With the holiday season now upon us in full swing — in fact, earlier than ever — we have reached a critical point in the entrepreneurial calendar, bursting with opportunity. From now until year’s end, you have your best chance of the year to boost your sales, your presence, and your reputation as an effective businesswoman. Your potential customers are already in a purchasing frame of mind; you need to recognize this psychological state and make it work for you. Almost every successful retailer does a disproportionally large share of her business during the holidays, and there is no reason why you should not follow suit. People are on the prowl — in malls, stores, and on-line — looking for special gift items, so make an extra effort to direct them to yours.
How can you best take advantage of this situation? First, a couple of steps not to take:
–Resist the temptation to take shortcuts or cut back on quality. Remember, your ultimate goal is to create long-term customer loyalty (the 20% of your purchasers who will eventually form 80% of your business in the long run). Keep your standards high, and they will come back for more, long after the Christmas presents have been unwrapped.
–Do not take the leap into discount mode. This is always a temptation, but instead, continue to price your product accurately. You are putting the same amount of craftsmanship and purpose into it as ever, and your customers will understand that. We are not high-volume, Walmart-like operations, but rather entrepreneurs who carefully create products that reflect our individual passions. In addition, the credit cards and checkbooks jump more quickly out of the pocketbooks at this time of year – take advantage of that fact by offering high quality and first-rate customer service at a fair price.
On the positive side, there are several relatively straightforward strategies available to which, with focus and extra effort, should pay off in a significant way:
-Maximize your exposure and presence! If you generally send out e-newsletters monthly, make it weekly through New Year’s Day. If you exhibit at one or two regular venues, this is the time to add some new venues to your schedule. If this means paying additional exhibit fees, bite the bullet. This is the month to dig deep and try new approaches. Remember: your customers may be out in full force in December, but you still need to get out there and meet them in their comfort zone.
–Get some help. If more advertising and exhibiting trips seem burdensome during a season in which you are already feeling pressure, don’t try to do it alone. Pay an intern, a friend, or a willing comrade from the E.W.I. community to lighten your load. The expense is fully deductible, and it doesn’t take much in increased sales to make up for it.
–Offer your customers something extra. In New Orleans, this is called lagniappe: something beyond what’s expected. It need not be anything costly or time-consuming; use your imagination. Free gift-wrapping; gift-cards for coffee-houses, tea-shops, or florists; an i-card or C.D. of holiday music; a metro fare card; free delivery; a “rewards card” for future purchases — it’s the thoughtful gesture that counts. Trust me, people remember these things —there is no better way to distinguish you from your competitors.
–Here’s one more tip that I guarantee will bring you customer loyalty. Every year at this time (you might want to wait until just after Christmas, but don’t wait much longer), I send out greeting cards (with my business card enclosed) to everyone with whom I’ve done business during the past year. Be inclusive: everyone means, literally, everyone. Each of our lists will be different, depending upon the particular business. In my case, I include every venue at which I’ve performed; every agent who has booked me; every musician I’ve performed with (certainly all who have hired me as a sideman); everyone who has purchased one of my records; every studio where I’ve recorded; every person who has done artwork, advertising, sound, or other services for me; and plenty more. Again: it is all about being professional, grateful, and thoughtful. The cost is minimal, and there is no downside.
Happy holidays, a bountiful 2014 to all, and remember: at EWI, it is all for one, one for all. Help yourself by helping each other.
Keep the faith.
By Howard Feinstein, Empowered Women International Board Member
Coachs’s Corner is a bi-weekly blog for the EWI community, passing along news, events, articles of interest, and tips on growing your business. We are all on this journey together, and no one — certainly not yours truly — has all the answers. Accordingly, I hope you will contribute your ideas and experiences to this forum as well, c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.