It’s that magical time of year! Weather starts cooling down, people start thinking about holidays and businesses start promoting themselves to seasonal shoppers. As you enter the 4th Quarter (October, November, and December) it is important to do a “check” of several items relating to your business that enable you to emphasize your brand. Whether you are a service based business, a non-profit, a retailer, or a restaurant- a solid fourth quarter can help your entity grow. A weak fourth quarter can have a negative impact. So, here are some simple things that should be on your “check list” for fourth quarter success:
1. Windows and Lighting- Remember, it gets darker earlier in the fourth quarter. Your windows and your window decorating skills can serve as a beacon to your consuming public. Tell people what your are about! Show off products/services. Do something eye catching to make people stop and take notice. Windows are a billboard for your business, and without effective window displays and lighting, you might as well throw a “not welcome” sign on your front door. Remember, you can sign up for upcoming window decorating contests soon (keep watching your e-news).
2. Convenience Services- Things like delivery, wrapping and product education can help generate customer loyalty and frequent visits. Engage your consumers. If you hear them say “it would be really nice if a business did ____”, take it as an opportunity to step in and make their day. Empower employees to go above and beyond, and reward them when they do.
3. Know Your Calendar- Find out when “stuff” is going on around you, and get strategic (your staff and friends can help) about how to take advantage of events and activities in your immediate area. Don’t be a business that things simply happen around- find a way to integrate yourself into the heart of major activities in a way that can benefit your business. If you know that everyone orders “carry out” the night before Thanksgiving, that’s when you have your “carry out special”. If sales are dead on parade nights for everyone but coffee shops- maybe partner with a group to offer hot cider with a local organization to drive traffic.
4. While Family is Together…- Not all fourth quarter activities are retail related. Remember that families that sometimes live hundreds or thousands of miles apart can sometimes only see each each other over Thanksgiving or Christmas. During these times, family members discuss family business. Wills, investments, housing, taxes, education, vacations, and a host of other decisions are made during the holiday season. Smart service businesses get information into the hands of family members BEFORE the holidays occur, and make themselves available for questions after. Your service business can use tech to video conference everyone, or you can simply provide an email to answer questions. While families are discussing family issues, don’t you want your business to be top of mind?
5. Internal Events- When is your business open house? What are the internal store events you are holding that correspond with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years? What sorts of fun events can your plan to draw people into your area for something special? Remember- the event or activity needs to have a tie to your business of some sort. A lot of businesses spend significant energy to have “someone” come into their business to do “something”, and although unrelated events can sometimes draw a crowd- they rarely draw sales.
6. External Events- What events are you planning either outside of your four walls, or in conjunction with the “neighborhood”? Are you doing Midnight Madness this year? How about the “Sugar Stroll” on Small Business Saturday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving)? What are you doing for Veterans Day? How are you going to convert the mass of people downtown for Trick or Treat into repeat clients? How will you involve your business in “off site” activities to help generate some extra marketing push in the fourth quarter?
7. Hey Neighbor!- Speaking of “outside your four walls”, what can you do with neighboring or complementary businesses in the area to support each other and grow traffic/sales? I know it sounds weird… Most big businesses are all out for “number 1”, but entrepreneurs know that working together in mutually beneficial ways can drive more business in the long term and foster healthy working relationships. Find ways you can refer. Create groups of items or services that go together. Sell each others “stuff”. Hold late nights or Sunday hours jointly, and then talk about ALL the local businesses that are open.
8. Extra Hours- When will you adjust your holiday hours? Do you want to pick up Sunday hours? How will you staff the extra workload? People are super busy Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.- so if those are your hours you might be in trouble. Have a plan for extending your accessibility and staff/train accordingly.
9. Get Virtual- This point has become absolutely critical. How will you sell your items to people that aren’t in your physical store? For all of your customers that come in to look around, are you giving them information about your web sales platform and encouraging them to use it? For all of those former customers, are you re-engaging them with on-line sales promotions? Are you targeting niches online to produce on-line sales AND draw more traffic into your physical location? Are you collecting information from your customers that allows you to communicate with them via email or social media? Most newer businesses need a combination of physical store and online sales to remain competitive, and just like your physical store, you need an effective game plan to market your online platform in a way that is attractive to your potential customers.
10. Tis the Season to be Merry and Bright!- Often overlooked, but vital to your success is actually ENJOYING the holiday season! What are the fun games you can play with staff that reward their collective good work? Who is bringing treats to work? Who is in charge of music? When is your staff party? Who is your “head cheer leader”? It is a lot easier to give customers an awesome experience if everyone is having fun at work. Yes, the work environment needs a level of professionalism, but positive energy generally results in a great selling environment. Doing a little extra for office morale can significantly impact your bottom line. So, what’s your plan for keeping the troops spirits up this fourth quarter?
The next three months will be a blur. If you don’t take some time and plan your strategy (and then execute the strategy you plan), this fourth quarter will simply happen to you. Your business is too important to simply let things happen. Make things happen that are good for your business by talking through the ten steps above. When 2018 hits, look back and see how you did. I think you will find that the more you plan and execute, the better off your fourth quarter