Because fourth quarter sales help push retailers into the black (profitability), the day after Thanksgiving is referred to as “black Friday”.  But, many retailers and restaurants miss the mark when it comes to maximizing the impact of holiday events, promoting their businesses to specialty shopping audiences and cooperating with their neighbors.  Below are some tips to avoid common missteps so you can make the most of your end-of-year sales.

 

1.  Discounts, drawings, Halloween Candy and other specials go to the BACK of your store.  Retailers can get a little tired of directing traffic or having people “mess up” the store during the fourth quarter.  In a convenience driven society, they naturally want to make things as easy as possible, but “easy” sometimes isn’t the best marketing strategy.  When you draw people into your place of business, you want to draw them ALL the way in.  Each Halloween, we hear significant feedback about stores people have never been in and products people have never seen BECAUSE they are drawn deep into the store.  Those that just want “free stuff” without shopping or at least being exposed to your merchandise probably shouldn’t be your focus.
 

2.  Make your music match the season.  Successful businesses stimulate the senses of their consuming

public in positive ways.  Scents, sights and sounds have to coordinate to create a holistic buying picture.  Make sure your business has appropriate licensed music, your displays are top notch and you address other senses to create a better holiday “story” for your customer.
 
3.  Warm your customers up.  You want your customers focused on shopping, not shivering.  Make sure your customers are comfortable.  Have a hot beverage available, provide a coat rack, make sure you have a comfortable environment.  Uncomfortable customers equal short duration shoppers.
 
4.  Your windows are IMPORTANT.  Your windows are a customer’s first glimpse into they type of business you are and the products you provide.  Attractive, well lit windows that tell a “story” are one of the most important marketing techniques most businesses have, yet many businesses spend very little time in window planning and execution.  Meet with other businesses to discuss ideas, reach out to ESU Art and Marketing students, look for window ideas on-line, create themes around your predominant products and color schemes…  Then, LIGHT your windows properly and for an extended period (well into the night).
 

5.  Specialty services (wrapping, holding items, delivery, etc.) matter.  When most small businesses talk

about what sets them apart, they will use the word “service”.  But, what does that mean?  What services do you offer to make it easier for your customers to shop with you?  How do you communicate those services?  How do you train your staff to communicate and execute services?  Is there a chance to partner with other agencies or charities to offer services (like gift wrapping)?  Service means something to customers when it makes their life easier and the service is easily communicated.
 
6.  Know your neighbors (and cooperate with them).  Businesses get hyper focused on the inside of their four walls during the fourth quarter.  To a certain extent, that’s a good thing.  You want your mind on your business so you can maximize your business profitability.  But, remember that partnering with like or complimentary businesses to create “packages” or simply encouraging cross referrals (have you tried out so and so’s shop) can keep people in proximity and create a more vibrant local shopping environment.  Educate your staff on upcoming events and local offerings…  If you don’t, and they send people out of town, you’ve likely lost future sales for your business.
 

7.  Design promotions that bring customers back and boost first quarter sales.  Informing customers of future events and handing out “bring back bucks” (dollars that can be spent on merchandise in January), is a solid way to convert casual consumers into loyal customers.  Find unique ways to invite people back in short term increments, because the most important customer base is generally the one you already have.

 
8.  Collect contacts.  Emails, social media “likes” and mobile numbers can significantly improve your target marketing IF you take the time to collect them and have a coordinated outreach program.  Have contact information sheets that allow people to join an exclusive “club” that gives them tangible monthly benefits.  Train staff to collect testimonials with pictures and quotes (have prizes for staff members that collect the most).  Develop your social media and email brand strategy.  For customers that exceed a certain spending limit, a hand written note with a limited time gift certificate can be a nice touch.  You have a number of people coming into your business during the fourth quarter, but this is also the age of virtual shopping.  If you aren’t collecting consumer information, you are missing out on substantial marketing opportunities.
 
A few simple steps can take your fourth quarter from “okay” to GREAT!  What is your plan for the coming months?  How will you get your staff involved?  Remember, if you need assistance, your friends at Emporia Main Street are here to help!