The holiday season rush has begun, and there’s no missing it. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can simply rely on your customers to know everything that’s going on in your business. While your customers may know the obvious, they sometimes trust you to remind them. This builds off of the fact that communicating is vital for small businesses and startups.
The benefits of regularly communicating with your customers are undeniable. It’s key to understanding your customer, and therefore being able to meet customer needs, which in turn boosts customer satisfaction. It also means the difference between weak customer assistance and truly great customer service, and helps toward retaining one-time customers as life-long ones. Consider the fact that a mere 5% increase in customer satisfaction will translate into profits increasing by as much as 95%.
Ultimately, the holidays can be extremely stressful and busy. While big box stores can run extensive campaigns that involve opening extremely early, or staying open with late or extended hours, these tactics probably aren’t the right fit for you as a small business owner.
Communication is key to your seasonal marketing efforts because it ensures that your business won’t be forgotten in all the hustle and bustle. It will keep your customers in the loop on sales, promotions and special offers, and not to mention all the small changes that take place through the holiday season, such as hours or days of operation. In this article, we’re going to give you some tips for how to communicate with your customers during this busy holiday season.
What Information Do Your Customers Need?
It’s important that you, as a business owner, 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 with your customers.
If you’re offering any discounts, offers, sales, season specific products, or special product bundles, your customers definitely want to hear about it! Think of the buzz surrounding something as simple — and limited — as Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.
The holidays can become a labyrinth of when stores are opened, closed, or changing their hours. Give your customers the information they need to successfully reach your store at the right times.
Special Openings & Closings
When you’re going to be closed for a period of time, you’ll want to be sure your customers will know when you’re going to be back. Furthermore, if you have special events, such as early bird hours or extended hours for exclusive sales, or one day only events. In some cases, it’s also good to promote when you’re closed; explaining that you will be closed during times so that your staff can enjoy time with their families and loved ones, or if you’ll be closed one day or evening to celebrate your staff with a holiday party.
Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas are great examples of a holiday-related event. It can offer its own deals, special hours, and more. Bear in mind, this doesn’t always have to mean cutting prices. You need to remember to host the right kind of events for your business, and maybe that means engaging in community outreach. Food or toy drives are one example. Feel free to be creative! The point is making the customer feel good, and to associate that warmth and happiness of the season in part with your business.
New Customer Accessibility
The holidays are also a great time for new customers to find you. How accessible and available is the information about your business? If you’re easy to discover, and they can easily find information about your holiday offerings, you’re more likely to get their business. You should also consider incorporating content that your current customers can share with their friends, whether that’s in-store, online or on social media.
Keep Customers in the Know
These are the levels of communication that you absolutely cannot ignore. People who walk into your business or who call will expect to be able to find certain kinds of information, especially as it relates to the holiday season. If they don’t find that information, they’ll assume your store will continue with business as usual. Keep frustrations from happening by making sure your customers are in the know of any and all changes that will be in effect for your business during the season.
Place your signage out ahead of time so that your customers know what to expect and where your business will fit into their holiday plans. You should also place them in key places throughout the business, and if budget allows, design them according to your overall holiday marketing strategy.
While you or one of your employees can give pertinent information to customers when they answer the phone, it’s important to provide some of this information to customers when you can’t answer the phone. You can use your voicemail recording to provide this information, preferably within the first few rings. It should be upbeat, friendly, and informative. Please note: If you change your recording for the holiday, you need to update your recordings either as you progress from one holiday to the next, or when the holidays are over.
Information these forms of communication may provide easily:
- Planned closings
- Special hours
- Sales dates and discounts
- Event dates and times (Signage)
- Answers to frequently asked questions (Voicemail)
Communication in the 21st Century
Today, simply having in-store signage and voicemail is not enough to reach out to customers. They are on the go, and they’re using their cell phones to access and gather the information they used to get by making a phone call or taking a trip to your store. In 2014, online sales were up 13.9% over 2013, and 45% of that traffic was from a mobile device. If you’re not reaching out to users online, you’re missing out on a growing segment of consumers.
Store Website + Mobile
As you can see by the statistics, the holidays represent higher and higher amounts of website traffic. That isn’t restricted to ecommerce stores, either. As many as 20% of the visitors to your website will be doing it from a mobile device, and 60% of searches start on Google from a mobile device before moving to a desktop. You need to ensure that your site is mobile friendly, and that the information about your hours, offers, and events are easily accessible.
If you’re not already taking advantage of social media to share information about your business, you should begin immediately. Social media not only offers broad reach to your customers, but it’s also easy for people to share your content and information, and thus further extends your reach. You can use text, graphics, and even video to keep your customers in the loop on all of your holiday plans. Plus, certain platforms (e.g., Facebook) let you create events that customers can RSVP to. Using analytics and responses, you’ll be able to gauge consumer interest in what you’re doing.
The best thing about email is that the only people who receive it are the ones who are interested in receiving news from you. They’re easy to send out, and also allows an element of personalization, i.e., email-only promotions, and tailored email groups to target certain kinds of customers. This is the easiest and most direct way to reach out to loyal customers and ensure they’re in the loop.
Start Communicating Today!
Make a plan that identifies what changes you need to make through the holiday season. What will your customers need to know? Are you going to close, or change hours? Are there already sales you’re planning? Are there messages that should have follow up reminders?
Review past communication efforts. Were they successful? Have you had any bad experiences that led to frustrated customers? Use this to identify where your communication methods need improvement and growth.
Using this plan to review your communication efforts, determine which methods will be best for reaching your customers. Will you use all channels for all changes? Or will you use different methods of communication to share certain kinds of news?
Create a calendar or system for reminding yourself and your staff of when you need to send out certain messages. Remember that the holidays are busy for everyone — including yourself!