The lead-up to Christmas is a frenetic period where many business operators yell hallelujah for the appetites of enthusiastic consumers. It's also a crucial time to get active and plan well for a prosperous selling period.
With this in mind New Zealand's largest accounting software provider, MYOB, has prepared seven steps to help SMEs set a successful sales strategy.
"For many businesses, activity reaches fever pitch in the lead-up to Christmas - both online and offline. With so much going on it's easy to focus on surviving rather than on thriving, so it's critical to make sure you're prepared," MYOB chief executive Tim Reed says.
"Putting time aside to work on your business strategy can really help drive sales success. Effective planning now can mean the difference between flourishing and flimsy Christmas sales. There's more competition for the shopper's dollar during this time so plan a range of tactics for attracting them.
"This includes selling your products and services online or, for business-to-business operations, locking in contracts for next year. With 80 per cent of consumers researching online prior to making a purchase, it's no wonder our research shows SMEs with a website and a social media site are almost two and a half times as likely to expect an annual revenue rise.
"The demands of the silly season coupled with the commitment of running a business can be overwhelming. Remember to focus on why you love your work and not lose sight of the reasons you're in business."
MYOB's seven steps to festive season success:
1. Examine the last 12 months' wins & losses
The time is ripe for a spot of soul searching. Step outside your business to reflect upon the initiatives that worked, those that didn't and those that can be refined. Did your staffing levels match the workload? Are you sufficiently staffed for the Christmas rush? If you have downtime over Christmas is leave locked-in? Knowing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your business today can help you improve your business for tomorrow.
2. Consider a customer retention plan
It costs 5-7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, so it pays to identify your most profitable customers. Don't have a customer retention strategy? Make time to build one. It's a great way to develop and maintain productive relationships and grow referral sales. It also enables you to explore ways to grow revenue and recurring sales, and add stability to your business. If you have key clients make time to call them before end of year. While the intent would be to say thanks for their patronage this year, the outcome may well be locking in orders for next year. It's easy to keep customer and sales records current by using up to date accounting software.
3. Activate a customer acquisition strategy
Want to attract new customers to your business but unsure how or where to find them? A customer acquisition strategy is a powerful way to determine who your existing customers are, and equally who your target customers are. It can help you understand the customers you want to attract and retain, what they want, how much they're willing to pay, the products or services they've tried, plus their expectations about your brand, product or service.
4. Evaluate your product and/or service offering
If it's been a while since you took a close look at your products and/or services, there's no time like the present to reassess your mix. How well is your market offering helping you reach your goals? Are some elements more profitable than others? What changes can you make? Are there new opportunities to add to the mix? A great idea is to write what you think are the answers to these questions and then do the work to find the real answers. Any gaps can highlight a blind spot in your strategy.
5. Review your pricing strategy
Knowing what to charge for your products and/or services can help you build a sustainable, profitable business. If you're unsure where to start, the MYOB Business Reality Check can help you calculate your hours as well as your hourly rate and service rates. You can use this comprehensive assessment tool to identify any business issues you're facing, get tailored expert advice and plenty of practical resources to help solve them.
6. Perform a cash flow forecast
With cash flow ranking as the second highest pressure point for SMEs in the latest MYOB Business Monitor report, there's never been a better time to add a little cash flow know-how to your business toolbox. Cash flow forecasting is a gift that keeps on giving. It makes business life easier in many ways, enabling you to track your performance against predictions, map how it might fare during challenging economic times (or boom times) and even model the effects of a strategic shift. Perhaps try the cash flow forecasting tool on the MYOB Business Reality Check website.
7. Get your financial house in order
If your receipts, payments and credit card paperwork are in disarray, it's time to embrace online accounting solutions. By using up to date software such as MYOB LiveAccounts or AccountRight Live you can get a comprehensive snapshot of your finances at your fingertips, 24/7, minimise stress and maximise peace of mind!
When the dust finally settles post-Christmas and after you eventually take that well-earned break, don't forget to plan for the year ahead. Arrange a 'health check' of your business with a trusted advisor, such as your accountant, bookkeeper or other business advisor to start your new year's success story.