For many companies, Spring, 2013 is already in the planning stages and Christmas 2012 is in the wings, ready to roll out.
Often, for small businesses real planning for Christmas 2012 begins in September.
Unfortunately, that may be too late to do the right planning to maximize the potential of the year-end holiday season.
For smaller retailers where the focus is on competing with the “big-box” giants and online mega forces such as Amazon, the task must begin now. (See below what one expert thinks can and should be done now.)
For BtoB marketers, the needs are more subtle and involve an understanding of what forces are at work during the last months of the year.
Budgeting Imperatives: Given the turbulence of this year’s economy, many experts believe B2B buyers will either be short on fund or have a surplus that needs to be spent. For the former, pricing strategies permitting payment in 2013 would appeal to them. For the latter clients with a need to spend a budgetary item or lose it next year, providing value-added inducements could be the spur to purchasing.
Closeouts or sales: Sometime sales or closeouts will spur customers to place orders ahead of their original timetable. Planning for them should begin in August in order to have a sufficient supply on hand while not producing too much.
Promotions and gifts: While gift giving is still frowned upon by many companies, wall and desk calendars are still the best year-long reminder available. In study-after-study, they remain the single best year-long promotion for companies. To be prepared and get the best selection delivered on time, ordering should be done by mid-September.
Postal and eMail campaigns: Marketing experts recommend a four part email and postal program at the end of the year. All parts of this campaign needs to be completed by December 18th as most of the world goes on hiatus after that date. The campaign should remind current, former and potential customers of the company’s success during the year and herald future relationships. Whenever possible, all communications should be highly personalized.
Phone follow-up: Whenever possible, there should be a coordinated telephone campaign aimed at a majority of current and potential clients. The theme being wishing them a prosperous new year and looking forward to working with them in the future,
Stay positive: No matter what the company has experienced this year, all communications and interface must have a positive aspect. Build a positive company scenario for 2013 and inoculate it into the staff. Push this message in all correspondence and marketing efforts.
For smallder retailers, Jim Carroll, Executive Director, SBDC of Hampton Roads, Inc. offers these suggestions in his blog:
Start Now: Retailers need to be thinking about Black Friday and Internet Monday and just how they will position themselves for these events.
Enhance the Shopping Experience: Emphasize the shopping experience through both auditory and visual enhancements. Look for ways to offer added value for your customers. As a small retailer, emphasize your uniqueness and the local nature of your business.
Reach Out to Your Customers: With the proliferation of technology, email, social media and a whole host of software applications to support customer relationship management, small retailers now have the ability to “fight above their weight”. It is important to time the receipt of your messages in order to achieve a maximum return for your investment
Capture the Early Birds: These are the customers who plan ahead and are looking for easily accessible ways to fulfill their plans. It cannot hurt to reach out and get their attention as soon as possible.
Capture Last-Minute Shoppers: Create a stress free atmosphere, bundling presents and offering ideas and recommendations to the last-minute contingent will go far in generating future customer loyalty.
The pressures that both retailers and their customers are experiencing due to the tenuous nature of local, national and international environments are certainly real and potentially debilitating. Having an aggressive, sound and flexible plan in place is one way that these pressures may be mitigated.
More on Carroll and his thoughts (here)