When October 1st clicks around, Christmas Eve is 85 days away. This gives you plenty of time to get organised and make this Christmas the best ever for your business. For small business owners, Christmas delivers a mixed blessing. It can be the busiest time of year for those in retail and hospitality and for others it can be the quietest. I have written this article to be of value to both types of business.
There are five things to get organised when planning to get the best results this Christmas:
- Look at what the humans are doing!
One of my clients uses this expression; ‘the humans’, and it works well to remind us to look outside our own businesses and check in with the world. Check out what your clients do at Christmas and how that could support your business. Do they have the potential to spend more dollars with you? What value do you provide them all year; how can you build on that at Christmas? How can you help them with the problems that they might have at Christmas?
If you are in hospitality, can you cater for their events, meetings or celebration lunches? Can you provide them with gift solutions, such as vouchers, hampers or experiences? If you are in the cleaning business, do they want an extra service after parties/events etc.? With time on your side, there are quite a few ways you might be able to get organised and boost your silly season sales.
- Who can you partner with?
Look at your target market. What do you want to offer them this year? Is there someone that you can partner with to make the offer irresistible? A catering company partnered with a local hire company? Kids clothing and toys?
Last year, a fellow hubster—who runs an insurance brokerage—partnered up with a butcher to buy meat trays for all their clients—a practical gift that supported a local small business whilst helping to build the brand of the insurance company.
Can your business provide the reward for a business such as a travel agent—book your next holiday and receive a meal for two? When buying gifts for your team, can you support a local small business? Get it organised now so that you can put something great in place this year.
- Systems are your friend!
If Christmas is your busy time of year, then systems are your friend. If Christmas is quiet, then it is a great time to review your systems so you are ready to hit the ground running in the new year.
Have a look at the customer experience from when they say yes, to the last contact you have. Whether you make coffee, sell insurance policies, turkeys or your expertise, good systems will have the business run without you and grow to make more profit without you being stressed. Taking time now to review your systems for Christmas, or using that quiet time to do it, will result in more time, money and head-space for you and your team.
Christmas usually results in a change in timelines; things take longer and there is usually a change in working hours. Check in with your suppliers—when will they be working and taking holidays? When do you need to place orders by, how long will they be closed, will there be an on-call service during that time? What happens if your equipment breaks down over the holiday period—are your usual support team around? If not, who will you call? If you are going to change your working hours, then make sure you tell your clients—with plenty of notice.
I used to manage a furniture business when I first arrived in Australia and we told our clients that if they wanted their new furniture by Christmas, they had to order 8-10 weeks in advance. Give your clients the heads up so they have plenty of time to plan (and buy!). Also, work out with your team who is doing what and when. How will holidays be managed; who is the back-up if people are sick etc.? Plan for all eventualities and then they won’t happen. (Isn’t that how it works?!)
I was once in a client’s office the week before Christmas and the reception area was stacked high with boxes and padded envelopes: gifts from their suppliers. Most ended up in the bin, as they were items such as stubby holders, fridge magnets and other generic branded items of no value to the team. I delivered homemade double chocolate brownies—which were a winner.
Before you allocate a budget to your Christmas gifts, stop and think about what you are supporting before you spend the money. Mass production of items that just tick the ‘ordered client gifts’ box, rarely have impact. Consider your target market; what would they value and which local small business can you support?
Each year, in lieu of buying client Christmas gifts Sorted. donates to a local charity who support the community that our clients live and work in. The feedback is always great. If you are going to do this, then make sure you tell people well ahead of the silly season so that the message stands out—or maybe in the new year when there is less competition for air space!
If you do send gifts around Christmas, put the time in early to select ones that will have a positive impact on your business brand and be of value to the client. Don’t forget your suppliers too—especially if they are key to supporting the success of your business!
At home, consider mixing it up a bit this year. How about creating themes for your giving: supporting local small businesses; an experience, not a gift (get your lawns mowed/hot air balloon ride/dinner out etc); op shop gifts; under $5 gifts; donate to charity (I am always keen to see people donating to local charities at Christmas, e.g. local giving trees, supporting community meals over Christmas etc.).