Strategies: 9 things to do now for holiday success

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A specialty food retailer can think about gift baskets for other businesses to give or gift certificates so recipients can choose what they want.

A specialty food retailer can think about gift baskets for other businesses to give or gift certificates so recipients can choose what they want.

Walking around my neighborhood, I see many houses already decorated with ghosts, goblins, and jack-o-lanterns.

As a small-business owner, these Halloween decorations serve as a reminder to me that the holiday season already has arrived.

2012: Small biz not keen on Groupon for holidays
2007: 9 small business tips for holidays

For many small businesses, the holidays represent half of annual sales. The final quarter is a make-or-break time of year.

That’s not just for retail. Restaurants, hotels, personal services like salons, even business-service providers such as accountants and lawyers, can be busiest during the holiday season.

If you think you have plenty of time to get ready for the holidays, think again. You’ve got to get going if you’re going to ring up holiday success this year for your small business.

If you sell anything that might be given as a present — whether a physical gift, a gift certificate for a personal service such a visit to a spa or a session with a golf pro, even a mobile app, it’s time to get out there in front of potential customers.

After all, many customers already are doing their holiday shopping.

When consumers start their holiday shopping, according to a Value Click Media report:

• 39% before Halloween
• 40% in November
• 21% in December

This year, some shoppers will be buying much earlier. Why? Because in 2013, the first night of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah starts the night before Thanksgiving. That Nov. 27 date is astonishingly early.

Some people are calling this Thanksgivukkah, and it promises to be a big deal. Why? Usually, Hanukkah aligns closely with Christmas —the last time Hanukkah was this early was 1899.

That means Jewish shoppers will be checking off their gift-giving list much earlier.

If you sell gift items and have many Jewish customers, you definitely want to be promoting your wares by late October. If you cater to business customers and have a number of Jewish clients, they’ll appreciate your noticing and sending early Hanukkah greetings (or gifts if you send them to clients). If you’re in the travel business, more Jewish families may travel than usual since they can combine Hanukkah and Thanksgiving and make the in-laws twice as happy.

When planning for your holiday activities, remember that this year only 26 full shopping days will happen between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That means a more condensed Christmas shopping season and more frazzled customers.

You may want to hire more staff to handle this intense period. However, according to the National Retail Federation, the success of this holiday season depends on Congress ending the government shutdown and resolving the debt ceiling.

I want you and your small business to have the most successful holiday season ever. So I’ve come up with 9 Things To Do Now for Small Business Holiday Success:

1. Order greeting cards to send to customers, prospects and key vendors.

2. Choose and order affordable gifts for your best customers. In my company, we send boxes of See’s chocolates, and some of my customers remind me to be sure to keep them on the list.

3. Arrange for gift cards or gift certificates to sell. This is especially important if you offer a personal service, classes, training, or anything else you can’t put in a box and wrap. Gift cards are the No. 1 requested present.

4. Plan a holiday party or open house. It can be a way to draw people into your business before the holidays or to deepen relations with customers and employees.

5. Attend holiday mixers from business and community groups. Bring your business card and have your elevator pitch ready.

6. Plan your Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday promotions.

7. Plan and write your e-mail newsletters. Include special seasonal offers, new products, events and holiday hours.

8. Create a schedule for social-media marketing, what you’ll post and when. You can write many of them now and schedule them with an app like Hootsuite. Be sure to include pictures.

9. Set up a customer relationship management program now if you don’t have one. Capture the contact information from the influx of holiday customers for future marketing campaigns.

With just a bit of planning, the holiday season can make 2013 one of your best years ever.

Courtesy of USA Today

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