How to Survive the Holiday Season

by Sue Pitts on October 23, 2008

The Christmas season is right around the corner and for many small retail and service businesses the season is their bread and butter. The current economic crisis will certainly have an effect on how consumers will spend their dollars during the 2008 holiday season. Now is the time for retailers and services to start planning on how to attract those much needed customers.

My immediate advice is to FOCUS ON CURRENT CUSTOMERS! They know you, are comfortable with you and will feel comfortable referring you to their friends and family. Here a few things to help you get started:

1. Gather customer emails – After every sale you should have a system in place to ask for emails. Put these emails into Microsoft Outlook, Excel or utilize an email marketing service like Constant Contact, iContact or VerticalResponse. Email marketing services make it very easy to create, send, and track email newsletters, surveys, invitations, sales promotions and more. The cost is typically $10-$40 per month depending on how many contacts you have.

2. Email! – send your customers monthly newsletters with promotions and quick tips, sales invitations, coupons, etc. If you send them information that is valuable they won’t get annoyed with you or put you in their “junk” file.

3. Offer customers special discounts or freebies. Offer customers things that are of value to them but are low or no cost to you. Examples would be free consultations, tune-ups, style consultations, fittings, decorating advice, free downloads (white papers, eBooks, articles, how to lists) . Don’t underestimate the value of the expertise that you can offer your customers. After all, you are an expert. Remember that.

4. Start referral programs. Set up a program that rewards your customers for sending in friends and family. Again offer things of value that have no direct costs to you (see above).

For more tips on preparing for a great holiday season visit this article written by John Tozzi from BusinessWeek.com.

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