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Entrepreneurs Panel

Michael Oliver
Charlie Mullins
Jennie Johnson
Steve Purdham
Julie Meyer
Laura Tenison
Tony Caldeira
Debbie Pierce
Brian Hay
Jeremy Roberts
David Pollock
Richard O'Sullivan

Capitalising on Christmas

Everline offers its hints and tips for ensuring your business is prepared for the Christmas rush.

The festive period represents an important opportunity for small businesses to capitalise on the huge amount of money spent by consumers. However, it can also be an expensive and stressful time as they struggle to compete with the marketing budgets of big brands. Small business owners therefore need to be clever with their outreach and planning to ensure that they maximise their Christmas potential.

Making sure you are well prepared and have the correct procedures in place will ensure that your small business runs smoothly even during the busy Christmas period.

Plan, plan, plan

Lack of planning can severely worsen cash flow problems at any time of the year, but this is especially true of December. You must make sure that you have the necessary additional cash to pay for extra stock and staff so planning your finances is essential. Once you are confident that you have a solid cash flow to last the festive period, you will have the flexibility to start thinking about how to compete with the big brands.

Marketing

You may not be able afford to spend millions of pounds on television advertising, as has become the norm for big brands, but do not be disheartened - it is still worth investing in some marketing activities. We have recently seen a resurgence in support for local small businesses, so now more than ever you need to make people aware of your brand. Traditional local flyering can help to do this but it is also worth asking your customers for their email addresses so that you can invest in some digital marketing. Offering them special offers via email is a great way to keep in touch with your customer base and remind them of your business.

Staff

Staff shortages can be one of the biggest issues for small businesses over the festive period. It is essential that you have a flexible workforce that can deal with peaks and troughs. Having a few temporary staff on hand just in case means that you can avoid the commitment of a permanent salaried employee without having to sacrifice customer service. Even though these staff members are temporary, it is integral that you take the time to make sure they really understand your business and the products or services that you offer so that they can advise your customers when necessary and upsell when they can. As a customer, there is nothing worse than a member of staff who can't answer your questions during the busy festive period.

Delivery

Consumers are becoming more and more demanding when it comes to home delivery, with the big brands offering a wide range of options from click and collect to next day delivery. You must ensure that you have a clear delivery policy and, more importantly, that you can meet it. Do your research to make sure that you are competitive but do not over promise. Failing to deliver at an allocated time over the festive period can be very damaging to a small business especially with the rise of social media and real time feedback.

Website

With the increased dominance of the web, both for shopping and recommendations, your website is one of your biggest assets. That is why you need to ensure that it can cope with a potential rise in traffic and that ordering is as simple as possible. A badly designed website will simply lead consumers to look elsewhere. In the run-up to Christmas, try to work with a web development team to test your site's infrastructure to ensure that it can cope an influx in visitors.

The little extras

As a small business, you have the advantage over big brands in that you can make sure you offer a personalised approach to your customers. A few little festive touches can go a long way to creating a lasting impression. For example, offering Christmas chocolates to your customers and if you have a high street presence or an office, decorating can help you to stand out.

Christmas is also the perfect time to reward your loyal customers, either with a discount or a small gift as a token of your appreciation of their regular custom.

The most important thing to remember at Christmas time is to try to have fun - it is the perfect time to build up relationships with new customers and ensure repeat business. We know it's a busy time, both professionally and socially, but it also represents one of the biggest opportunities for business growth. So make sure you are prepared and make the most out of it.

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