Is Your Small Business Suffering a Holiday Slowdown? This Might Help. Erin Posey Ah, the holidays…. The happiest time of year filled with fun, family, friends, food…and stress. And let’s face it: the stress is only magnified for small business owners like you. For a B2C retail operation, chances are the holidays are the busiest sales season. It can be a busy and overwhelming time, but at least B2C retailers are making sales. But what if your business lives in the B2B space? Or your B2C business sells products that tend to be “out of sight and out of mind” during the holiday season (like patio furniture or swimming pool accessories)? Sales are probably slow and customer engagement may be even slower. So what’s the biggest reason small business owners face so much stress this time of year? Chances are, if you fall into the last two categories, it’s caused by a lack of customer engagement. Your potential buyers have checked out and gone on autopilot and decided not to decide – they keep telling you to “call after the holidays,” or ignore you altogether. Well, here’s some great news! Just because your business and customer engagement levels may slow to a crawl this time of year doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Let’s talk about how you can improve both and get a solid start for the new year. Get In Their Heads. Above all, it helps to understand your audience’s mindset. They are just as distracted and busy as you are. It’s tough to break through the noise and get their attention any time of year. It’s even harder during the holidays. So what can you do? For one thing, have empathy and truly understand what they are feeling and where they’re coming from. You may want to start out by sending a survey asking what their biggest challenges are during the holiday and what you can do to make things easier. This not only demonstrates that you care about your customers, but it will also help you market to them more effectively during the holiday season. If you need help empathizing with your customer base, we have a handy Persona Workbook that makes it easy to explore your ideal buyer and pinpoint their top issues, and help you think about how you can address them. Keep Current Customers at the Top of Your List. As the end of the year approaches, many businesses pause to evaluate the tools and services they are currently using and decide which ones to move forward with and which ones to eliminate in the upcoming year. Don’t find yourself on their naughty list. Be proactive in reaching out to customers that you might be at risk of losing – for instance, customers with a contract renewal coming up, or customers that have not engaged with you in a while. At the same time, don’t neglect the customers that have been loyal to you all year long. Offer a special incentive or a creative reward to remind your customers why they love doing business with you. Extra focus on your customers during the holidays can increase sales and prevent losses as you head into the new year. Go Above and Beyond During the Season of Giving. It’s the season of giving, so give. It’s important to remember those who have bought from you in the past. Give your current customers sincere thanks. A thank you note this time of year (actually, get in the habit of sending thank you notes year round), especially one that is hand-written and sent via snail mail, will go a long way. It will remind your customers about you and may help spur new business. Use your thank you message to get them to re-engage in some way, maybe a time-limited sale. For folks who are in your sales pipeline but haven’t yet bought, consider sending them a holiday greeting thanking them for their interest in your product. Don’t be overtly “salesy” with it, but do subtly push them to get off the couch and contact you now. What else can you give? Give your previous and prospective buyers who are on the fence and telling you to “contact me after the first of the year” a compelling reason to buy now. It may be a financial discount or some other incentive, but offer them a reason to do business with you now instead of waiting until next year. And as always, give your email subscribers valuable content. But this time of year, give it a seasonal focus. Concentrate on articles with a holiday or end-of-year or “Predictions For 2017” theme. Want to really impress your audience? Provide them with a free report that will help them do their work more efficiently and be more productive despite the personal and professional distractions of the holiday season. (See: Hatchbuck’s B2B Holiday Marketing Guide for a great example!) There’s No Time Like The Present, But Don’t Forget to Look Ahead. Maybe your prospects have checked out until January. That doesn’t mean you have to as well. Set a goal of finishing the year strong. Not only will this help you enjoy a more profitable December, it will help you build momentum and set the stage for a great start in January. Success in business requires you to understand what your customers want and find a way to give it to them through your product or service. What does EVERY business owner want? A successful, roaring start to the new business year. Brainstorm and determine how you can help them achieve that. In your communications with your audience, set the stage in their minds, not only about engaging with you during the holiday season, but also after the first of the year. Provide content and incentives now that will lead them to want to talk to you not just about their current needs, but about a New Year’s business boost. Start planting the seeds of ongoing value so they’ll be sure to reach out after the holidays. The content you send out, especially if you serve a well-defined niche, might be centered on “Ways Companies Like Yours Can Gain An Advantage Over Your Competitors In The First Quarter Of 2017.” With all of the distractions you face during the holidays, it’s a big challenge to stay organized and efficient. But it’s more crucial than ever. And you can’t do it without the right tools and the right mindset.