Last updated: November 14, 2018 | By Jessica Leone
The holiday season can be a particularly hectic time of the year for small business owners. With special promotions, events, longer hours and an increase in foot traffic, there’s a lot going on. So how are you keeping your customers in the know?
Communication is key to your seasonal marketing efforts. Not only will it keep your regular customers in the loop on sales, promotions and holiday hours, it can also help new customers learn more about your business. In this article, we’re going to give you some tips for how to communicate with your customers during this busy holiday season.
1. What Information Do Your Customers Need?
Planning ahead is vital to maintaining your sanity during the holiday rush. Starting as early as September, consider how your business will be celebrating and taking advantage of the holidays. Plan out what’s best for your business and then determine how you’re going to share this information with your customers.
If you’re offering any discounts, sales, season-specific products or special product bundles, your customers want to hear about it. Think about how your messaging should change throughout the holiday season. For example, November should be all about getting your customers ready for the holidays, while December should focus more on communicating last-minute gift ideas and upcoming order deadlines.
Holiday Hours & Closures
Your hours are likely to change during the holidays. Between closing early and staying open late, your customers need to know when they can reach you. Determine your hours at the start of the season to give your customers ample notice.
If you’re going to be closed during normal business hours, be sure your customers know exactly when you’ll be open again. In some cases, it’s also good to promote why you’re closed. Explain that you will be closed so your staff can enjoy time with their families and loved ones or you’ll be closed one day or evening to celebrate your staff with a holiday party.
The holidays are a great time to build customer relationships with special events. Keep in mind, an event doesn’t always have to mean a sale. Food or toy drives can boost your community outreach efforts, while a holiday open house is a great way to mingle with customers. The point is to make the customer feel appreciated and to associate the warmth and happiness of the season with your business.
2. Keep Customers in the Know
While big box stores can run extensive campaigns that involve multiple points of communication, these tactics probably aren’t the right fit for you as a small business owner. If you’re operating on a smaller budget, use these cost-effective ways to keep your customers in the loop this season.
Place your signage out ahead of time so your customers know what to expect and where your business will fit into their holiday plans. Be sure to place them in key places throughout your store and if budget allows, design them according to your overall holiday marketing strategy. Use signage to advertise event dates and times, planned closings, sales and holiday hours.
While you or one of your employees can give pertinent information to customers when answering the phone, it’s important to provide some of this information to customers when you can’t. You can use your voicemail message recording to provide this information, preferably within the first few rings. It should be upbeat, friendly and informative. Remember, if you change your recording for a holiday, you need to update it as you progress from one holiday to the next or as soon as the holidays are over.
ONLINE & MOBILE
Today, simply having in-store signage and voicemail is not enough. Your customers are on the go and they’re using the internet to access information. This isn’t restricted to desktop computers either. 76% of people who use mobile to search for something nearby visit a business within a day. It’s vital that your website is mobile-friendly and kept up to date with your current sales, hours and more. If you aren’t keeping consumers informed through digital channels, they’re likely to find a business that is.
With 69% of Americans using social media, businesses of all sizes can engage with their customers via their social channels. Use graphics and videos to keep your customers in the loop on all of your holiday plans. If you’re hosting an in-store event, create a Facebook event page where customers can RSVP and share with their friends. Using analytics and responses, you’ll be able to gauge consumer interest in what you’re doing.
Email marketing is an easy, cost-effective way to keep your customers updated. By segmenting your email list, you can send relative and targeted emails to customers who want to hear from you. Bear in mind, your customers are receiving more emails than usual during this time of the year, so use accurate subject lines and keep the copy short and to the point.
3. Start Communicating Today
Make a plan that identifies what changes you need to make during the holiday season:
What will your customers need to know?
Are you going to close or change hours?
What sales or promotions are your planning?
Review past communication efforts:
Were they successful?
Have you had any bad experiences that led to frustrated customers?
Where do your communication methods need improvement?
Determine which methods will be best for reaching your customers:
Which channels make sense for your audience?
Will you use different methods of communication to share certain kinds of news?
Whether a customer walks into your business, calls or searches for you online, they expect to be able to find certain kinds of information. If they don’t find specific information, they’ll assume your store is open for business as usual. Keep frustrations from happening by making sure your customers are in the know of any and all changes for your business during the holiday season and beyond.