It’s that time of year again, when retailers go all out to attract holiday shoppers. What can your small business do to prepare for holiday sales?
On average, shoppers are expected to spend 3.7 percent to 3.9 percent more this holiday season, according to two reports (by Wells Fargo and the National Retail Federation) recently mentioned in the Charlotte Business Journal.
How can your business get a cut of this?
Here’s what many small business owners are planning to do to boost their holiday sales, as revealed in a new survey by Inc. from Chase:
1. Begin promotions before Thanksgiving. Many small business owners plan to promote their sales way before Americans sit down for Thanksgiving dinner. This is a good way to get a head start, of course. But before you do, be careful with your ads and make sure that they are not deceptive or misleading.
2. Go mobile. Going mobile is becoming more common than ever these days for small businesses. It’s a great way to capitalize on the popularity of smartphones; most customers appreciate having a nifty app to use when shopping. Millennials are smartphone junkies. Get them into the store and making purchases with a deals and updates delivered via mobile and on social media.
4. Use social media to your advantage. Social media promotions are a great way to boost sales. Take advantage of the fact that social media usage is more common than ever, and help your customers save a little at the same time. Promotions can give customers an incentive to purchase something from you, which can go a long way for sales and customer loyalty. For example, with every Foursquare check-in during the holiday season, consider offering a small discount.
5. Focus on your local community. One advantage small-businesses have over any big-box competitors is that they know their consumers and the community of those consumers better than any major retailer can. Use local knowledge to speak directly to your local consumers.
6. Use timely language. Remind consumers that it’s the holidays! Make sure your marketing verbiage is reflective of the time of year. Also, as time number of shopping days begin to dwindle, impress upon your customers an increasing sense of urgency.
7. Offer unique holiday packages. Put groups of products together that are otherwise sold separately to create gift packages.
8. Win customers over with service. Smaller retailers often can’t compete with larger chains on price, but where small-businesses shine is delivering individualized customer service. Cater to your most loyal customers with the utmost respect and attention and use the increased traffic during the holiday times to gain new ones.
Best Wishes for a Great Holiday Season.
Are you a leader just because you run a small business? No. But you need to be. Without business leadership, your small business ship will circle aimlessly and eventually run out of power.
Effective business leadership demands a captain of the ship, not just someone who’s standing by the helm. Leadership is active, not passive.
Cool-headed, farseeing, visionary, courageous – whichever adjectives you choose, leadership is a winning combination of personal traits and the ability to think and act as a leader, a person who directs the activities of others for the good of all. Anyone can be a leader, even if the only person they’re leading is themselves.
But you can’t be a leader just by saying you are. Business leadership, like leadership of any kind, needs to be worked at. Transform yourself into the kind of leader your small business needs with these five keys to business leadership.
For Effective Business Leadership:
1. A leader plans
The core of business leadership is being proactive rather than reactive. Sure, leaders are good in crises – but that doesn’t mean they sit around letting crises develop. Leadership involves identifying potential problems and solving them before they reach crisis proportions – and the ability to identify and reap potential windfalls. So good leaders analyze and plan and adapt their plans to new circumstances and opportunities.
2. A leader has a vision
Vision is essential to good leadership. Vision provides direction and without direction, there’s not much point to all that planning; your small business will still flail about. So if you don’t have one already, take your first step towards business leadership by creating a Vision Statement for your business. Because it embodies your dreams and your passions, a vision statement will also serve as a leadership vision.
3. A leader shares the vision
Sharing your leadership vision helps your vision grow and your business leadership develop. As you tell your leadership vision to others, you will strengthen your own belief in your vision and strengthen your determination to make your leadership vision become reality. And other people will start to see you as a person who’s “going places”. Your business leadership skills will grow as you and other people recognize you as a person with leadership potential.
4. A leader takes charge
At this stage of business leadership, you put together your planning and your leadership vision and take action. Whether it’s implementing a specific plan to improve your business’s bottom line or responding to a crisis, you, as the leader, are the one who makes the decisions and sees that the appropriate actions are carried out. You can’t just “talk a good game” to be a leader; you need to act and to be seen as taking effective action for the good of your small business.
