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Dec 10, 2012

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#HolidaySuccess Tips for Small Business Owners: Post-Holiday Management

The New Year’s light at the end of the tunnel is near, but don’t let the last few holiday moments distract you from making the most of the holiday rush.

Our final blog series from USA Today small business columnist Rhonda Abrams, reminds small business owners what they need to do to help take advantage of the final days of the holiday season and make them last throughout the New Year.

For more information on other holiday planning advice, download the full Small Business Holiday Success Guide at www.visa.com/holidaysuccess

Happy Holidays!

Janet – @JZablock

Phew! We’re almost to the end of the holiday season. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of the holiday woods. You’ll still have post-holiday customers, and you certainly want to find ways to keep the customers you acquired during the holidays and turn them into year ‘round fans.

As you prepare for the post-holiday season, concentrate on four major objectives:

    1. Keeping holiday customers
    2. Redeeming gift cards
    3. Handling returns
    4. Planning post-New Year promotions

Keeping holiday customers. Every name and email address you capture, with consent, every new follower on Facebook or Twitter, is an extremely valuable lead and potential future customer for your business. After all, these folks have already sought you out—either by walking into your storefront, visiting your website, “liking” your Facebook page, or otherwise connecting with you.

Be creative about how you capture contact info. Of course you can simply ask people for their information at checkout, but you can also hold weekly drawings for gifts when people give you their business cards at your place of business or “like” you on Facebook or other social media, offer discount coupons on your eCommerce website if prospects register for your newsletter. (You do have a newsletter, don’t you?)

Just be sure to ask the customer’s permission before adding them to your mailing list – and of course, promptly honor any unsubscribe requests you receive.

Gift card redemption. One of the best things you’ll deal with after the holidays are all those customers coming to redeem gift cards, if you’ve offered them for sale during the holidays. Many of these customers may be new to you—the happy recipients of a gift card. So make sure you encourage them to sign up for your newsletter or Facebook page. Also, make certain you’re set up to give them excellent service—have enough inventory and staff to handle demand. Keep in mind, many gift card recipients spend more than the amount of the card, so be sure to merchandise your products or services well during this time.

Handling returns. If you have a physical location or are an eCommerce company, you’ll likely have some returns. Make sure you schedule extra staff for the first week or so after Christmas specifically to handle returns. And have a very clear and specific return policy in place (ideally, this should have been clear to buyers before they made a purchase). Your policies may be very strict, such as no cash refunds, only merchandise exchanges, and only items unopened in original boxes, but such policies discourage future purchases. You can certainly have more lenient policies if returns are rare. Whatever your policy, make sure your employees understand its terms. And emphasize to your staff the importance of accepting returns gracefully. Few things are more off-putting than a store that handles returns impolitely. Remember, your goal is to create lifelong customers!

Post-New Year promotions. Last but not least, as the holidays wind down, start thinking of creative ways to keep people coming in, even during the typical doldrums of late January and February. Tactics include:

  • Beginning-of-the-year sale
  • Two-for-one specials for slow periods
  • Multiple purchase packs of your goods or services
  • Loyalty programs
  • Free trials

If you’re diligent about capturing contact information (paying close attention to getting your customer’s consent first) throughout the holidays—and afterward—you could have a large audience for your 2013 marketing campaigns.

Enjoy!
Rhonda Abrams  @RhondaAbrams

Disclaimer:  Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice.  When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal and financial advisors. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on December 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm