Happy Holidays (or DEFCON Countdown?)

Do you know where the term ‘Black Friday’ comes from? After searching for open parking places, seeing empty shelves instead of advertised items, and arguing with exhausted employees, you might think it refers to everyone’s mood. But actually the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday because it supposedly puts many companies ‘in the black’ for the year.

There’s more to the holiday season for businesses than Black Friday, of course. We also have all the other days from approximately Labor Day ’til around MLK Jr. Day. But Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve is when shoppers do their most serious shopping. As such, there’s still time to plan for getting in on the action. Now is an opportunity for business-to-business (B2B) companies and professional services providers to do some seasonal strategizing as well. Here are five tips for having a happier holiday season, business-wise:

  1. Get in the spirit of holidays … and incorporate your brand.
    Connect with your customers on a very basic human level. Adding holiday decorations and messaging at your store, office or website lets everyone know you’re no Scrooge. At the same time, be sure to subtly tie your brand into your holiday adornments and make your business a part of the season.Holiday branding can be as simple as festively deploying your company colors or using your official typeface in your holiday decorations and communications.
  2. Let customers know your business hours.
    Staying open later (or opening earlier) won’t do you much good if your customers aren’t aware of the extended hours. Be sure to include the information in your advertising and get the word out via social media or other communication vehicles such as a newsletter. Such notification is just as important for businesses that cut back on their hours or even close during the holidays.Remember that life goes on, and people who count on you need to know your schedule so they can plan accordingly.
  3. Take a lesson from last year’s holiday season.
    It’s useless to close the proverbial barn door after the horses have run off, but there’s always something to learn from past experiences. What were sales like last year at this time? When were you the busiest? Who were your customers, what did they buy and what might they have wanted that you didn’t offer? Considering these points will help you better target your promotions and allocate resources over the coming weeks.
  4. Make your business relevant to the holidays.
    Some types of businesses, such as retail stores or restaurants, easily find their places in the hustle and bustle of holiday activity. These companies can best bring in customers by carefully targeting the right audience with promotions and sales tailored to holiday-shopping interests. For example, make current customers feel special with exclusive discounts and sales… preferably not on Black Friday.For broader audiences, create a promotion schedule that mirrors the buying of the early bargain hunters (big discounts), the peak buying season (wide variety and good prices), and last-minute shoppers (convenience and availability). Marketing by B2B companies and professional service providers can also use the holiday season for promotional purposes, though probably on a delayed schedule.For instance, a dentist might do a mailing that says, “Enjoy your candy canes now, but be sure to see us in January!” Or B2B companies may want to remind their clients of their ongoing business relationship with holiday cards or perhaps an appropriate gift … followed up with a new marketing campaign early in the New Year.
  5. Set the stage for repeat business.
    During the holiday season you may see some customers that you’ve never seen before. For retail customers, it could be a sale or a particular item that brings them in. However, professional service providers and companies that serve other businesses may also see new clients.As people take time off during the holidays, they may take the opportunity to get to things that have been on a backburner. Have a plan in place to capture their information and maintain contact with them throughout the coming year so that they aren’t just seasonal customers.

One more thought: While the holidays can be ‘make or break’ for some companies, and other business owners may be frustrated by the seasonal disruption to normal operations, it’s still good to step back from time to time and just take a deep breath. And remember that your friends at SynchroNet are always ready to do everything we can to help get you through the holidays.