5. A leader inspires through example
If I asked you, you could easily name three people whose leadership qualities inspire you. If I asked you why, you’d tell me about the things these inspiring people did or are doing. Leadership is defined through action. Therefore, in developing your own business leadership skills, you have to act in ways that are fitting to your leadership vision and your self – all the time. We can all name many actions of other people whom we admire, but what inspires us is the integrity that gives these actions meaning.
The Value of Business Leadership
Learning to be a leader isn’t easy because it takes a conscious commitment and consistent effort to develop one’s business leadership skills. But on the positive side, anyone who is willing to make the effort can become a good leader.
And as good business leadership is critical to business success, your efforts to improve your leadership skills will be amply rewarded. By working on these five keys to business leadership, you can be the leader your small business needs.
Where to start
Winning back customers is not a straightforward task, especially in today’s world of consumer choice. The starting point should always be to actually know which lapsed customers are actually worth seeking to win back.
The key is to take all available customer data, to understand the individual’s behavior and then use that information to inform the targeting, the message and the offer in the communications. And the best data to enable this is transactional data, which can indicate when buying patterns are changing. Other data, such as customer satisfaction data, can be used, but it is not the most credible or reliable information to use.
To really understand a customer’s behavior and relationship with a product or a supplier it is necessary to have a 360° view that takes in all of the knowledge a company has about the customer.
The best way to achieve this is by setting up a single customer view (SCV) database that brings together data from all departments including orders, deliveries, marketing, customer services, CRM, etc., and holding it in one place.
Single Customer View
This ensures marketers are operating with up-to-date information and are not sending conflicting messages from different parts of the company. For instance, without an SCV database, one part of an organization might contact an ex-customer that it wants to win back and treat them like a new customer, rather than acknowledging the fact they used to be a customer. Instead an SCV can help inform a fresh approach to get the customer to come back.
It can also help marketers avoid viewing customer behavior in isolation. Taking home shopping as an example, viewing a customer purely as a catalogue customer and not viewing all interactions the customer has with the organization could result in the customer’s online activity being ignored. As a result, marketers could fail to communicate with the customer in the best possible way that maximizes ROI.
For instance, a customer might be very happy ordering through a catalogue or over the phone, but finds online ordering not very user friendly. Viewed purely as an online customer a marketer might ignore them as being of little value but by viewing the customer’s entire interactions with the firm it might be discovered that, with a little help and encouragement, they could turn into a very profitable online customer.
An SCV database can also help organizations avoid making assumptions about customers and, instead, provide a detailed picture of every customer.
It is too easy for marketers to make assumptions about customer behavior based on demographic profiles – something that was highlighted in our recently published Online Retail Index report, which showed that typically loyal middle-aged home shoppers who tend to be very loyal to their catalogues are actually more promiscuous when they shop online.
Since the greatest growth in online shopping activity was found to be coming from 35 to 54-year olds this sort of information is invaluable in informing marketing strategies.
Finally, having a single, secure database also makes data safer and easier to manage, with a team overseeing what data can be used and what cannot.
When to start win-back activity
Aside from identifying customers for win-back it is essential to establish the point at which win-back activity should be initiated. Data on regency and frequency of purchase is crucial for managing retention and switching customers to win-back.
If a customer is on a contract that is coming to an end changes in their behavior can highlight a risk of churn. Repeat transactions start to look different.
For mail order firms and retailers there is no contract and therefore no obligation on the customer’s part to keep buying. This makes it more difficult to identify a point at which a customer should be considered as lapsed. If a customer hasn’t made a purchase for a long time it is unlikely they will do so soon. But how long should this period of inactivity last before the customer is classed as lapsed?
Some firms still count customers in their customer base even if they haven’t made a purchase for three years. This is mainly because of the impact it would have on internal reporting – classing a customer as lapsed or churned would reduce the volume of the customer base and not make a good impression on the board.
Instead, firms should start a 6-month pending lapsed stream to account for customers whose change in behavior suggests they might be about to jump ship. These customers can then be targeted with communications and offers designed to keep them spending rather than looking for better deals elsewhere.
