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Is Your Small Business Holiday-Ready?
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It’s here. The official start of the holiday shopping season is upon us. Black Friday, followed by Small Business Saturday and well into Cyber Monday will see millions of consumers clambering for the hottest deals, the newest gizmos and the most in-demand products this year. In fact, holiday sales are predicted to increase by as much as 2.8 percent this season, up to $465.6 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. And a recent analysis by Forrester Research, Inc. anticipates e-retail sales could increase as much as 15% in November and December.

As a small business opportunity or franchise owner, you can’t afford to miss out on the potential profitability and promise that this time of year has to offer. Ensuring your business is “holiday-ready” means you should focus your efforts in two key areas, meeting the increased demand of more satisfied customers and creating long-term customer relationships.

Meeting Increased Demand

When it comes to meeting increased demand for your products and services, inventory and staffing are your keys to survival. It’s critical that you take stock of the products you think will be most successful this season and order accordingly. In addition, you may require temporary help, especially if you anticipate an increased number of phone calls. Prospective customers expect first-rate and personalized service around the holidays in particular, so this is not the time to skimp on anything customer service-related. You can’t afford to give your customers any reason to go elsewhere when the competition is so fierce.

While it’s true that customer satisfaction starts with a quality product, it is greatly enhanced by the little things, especially at this time of year. Make shopping easier for your customers by offering extended holiday hours, including weekends. Clearly communicate to them what the shipping deadline is if they want to receive their orders in plenty of time for Christmas. Offer gift messages and wrapping if you can. Include a thank-you note with any invoice or packaging slip. And to foster good will over the long-term, make holiday returns as easy as possible.

Creating Long-Term Customer Relationships

The holidays provide a once-a-year opportunity to identify new customers in large numbers. This is your time to make a positive impact on them and to set the stage for an ongoing relationship that you may never have another chance to create. Make sure you ask every one of your customers, whether they are new or existing, to share or confirm their email address and other key contact information so that they can receive special offers and information from you throughout the holidays and all year long. What better way to begin a new year than to start building or enhancing your already-existing customer database? After all, it is the key to any successful strategic marketing plan.

This holiday season think about how you can position your business as an invaluable and helpful resource for everything from clever gift ideas and problem solving to great deals and money-saving coupons. Always include a clear call to action for your customers. For instance, you might want to encourage them to “like you” on Facebook or Tweet you back if they want to win something. Whatever it is you do, remember that the key to creating customer loyalty is to provide quality and value, not just during the holidays but all year long.

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