Small Business

C. NORMAN BECKERT: Make the holiday season count for your business

Idaho district director for SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired ExecutivesDecember 3, 2013 

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C. Norman Beckert

The holiday season is upon us. It's the time of the year when many retail businesses realize a significant amount of their annual sales. In businesses that serve businesses, the holidays are often a slack time. The question then becomes: What can the business owner do to increase sales during the holiday season? This prompted me to ask our SCORE volunteers to offer suggestions based on their business experience.

Below are strategies they had used in operating their own businesses:

Retail business

• Decorate the shop and enhance your displays.

• Offer special promotions such as a men's night or a kids' night.

• Provide giveaways and consider gift drawings (a big-screen TV or an iPad would be nice).

• Develop special discount coupons.

• Give your website a holiday look.

• Use Facebook to promote sales.

• Develop a list of gift ideas, send it to customers and have it available in the store.

• Provide no-cost wrapping service.

• Add extended or special shopping hours.

• Stock some "loss leader" items and advertise them to increase store traffic.

• Consider gift card promotions such as, "buy a $25 gift card and earn an incremental $5 gift card for every $25 purchased."

• Add specialized holiday products.

• Consider a charitable contribution based on sales and promote the offer.

• Have Santa in the store along with cookies, candy and soft drinks.

• Bring in a personality (sports figure, TV anchor, author, maybe even your Mom to serve as a hostess).

Business-to-business

• Email customers and clients with a message such as thanking them for their business and promoting a product and service.

• Send holiday cards, and personalize them.

• Consider holiday gifts, but be careful because some customers will not accept even modest gifts.

• Host a customer appreciation event.

• Host a lunch or a late afternoon or early evening reception.

• Use social media to connect with customers, including a personalized message.

• Develop special promotions, especially for businesses such as office products suppliers, equipment suppliers and building and grounds services.

• Things are usually slow between Christmas and New Year's, so it's a great time to call customers with a personal thank you.

• Provide advance news about a new service or product. Perhaps offer a trial or introductory price.

• Meet with employees and set a holiday-period sales goal. Offer a bonus if met.

• Treat the customer's office staff to cookies, candy or other holiday goodies.

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