What do you get for the entrepreneur who has everything? A helpful holiday hub for local businesses, of course.
Unwrap useful tips on seasonal hiring, marketing, and standing out from the competition during the holidays and year-round.
Seasonal and holiday shopping can represent a significant portion of a local business’s annual profits, so standing out from the crowd and drawing in customers is critical to profitability. Luckily, 56% of consumers start their holiday shopping in October, which means more time for local businesses to capture interest and increase sales.
Creating a successful business doesn’t happen overnight, but there are proven strategies for building a great team, marketing strategy, and business mentality that will see you through the holidays and beyond.
1. Build a great team (don’t just hire staff)
Hiring seasonal employees is a common practice for businesses of all sizes, but without a solid foundation of knowledgeable core employees, the busy holiday season could rapidly become overwhelming. Taking the time to find people who fit your values and mission will pay dividends down the road when seasonal staff join and need to learn about your business quickly.
Tips for hiring and training seasonal staff
- Post positions as early as possible
- Be specific about the times and dates required and whether the roles could transition to full-time employment
- Advertise open positions on social media to attract candidates who already know and love your brand
- Ask your current employees for referrals
- Ensure new hires have a comprehensive onboarding period to build their knowledge and skills before the holiday rush
Business owner advice
If you are always only looking for the right person, you’re going to pass up a lot of people who could be that right person in the future. There are so many people that are overlooked in this world. It kind of goes back to [my experience in the] military.
I developed so many people into who they are today. And that’s what I love here—we take people who might not have been given a chance somewhere else, we give them that chance, and we let them blossom into the people who they can be rather than the person that they are right now.Chris Fisher of Farm Ale Brewing Co., Eola, Texas
“Staffing will be your biggest challenge, so be mentally prepared for it. Recruiting a team is one thing—retaining and continuously motivating them is another. Try to remind every staff member about the global effects of their actions. Even though they might not see it themselves, every action, every decision they make will have a ripple effect on a small business.”
—Emma Taylor of Milk Sugar Love, Jersey City, New Jersey
“To me, it’s our culture. It’s who you hire. We can teach anyone to do anything. But I can’t teach attitude. I can’t teach personality. And when I interview, my first impression of that person—that’s what the guest is going to get from that employee. So it’s important to me how I feel in that interview, how the connection was, because that’s how they’re going to connect to the guests.”
—Rob Meir of CALA, Scottsdale, Arizona
2. Advertise your value and set expectations
Post-pandemic, many shoppers are decreasing their holiday budgets; however, enthusiasm for holiday shopping is on the rise. To stand out to the money-conscious consumer, your local business will need to differentiate itself from competitors and exhibit value.
Tips for standing out during the holidays
- Advertise specific pricing so customers can easily see that you have the best deals
- Be transparent about product availability to set expectations for shoppers worried about supply chain issues
- Offer deferred payment options for customers who want to spread purchases over several months
- Clearly communicate shipping lead times and if customers can expect items to arrive in time for the holidays
- Develop content for your blog and product descriptions that convey value, such as sustainability practices, charitable donations, or quality materials, and why customers should invest in your products
- Offer stellar customer service to build loyalty and encourage repeat business
A smile and a friendly attitude will take you a long way. Identify and address customer issues before they develop. Sense when a customer is not happy and be the one to acknowledge and ask about their concerns. You’ll be able to draw out and address issues up front and customers will appreciate your proactive approach.Renee and Chris Thomas of Escape This, Madison, WISCONSIN
“Communicate as much as you can, as fast as you can, as well as you can.”
—Hal Dunbar of Patriot Pool and Spa, Austin
“Make your customers your first priority… ALWAYS. Treat everyone who walks in the door as if they are the best customer you’ve ever had, without exception. Listen to them and remember them. They’ll almost certainly remember you, so make it a good memory!”
—Chad and Krisi Hora of Peg Leg Vintage, College Park, Maryland
3. Think about long-term sustainability
It’s easy to feel like a miniature figure in a snowglobe during the holidays. With innumerable tasks, requests, and responsibilities floating around, it can be difficult to rein in the chaos of the moment and think about the future. The bright side is that there are several things you can do year-round to holiday-proof your business and your sanity so you can focus on long-term growth.
Tips for maintaining sustainable business growth
- Network with other local businesses with whom you can exchange referrals and favors and support each other through difficult times
- Diversify your network to bring in unexpected opportunities and partnerships
- Research your state or local community resource networks for support, networking opportunities, and other benefits—for example, NYC Small Business Resource Center and ProsperUs Detroit
- Engage with your customers on online review platforms like Yelp, where you can receive valuable feedback to improve operations and respond to reviews to build customer loyalty after you add or claim your Yelp Business Page
Did you know?
88% of consumers are more likely to look past a negative review if they see that the business has responded to it and adequately addressed the issue.
Business owner advice
Replying to reviews: imperative. We all put blood, sweat, and tears into our small businesses. Not everybody’s going to love you. That’s the way it is, but when you’re replying to a review it’s a wonderful marketing opportunity… because I can speak to our culture and what it is we really want to do. We get the chance to invite them back.Kassie “KC” Guzzardi of Joe’s Pasta House, Rio Rancho, New Mexico
“When it comes to success, sustainability is more important than splash. My advice is to reach out to your small business community partners for resources.”
—Monique Herzig of Alchemy Slow Living Studio, Ferndale, Michigan
“Connect with the community in which you plan to do business. Get to know business owners in the area and attend networking events.”
—Tosha Williams of Dessert Fantasies, Baltimore
Make the holidays bright
Holidays can be profitable without being as stressful. Set yourself up for success throughout the year by building a strong team, support network in your community, and relationships with your customers. When holidays roll around, you’ll have already created a system of partners and consumers who are loyal to your brand and recommend you to others.
Ready to take your business to the next level? Discover nine strategies to grow your business from seasoned business advisor Shirin Behzadi.
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The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.