Starting Thanksgiving weekend, holiday shoppers get serious, really serious. There’s Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. And that’s just one weekend. Consumers are expected to spend $655 billion shopping in November and December. That’s a lot of money. How will you make sure your small business gets your piece of the pie during this all-important holiday shopping season?
Here are nine steps to increase small business holiday sales:
- Get your name out there. Start now and make sure previous customers and prospects remember you. Send email newsletters to your mailing list throughout the holiday season, letting your fans know of holiday products or services you offer, events you’re holding, hours you’re open, and any special discounts. Place ads in those “hyper-local” newspapers serving your specific neighborhood.
- Create bundles. If you’re in retail, solve customers’ gift shopping dilemmas by creating pre-wrapped, themed gift bundles, such as “for him,” “for her,” “for your pet.” Customers spend more when gifts come conveniently wrapped together. Here’s another advantage to bundles: they’re unique so you won’t be competing against online retailers. Bundles aren’t just for retailers, either. Service businesses, such as salons or spas or even cleaning services, can wrap a gift certificate with a physical product, like a lotion or shampoo or kitchen towels. Restaurants can pre-wrap gift cards with a menu, grocers can bundle a gift card with a shelf-stable food item.
- Leverage Small Business Saturday, November 26. Shopping local and shopping small has become an annual holiday tradition for many customers, as they know that spending money at local small businesses helps strengthen their communities. It’s also become a fun day to share with the family. Proudly display “Shop Small” marketing materials to remind folks that you’re part of the shop local movement. You can customize and download free marketing materials at www.ShopSmall.com/GetReady.
- Plan in-store events. Attract customers by hosting fun or interesting events on Small Business Saturday and throughout the holiday season. Even an “open house” can be a special event with cookies and cider. Lena Dunham (of “Girls” fame) is the official spokesperson of “Indies First” this year – the campaign to lure customers into stores on Small Business Saturday when authors appear in bookstores nationwide. Be creative.
- Get social – in person. Now’s the time to accept every invitation and go to every community and industry holiday party. Bring lots of business cards. Meet new customers by attending community, industry, neighborhood holiday parties.
- Get social – online. Now’s also the time to step up your social media activities, whether on FaceBook, Instagram, Pinterest, or other social media sites. Post ideas for unique gifts or holiday survival tips and include lots of pics. Boost posts to increase your reach. Use the hashtag #ShopSmall to find new customers too.
- Show customers some love. Want customers to remember you? Then remember them. Now’s the perfect time to say “thank you” to your customers. Send holiday cards to customers, prospects, even vendors. Give small gifts to all customers; better gifts to your most valuable clients. If it’s a slow time in your business, invite your best customers to a lunch or dinner. You can also make a donation to a favorite charity in one of your customer’s name.
- Get found on mobile. What do people do when they’re searching for a gift, café, or shop nearby? They whip out their smart phones. Make sure you show up by listing your business for free on search engines and review sites. And if you want customers to spread the word for you, give them a reason to check in on their social media channels when they’re at your place of business – have a cute place to take a pic in your store or offer a free dessert at your restaurant if they check in.
- Turn holiday customers into year ‘round customers. You worked hard to get customers to come to your business this time of year, so stay in touch with them throughout 2017. Use the holidays to ask customers for their email addresses and permission to add their names to your email newsletter. Encourage them to follow you on social media. Connect with them in the New Year to let them know of future sales, special events, and new products or services.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2016
This article ran in USA Today on November 17, 2016