Summer is beginning to wind down. The kids are back in school, which can be a special relief for some of those with a home-based business, and the days are getting shorter. Now is the time to be planning for the holiday season and the return of our friends and neighbors that have been vacationing up north during the summer. Let’s look at areas of our businesses that might need some attention before the holidays get hectic.

Review the performance of the business last year. What were your high-volume days last year? What did you do right and where was there room for improvement? Create a personnel plan to cover anticipated high traffic days. How many of your team members will you need per shift? When and where will you begin searching for additional staff? Use that information to plan for this year.

Look at last year’s orders. What did you order and when did you have it arrive? How much more will you need for this season? According to reports I’ve seen, optimism is very high in the small business community and revenues are up, consider that when preparing your plan. Be sure to watch your cash flow!

Build a marketing plan around what makes your business different. What is your unique selling point. Why will customers want to spend time at your business this holiday season? Maybe you have the best selection in town. Maybe your pumpkin spice desserts are coveted all year long. Maybe your customer service can solve any shopping problem. Offer a list of innovative ideas acceptable to be sent to service personnel overseas.

Create a weekly promotional calendar of all special offers. Train your staff and place a copy in the customer service areas so everyone is aware of those specials. Your staff should be able to answer any customer inquiries, online, on the phone or in person.

Decorate your store and your website. Add a little extra flair to help stand out from the crowd during the busy season. Give your business website a once-over to make sure it’s ready for a busy holiday season. Is the design tidy and easy to use? Can customers easily find your most popular products or services? Does your e-commerce checkout work smoothly?

Use social media such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter as ways to connect with customers. Alert them to sales or the arrival of specialty or seasonal products, provide reminders about preparing for holidays and share topical information and tips related to your store’s products.

Small Business Saturday 2019 is Nov. 30. If you don’t have “Shop Small” signs throughout your business, it’s not too late. Go to americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/. There you can download free customized materials to let your customers know what makes your business unique and encourage your community to “Shop Small”.

Your thinking should go beyond one day or one season of shopping. Gather information from your customers. Ask for an email address so you can share your newsletter of upcoming events at your business or in the community. If you get their zip code, it will tell you where your customers are traveling from to visit. Make this information gathering process part of your business all year long. It will allow you to create and strengthen relationships with your customers.

Let me know your thoughts at eddavis@scorevolunteer.org.

For more information and assistance working in or on your business, request a mentor from Port Charlotte SCORE at portcharlotte.score.org. Volunteers provide confidential business advice to meet the needs of both start-up and existing entrepreneurs at no cost. Learn how you can become a SCORE volunteer, contact Nils.Weibull@scorevolunteer.org. Follow us on Twitter: @charlottecscore.

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