For some businesses, particularly those in the retail sector, the holiday season can be an important period. By now, most businesses owners already have thought about the inventory side for the season. But here are a few added things that might need to be on your planning list.
• Make sure you know your target market. Has your customer base shifted over the years or does it shift a little during the holiday season? Do you need to adjust your marketing to include a slightly different type of consumer or focus?
• Get social. The holidays will be busy, so plan ahead on how to handle social media. Make sure to check online reviews so you can take action if it appears a problem is brewing. Do you need to add a festive picture or let people know you have this year’s “hot” item in stock? Do your product descriptions need a little fine-tuning? How are you going to communicate specials? How and when are you going to allocate the time to update Facebook or Twitter?
• Evaluate your staffing needs and have a staffing plan. Decide whether you will need some temporary help. Know how much a new hire really costs when you take into account hiring, training, employment taxes, etc. Is it better to pay some overtime? This also may be a busy time for your existing employees, and being forced to work a lot of overtime might lead to a disgruntled staff.
• Give great service. It is all about customer service at the holidays, and here is where a small business truly can excel. Go out of your way to provide a personal touch. If you are hiring extra help, look for friendly people who won’t get rattled by tired and stressed-out customers who may not be exhibiting the season’s joy.
• Get found. Check your website, Facebook page, Google Places, Yelp.com and other online places where your company information can be found. Does it still show the correct address, telephone number, store hours, etc.? If you have satisfied customers, you can subtly encourage them to do online reviews — but don’t be pushy.
• Get ready. Create a warm and welcoming atmosphere in your store that encourages customers to linger. Use creative window displays to lure people in, and music, scents and décor to keep them browsing inside. “Read” your customers — providing good customer service doesn’t mean being overly pushy or always looking over the customer’s shoulder. Some people find this annoying and will try to rush out rather than leisurely lingering and looking.
• Think safety and convenience. Try to keep sidewalks clear from ice and snow, both for your customers’ and your employees’ safety and convenience. Think ahead and plan on who will be responsible for snow removal.
With the shorter daylight hours, make sure outdoor lights are working.
• Get involved with Small Business Saturday. Started in 2010 and sponsored by American Express, this nationwide initiative is aimed at encouraging consumers to buy local and support small independent businesses.
Occurring on the Saturday after “Black Friday” (November 24th this year),
promote this event and concept at your business. Over one hundred million people were part of Small Business Saturday in 2011, and the initiative is supported by President Obama and SBA Administrator Karen Mills. Find out more about this event at www.smallbusinesssaturday.com or www.facebook.com/SmallBusinessSaturday
Marcia Bagnall is Director of the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center and instructor of Small Business Management Program . The Small-Business Adviser column is produced by the center and appears each
Sunday. Questions can be submitted to SBDC@chemeketa.edu. Visit the SBDC at 626 High Street NE in downtown Salem or call (503) 399-5088.