The holidays are a critical make-or-break season for many small businesses.
How can you be sure you make the most of the holidays for your company, regardless of what industry you're in? Here are eight tips:
1. Send holiday cards
The holidays give you a perfect excuse to stay in touch with current and past customers. Sending holiday cards is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to remind someone that you exist.
In my company, we've already ordered our cards for this year; we send a few hundred to people we do business with throughout the year. We also maintain a holiday card list throughout the year and circulate it to the staff before we order cards for new additions or deletions.
If you haven't ordered your cards for this year, it's time to do so. Just remember: keep your holiday cards appropriate for people of all faiths.
2. Give holiday gifts
The holidays are also a great time to thank people who help make your business a success, such as major customers, referral sources, key advisors, strategic partners, and employees.
It doesn't have to be a big gift -- I send chocolates -- to let someone know that you appreciate what they do for you. Some businesses give holiday bonuses to employees as well.
3. Create holiday specials
Create gift packages by bundling a number of products and/or services together. Bundles both increase total sales amounts for you and provide your customers with excellent values.
If you sell products, you can purchase gift baskets to wrap a number of items together. If yours is a service business, consider adding physical products to make the gift seem more tangible; for instance, bundle a gift certificate for a haircut with a selection of hair-care products, or a gift certificate for dog grooming with some pet toys.
4. Sell gift certificates and gift cards
Do you sell gift certificates? If not, why not? Even if you're in the carpet-cleaning business, someone might purchase a rug cleaning as a gift for a friend or family member.
If this is your slow season, one way to increase cash flow now is to offer customers gift certificates at a discount; regular customers can buy them to use later, providing you with an infusion of cash.
Gift cards have also become extremely popular with consumers; next week, I'll discuss offering gift cards in your business more fully.
5. Attend holiday parties
Many organizations and companies hold holiday parties, so now's a good time to increase your networking and look for clients for the new year.
If you need to build your business -- and who doesn't? -- attend as many parties as you can, and be sure to bring your business card.
6. Host a holiday party
Perhaps it's time for you to host your own business holiday party. Parties are a good way to connect with customers and referral sources. They can also be a good way to get people to your place of business if you have a store or office.
A holiday party doesn't need to be elaborate; I once held my company's party in a bowling alley with pizza, and it was still a great event.
7. Recognize holidays other than Christmas
Make certain you're sensitive to a broad spectrum of customers. You'll increase both sales and goodwill by recognizing a diversity of holidays. To that end, remember the Jewish holiday Hanukkah and the African-American celebration Kwanzaa.
8. Keep your priorities straight
No matter how busy you are, don't get totally distracted by work. Remember the things that are really important: family, friends, community, and your faith. Spend time with those you truly care for and give to those who are less fortunate.
And remember -- January is just around the corner!