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6 Ways to Prepare Your Small Business Now for the Holiday Season

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December represents the most lucrative time of the year for many small businesses. And although the winter holidays might be the furthest thing from your mind in the middle of summer, they shouldn’t be.

Last year’s U.S. holiday retail sales alone topped $161 billion, marking the most significant sales gain since the 2008 recession. Moreover, about 43 percent of shoppers supported small businesses during last November’s Small Business Saturday. But for small businesses to maximize their sales potential during this important time period, they must understand that summer serves as an important opportunity to put their business in the right position to capitalize on holiday sales opportunities.

With the right approach, your business will be ready to deliver a superior service to its customers during this critical time. Here are six things your business should be doing right now:

1. Gather feedback on current products and services.

The world tends to move at a slower pace during the warmer months, but the dog days of summer don’t have to drag your business down. Instead, the quiet period presents an opportunity to engage more meaningfully with customers.

Take some time to quiz customers on what they like—or dislike—about your business’s current products or services. You can also gather customer feedback by reviewing the comments customers have left on your website or through social media channels. Be sure to track and log the feedback you receive in your company’s CRM or customer database.

Researching customer preferences now will give you plenty of time to make changes or adjustments to your business’s offerings before the holiday season arrives.

2. Expand your offerings.

Innovation is a powerful tool, and small businesses that take risks by offering new products or services are often rewarded with bolstered sales and customer growth.

With this in mind, consider strategically expanding your company’s selection of products or services. Consult with customers to learn what additional products they would like your business to begin developing or offering.

Bringing new products or services to market can be a lengthy process, but time will be on your side if you start preparing for the holidays now.

3. Identify co-marketing opportunities.

Two businesses are better than one. Small businesses can gain invaluable exposure by embarking on a co-marketing campaign with the right partners.

Reach out to businesses and brands that complement your business’s products or services. After making those connections, discuss forming a mutually beneficial marketing alliance.

Co-marketing can yield tremendous benefits, particularly for resource-strapped small businesses. It’s a powerful way of attracting new customers and achieving sales goals during the most critical month of the year.

4. Experiment with communication preferences.

Today’s technology makes it easy to communicate with customers across a multitude of devices and platforms. The trouble is, not everyone likes to connect the same way.

Experiment with your customers’ various communication styles to learn how, and when, they prefer to interact. It’s also valuable to analyze which marketing campaigns they’re likely to respond most positively to. Some folks might make an online purchase through a promotional Twitter ad, while others respond better to email marketing campaigns or direct phone calls checking in on their current product or services.

Identifying and logging customers’ preferred methods of communication will be of tremendous value during the holidays. Shoppers will be inundated with advertisements during this time, and by knowing how to best reach them, you’ll have their attention when it counts.

5. Make mobile connections.

The holidays are a chaotic time, and it’s easy for a voicemail or email to get lost in the shuffle of a busy day. It’s also easy to miss out on one sale while you’re out of the office trying to make another.

If you’re looking for a way to remain connected with customers and maximize sales opportunities this holiday season, prioritize adopting a solid mobile CRM tool for your sales team to provide them the flexibility and information they need to make sales on the go.

There are more customers requiring extra attention during the holidays. It’s a great problem to have, but your small business will need to be prepared with access to important customer, product and sales data via mobile to effectively serve the needs of your customers during this period where sales can come (and go) quickly.

6. Embrace new technologies.

New and emerging technologies are helping small businesses foretell the trends of tomorrow. Predictive analytics technologies, for instance, can extract existing customer data from a company’s database and use it to predict future buying habits and customer demand for products and services.

If your small business isn’t embracing these new and emerging technologies, perhaps the latest statistics will persuade you to do so. The global predictive analytics market is expected to reach $14.95 billion by 2023—a tremendous leap from 2016, when the market was valued at $3.89 billion.

More companies are adapting to Big Data, and even if you aren’t, there’s a strong chance your competitors are. Just make sure that the predictive analytics tools you adopt are tailored for your small business’s needs rather than those of the enterprise-level competitors in your space.

Christmas doesn’t come in July, but the summer months are a pivotal opportunity for your small business to prepare for the season. Ensure your business is ready for the holiday rush by strengthening your relationships with customers, business partners, and technology today.

I strongly believe that when a business is prepared for success, success will find it.

H. John Oechsle joined Swiftpage (www.act.com) in July 2012 and currently serves as chief executive officer. Oechsle came to Swiftpage with a 30-year track record of building highly profitable and sustainable revenue growth for emerging companies and established global leaders. He is an advocate for technology and education in Colorado and has been an active contributor to the Colorado Technology Association (CTA). Oechsle has been recognized several times for his involvement in the tech industry. In 2006 and in 2009, he was awarded the Technology Executive of the Year and the Titan of Technology awards by the CTA. He was also awarded the Bob Newman Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community by the CTA in 2011.

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