Finally, cohort analysis can help identify points in the customer journey where pre-emptive action can be initiated. By taking customers who have joined in the last week and comparing them to customer who joined in another week, the customer journey can be mapped to provide a view of what is likely to happen 2, 3 or 6 months on.
For example, a telecoms provider has invited people to switch to them. Analysis of the customer journey shows that some get cold feet after they receive the welcome pack, regret the decision to switch and cancel the contract.
Others cancel after receiving the first bill when it transpires they aren’t getting exactly what was promised. As churn or a drop in activity is shown to occur at particular times the telecoms provider can pinpoint steps in the customer journey that need attention.
The most important thing for firms to remember when embarking upon win-back campaigns is to carefully analyze customer data and look beyond top-line conclusions in order to be able to communicate with ex-customers, or those who look likely to lapse, in a personalized and targeted fashion based on purchasing histories and other available data.
Unfortunately, just showing up at a trade show with a booth is not enough. A successful appearance depends on many steps taken before and after the show itself. Here are five of the most significant ways to get the most from your trade show exhibit.
1. Set Goals
Go in knowing what you want to get out of the show. It may be as general as building brand awareness, or as specific as collecting qualified leads to increase sales. Without a goal, you won’t be able to measure success.
2. Send Invitations
Get visitors to make plans to stop by your booth. Request the attendee list and send out email and direct mail announcements. Encourage booth visits by offering a discount or gift. Set up a landing page for your email campaign to start capturing customer leads before the show.
3. Stock Up On Swag
We all love to get free stuff, or “swag” (stuff we all get) at trade shows. With the right item, like a branded tote bag, booth visitors can become walking advertisements for you. T-shirts, hats, pens, clocks, flash drives, and thousands of other promo items can be customized to carry your logo and message and serve as a lasting reminder to prospects.
4. Print Marketing Materials
Plan to bring plenty of printed materials for booth visitors to take home. You may need a range of materials, such as brochures, product data sheets, postcards, business cards, posters, catalogs, customer interest forms. Start before the show by sending out reminder postcards to attendees. Media representatives will need press kits, both printed and digital. Place signs or posters in the vicinity of your booth to help attendees find you (as permitted).
5. Follow Through
After you’ve collected all those business cards and customer data, use it to build a relationship with your customers. Send an initial follow-up email a week or two after the show. Thank them for visiting and let them know you’re available to help as needed. No need to pitch. Not everyone who expressed an interest will be ready to purchase right away, so be patient but diligent. Some may need to be contacted six months later. Remember to follow through and ask for the sale.
It’s been said that nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising. After spending time and money carefully crafting your message, producing a professional campaign mailer, targeted PPC campaign, and enticed customers into your store, you can’t afford to lose that valuable customer—along with the potential for repeat and referral business they represent—to shoddy service. Make sure your company is able to deliver on the promise of your marketing message, every time.
Few companies have delivered on their brand promise better than Amazon. CEO Jeff Bezos built the company from the ground up based on an unwavering commitment to the customer. With a user base now totaling 164 million customers, Amazon is obviously doing a lot of things right.
The online retailing giant came out on top in the most recent American Customer Satisfaction Index in both Internet retailing and overall customer satisfaction. Businesses of every size can take a page from the customer satisfaction playbook developed by Bezos.
What follows are three key customer service lessons from Jeff Bezos that every business can take to heart, as recounted by Kevin Baldacci in a recent issue of Salesforce.
1. Don’t Just Listen, Understand Your Customers
“Everyone has to be able to work in a call center.”
Thousands of Amazon managers attend two days of call-center training every year, along with Bezos himself. The idea is for managers to develop the mindset that Amazon’s success is based not only on listening, but most importantly, understanding the customer. Working in the trenches, like in the call center, helps you understand the customer.
“We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards.”
The Kindle tablet was developed based on the wants of customers, not the preferences of engineers. Instead of thinking about how to make your product or company better, approach it the other way: think how your product or service can make life better for customers.
“Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient.”
Clint Eastwood wasn’t the first person to use an empty chair as a prop. In the early days of Amazon, Jeff Bezos used to bring an empty chair into meetings, telling his top execs they should make their decisions as though the customer—“the most important person in the room”—was seated there with them.