123rf5461549 largeIt’s that time of year again, when the public begins shopping as if their lives depend on it. Obviously, this is great for business owners in the retail industry, who have been prepping for the season for the past six months. For other small to medium-sized businesses, however, regardless of whether you’re B2B or B2C, the holidays offer the opportunity to benefit from the energy and spirit too. Here’s why:

  • People are in a spending mood. Whether it’s for themselves or their loved ones, statistics from the National Retail Federation show that small businesses achieve between 20 and 40 percent of their annual sales in November and December. It’s not just because of Christmas and New Year, either. If you are a Canadian company, you have the nefarious Boxing Day sales coming up too, which are a good time to introduce a “holiday” discount.
  • Everyone has money. One reason is [quotesright]people have more cash flowing during this period. [/quotesright] Some get holiday or year-end bonuses, others willingly incur credit card debt, and yet others make provision ahead of time.
  • Customers have time to shop. It’s a fact that people who are typically too busy the rest of the year take the time to browse over the holidays, both online and in store. They are also on the lookout for specials, so they may be more likely to take time to read that email newsletter with the special offer that you send out each month to your mailing list.

With just a little planning and organization, you can use these facts to your advantage during this period. Here are a few ideas:

1. Create a ‘Christmas Rush’ of Your Own

[quotesright]Even if you aren’t in the business of selling gift-type items, you can still capitalize on the holiday spirit[quotesright]:

  • Create a holiday season rush by offering a limited-time special promotion such as a bargain discount.
  • Hold a holiday event, whether it’s a visit from Santa for your clients’ children or a year-end customer appreciation day.
  • Merchandise your products for the season with a festive display – online or on your premises (or both).
  • Generate holiday spirit by sending gifts to your loyal customers. Regardless of whether your clients (or you) celebrate Christmas or a different holiday, the giving of year-end gifts is acceptable in most cultures.

[quotes]It doesn’t matter if you sell used car parts or provide tax consulting services, you can still turn the holiday season into an opportunity[/quotes] to make new connections, generate fresh business and build goodwill with your audience.

2. Offer Relevant Content

This isn’t something specific to the holidays, but the arrival of the festive period gives you a reason to revisit and remind people about information you provide all year round. [quotesright]If you’re in financial services, for example, it’s a good time to remind your audience to protect their identity,[/quotesright] guard their credit score and keep track of their cash and payment cards. Combine this with a festive message, and it makes your communication that much more empowering than a simple holiday message would be.

3. Do Seasonal SEO

If you market your products and services online, [quotes]some seasonal SEO could go a long way. [/quotes] Whether you invest in paid search or rely purely on organic traffic, customizing your keyword selection for the holidays can help bring you prospects you might never have otherwise. Find out what users searched for in your industry or niche this time last year and prepare some content and social media using the keywords and hashtags your research turns up. This is particularly effective if you are doing the above two suggestions on our list.

4. Check Your Inventory

There are few occurrences that will damage your reputation faster than running out of stock on a special offer. This typically applies more to physical products, but any sort of special promotion or discount offer needs to be able to go the distance. You can’t advertise “two for the price of one during December” and then cap it on Dec. 21! That might be acceptable for the free week of a gym membership, but not when you’re offering product such as cloud storage or networking services. Stock up on your inventory and ensure you can make good on your offer – whatever the uptake turns out to be.

5. Satisfy the Staff

You know that without the right employees you’d be dead in the water, so [quotesright]use this as an opportunity to recognize and reward your top talent. [/quotesright] Whether you hold a company dinner, present them with a gift voucher, or pay them an incentive bonus, make it a celebratory event to lift their spirits and build cohesion. It’s been a tough year; one way to deal with it is to do it together, and any form of year-end celebration is a chance for your team to relax.

6. Gather Intel

Learning from previous experience is an important part of business success. [quotes]Don’t just do what you did last year; even if you do, keep comprehensive records[/quotes] this time around to help you with your planning for future holiday seasons:

  • Collect information from your audience on what works for them and what doesn’t.
  • Compile quantitative results that you can refer to next year to see which products or offers were received the best.
  • Find out where your customers and prospects are hanging out online and make sure you have a strong presence there, whether it’s on social media sites or industry forums.

[quotesright]It’s not too late[/quotesright] to create a sense of excitement and holiday cheer in time to benefit your business. Ideally, this should be part of your long-term business planning and an experienced business coach can help you build it in, but even if this is a new strategy there’s no reason not to go for it. It will help you stay ahead of your competitors, and adequate preparation will minimize the amount of back office work needed to make it happen.

Effective planning will also enable you stay on top of your sales and expenses, and reduce the amount of reorganization needed to get back to regular business afterwards.