For small businesses, the holidays are a great time to bring cheer to their communities and attract more spending to local economies.
Unfortunately, for most small companies it's business as usual. According to the latest Capital One Spark Business Growth Index (SBGI), a whopping 90 percent of small business owners had no plans for running promotions or sales on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Among retailers, only 15 percent plan to run a seasonal promotion, meaning that most small businesses are failing to capitalize on two of the biggest shopping days of the year.
It's not too late to lure holiday shoppers to your door. At the very least, it's never too early to get ready for next year. Johannes Endhardt, vice president of Strategy, Marketing and Analytics, Small Business Bank, Capital One Spark Business, shares some advice.
'Tis the Season to Be Social
It's time to dust off those Twitter and Facebook accounts, said Endhardt.
"Social media is something that can help your business no matter the time of year, but the holidays are a particularly good time to engage. Nearly half (48 percent) of SBOs surveyed for the SBGI said they do not use social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to grow their business," noted Endhardt.
Many small businesses that use social media to connect with their customers are rewarded for their efforts.
"Those who do use social media, however, found it effective, with 55 percent noting they have seen an increase in sales since starting to engage socially," Endhardt said. "If your business doesn't already have a social presence, think of the holidays as the perfect time to launch. Posts can tout sales, promotions, special hours and wish customers/fans season's greetings."
The Holidays Start Earlier than You Think
"This tip isn't one you can implement immediately, but is important to remember for the future. Start planning your holiday strategy well in advance of Thanksgiving, considering your needs such as additional inventory, staff, marketing (including social media!) promotions, deals and more," Endhardt advised.
Shop owners and salesfloor associates aren't the only ones who are scrambling during the holidays.
"Remember, the holiday season is not only a busy time for your company, but also for your suppliers and vendors. By strategizing and preparing in the summer and fall, you'll ensure you have what you need to make the holidays bright (and profitable!)," said Endhardt. "And don't forget to have a contingency plan – things don't always go as planned, and you may have staff back out at the last minute."
It's also a good time to show some those who contribute to your company's success a little a little love. "Think through ways you may be able to reward employees around the holiday time to keep them engaged," added Endhardt.
For Non-Holiday Businesses, Take Advantage of the Quiet Time
Of course, not all businesses can take advantage of the holiday hustle and bustle, at least not in ways that can immediately improve sales. But that doesn't mean there's nothing they can do to capitalize on this quiet time.
"For businesses whose busy seasons are in the spring and summer, like ice cream shops and tax consultants, there is still an opportunity to leverage the holiday season," said Endhardt. "As you wind down your year, use this quiet time to reflect on your business, performance and plans for the coming year."
The holidays are also a good time to set some bucks aside for a rainy day.
"You may also want to use this time to set aside any extra funds for future use — whether it's a financial cushion for your next slow season or to fund upcoming hiring during your busy season," Endhardt said. "By stashing away a few dollars now, you can set yourself up for future success."