With Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year’s, it is no secret that this time of year is make or break for many small businesses. People right now are getting ready to shop and spend, and the good news is that with the economy humming, holiday sales are expected to break some records, both online and off. For small business owners, that means there is a lot of opportunity to break some of your own records this year.
So, what do you do and how can you take advantage of this special moment?
I would like to suggest a few different ideas; ideas that are (hopefully!) different than your run-of-the-mill ‘have a holiday sale’ sort of thing. And, while a sale is all well and good (see below), you simply have to do more than tell people to ‘shop here!’ if you want to get noticed. To be heard above the din this time of year, you need to do something different and memorable, such as:
Have a holiday contest: Consider the bakery that has an annual “Holiday Gingerbread Contest.” They recruit some local celebrities to judge it (including a local TV anchor to ensure good press), offer great prizes and publicity to the winner, and every year it is a hit. The bakery gets tons of publicity, and of course, sales follow.
Go free: People love free, especially when they may be a little stressed out by spending too much, so offering them something for free would be welcomed. For instance, maybe you have Santa come to your store every Friday during December while you offer everyone free cookies and hot chocolate. Kids would love it, as would their parents, and your shop would most certainly get noticed.
Or what about creating a free gift-wrap station at your store? Undoubtedly many of the things they will wrap will be items they purchased from you.
So the question is, what can you offer people that’s a free loss leader?
Get in the holiday spirit: Provide ways for customers to donate to the charity of their choice when they shop with you, and offer them a discount for doing so.
Have a B2B holiday party – before everyone else: Invite your best clients and customers to a holiday party, but don’t have it in December. For example, have it closer to Thanksgiving, and have ‘thanks’ be the theme.
Have a sale – but not like everyone else: Everyone will be having a Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale and accordingly, many of those sales will get lost in the crowd. But yours won’t if you have a Terrific Tuesday sale, or a Wacky Wednesday sale. There is a mall near me that has a “Festival of the Last Minute Shopper” every year during the week before Christmas. That's the idea.
Create a sale – chosen by your customers: One of my favorite pieces of business advice ever was given by a SCORE counselor who said, “Ask them what they want, then give them what they want.”
That would be an especially great way to engage with your network using social media. Ask your customers what they would like to see on sale, and then put those things on sale.
Send out humorous holiday cards: We all get lots of holiday cards, so in order to be memorable add in some humor to your greeting card. For example, one business made sure their holiday greetings would get noticed: the law firm sent out their cards as their “criminal alter-egos.” Humor works and is memorable.
So you get it. The idea is to get into the holiday spirit, but in a way that is just a tad different than everyone else. That is what works.
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.
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