Walmart made the unprecedented decision last week to reveal its Black Friday deals early. The response has been mixed. Some people think it's simply too early to start the holiday shopping season. Others are happy to get a jump on bargain- hunting.
Meanwhile, Amex's Small Business Saturday initiative, aimed at encouraging consumers to patronize small businesses, is gaining some serious steam. So, how can your company capitalize on Black Friday, even if you don't sell holiday gifts?
The answer requires taking a more abstract look at what customers are looking for this time of year and finding ways to offer it.
Holiday cheer – If you are a retail business where people can shop for holiday gifts, you're probably not in a position to compete with the so-called "door busters" offered by big box stores. Instead, you've got something better to offer: atmosphere. Lots of people enjoy holiday shopping and look forward to it. You don't have to be the cheapest on the block to offer a great holiday experience. Some holiday music, decorations and hot chocolate could go a long way toward luring the customers in. Consider teaming up with other businesses in your neighborhood to create a holiday shopping event that might pull them in.
Time to give thanks – Maybe you're a business-to-business company that doesn't sell products that could be given as gifts. That doesn't mean you can't spread some goodwill around the holidays. It's time to send out holiday cards thanking your customers for their business and letting them know how much you appreciate them. It might be a time of spending — rather than making — money, but it will pay off later in the year.
Be the alternative – Not everyone wants to buy a giant flat-screen TV for Christmas. Position your company's service as an alternative to traditional gifts. Offer nicely wrapped gift cards for your service and make sure to market yourself as the solution to the "problem" of finding the right gifts for teachers, co-workers, bosses, etc.
Look inward – For some businesses, there's simply no way to capitalize on the holiday shopping craze. If that describes you, then maybe it's time to do a little internal work. Make sure the holidays are a pleasant time for your employees. Reward employees with a little time off, a holiday bonus and a nice party. Celebrate their successes and, most important of all, make sure they know how much you appreciate how hard they work all year. It may not fill your bank account now, but, in the long run, it will generate lots of happy returns.
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Jeanette Mulvey is the managing editor of BusinessNewsDaily. She has written about small business for more than 20 years and formerly owned her own e-commerce business. Her column, Mind Your Business, appears on Mondays only on BusinessNewsDaily. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeanettebnd or contact her via e-mail at email@example.com.