAToday on November 14, 2014