Guest blog by Eva Benoit
With the arrival of the holidays comes the busiest time of year for many small businesses. Making the most of the season can mean ensuring prosperity in the coming year. We’ve compiled the essential to-do list for ensuring your business’ success during this pivotal season.
Part of making the most of the season is being accessible to your customers during peak times. Do some research and set your holiday hours in accordance with when you can expect heavy foot traffic. For instance, are there special events nearby you can capitalize on, and do you need to keep longer hours on certain days? Being open, stocked and ready to serve is a must.
Having enough workers is an absolute must during the holidays, and hiring seasonal staff can be the best solution for many small business owners. In addition to tiding you through the holiday season, hiring short-term workers can often mean finding some gems for permanent employment. To ensure you find quality candidates, brush up on job interview etiquette so your questions help you sort out the cream of the crop.
Is your payment system outdated? Having a solid and secure credit card payment system ready for the holiday rush is crucial, and the last thing you want is to miss out on income because you’re using an obsolete method. Customers expect convenient and efficient checkout experiences, and you can quickly lose sales - and customers - if your system fails. Do your research and invest in an upgrade sooner rather than later. Look for a credit card system which is reliable, keeps payments secure, and is PCI compliant. Also keep in mind portability is a plus in a number of circumstances, and user-friendliness is a must for employees.
Offering a festive atmosphere during the holidays is not just a frivolity that feels good, it’s part of your outreach to customers. Even if your business isn’t one that capitalizes directly on seasonal items, an atmosphere that speaks to the current culture and time of year sends a positive message. As RetailDoc points out, it’s less about the items you’re selling and more about energy, environment, and experience, and it makes people want to be in your place of business.
Prep for the rush
In the midst of the holiday buzz, you don’t want things to fall apart when you experience a crush of customers. Forbes points out your staff should be well-trained and ready for the last-minute rush. You should also contemplate what worked well in previous busy periods, and what didn’t. Have a back stock of your best-selling inventory, and plan some timely marketing blasts to draw attention to your business.
In the spirit of the season, many small business owners elect to participate in charitable giving. There are various ways to accomplish this, and you should determine what will best suit your business and how you would like to be recognized. Volunteer at a local event with your staff, then celebrate afterwards with the company holiday party. Another suggestion is a branded activity. Perhaps you have a company mascot who could wear a seasonal costume and visit a hospital children’s ward, presenting gifts you donate. Glassdoor notes senior centers are a terrific and often-missed outreach opportunity. Whatever you decide, take photos and create a press release to show your work in the community, and talk it up on social media.
One of the few times you want to embrace an old-fashioned, traditional, snail-mail outreach is with holiday cards. Ecards tend to get snagged by junk mail filters, and on top of that, there is no better way to make a lasting impression in this busy, electronic, convenience-oriented world than with a handwritten note. Have everyone on staff sign the cards, and send them to your most valued customers, suppliers, advisors and associates.
As a small business owner, you want to make the most of the holiday season. Prepare your staff and store effectively, and reach out in a way that will be meaningful. With smart strategies you can make the most of this holiday season and set yourself up for a terrific new year.