I 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?
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.
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:
- It will get people in the shop: Having a super deal on a super item will draw people in.
- 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.
Finally, 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.
And they lived happily ever after, right? Nope.
It turns out that the restaurant owner was not ready for the onslaught we created: The line to get in was two hours long at one point. The place ran out of dough on Saturday night. He didn’t have enough wait-staff scheduled. All in all, the event backfired for the most part because he wasn’t ready for all of the new business our work together generated.
So let that just be a word to the wise: Be prepared.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. 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. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.