Small Business Xmas: Six tips to prepare for the silly season

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Get organised before the Xmas rush. Photo / Thinkstock
Get organised before the Xmas rush. Photo / Thinkstock

MYOB chief executive Tim Reed on the six steps to help SMEs gear up for the silly season:

The weeks leading up to Christmas may be demanding for shoppers, but they're even more so for business owners and their staff. How can you increase the likelihood of a successful and happy selling season?

A great place to start is to review your operational performance and financials from last Christmas. Some key questions to consider are: did you have enough staff to manage the extra foot traffic? What products and promotions did well? Reviewing what worked and what didn't will help you prepare for this festive season. If you don't have the information around these aspects from last year, consider collecting them this year.

There's more competition for the shopping dollar during this time so businesses should plan a range of tactics for attracting customers. With more than 80 per cent of consumers researching online prior to making a purchase, consider selling your products and services online and include that sales channel in all marketing activity.

It's no surprise our research shows SMEs with a website were 31 per cent more likely to see revenue rise last financial year.

I encourage business operators to start raising their profile now via targeted marketing, advertising and promotions to help gain a competitive advantage. This doesn't have to cost money - perhaps try public relations activities or strategic partnerships. Only 22 per cent of SMEs are looking to increase their marketing and advertising online and 16 per cent offline this year.

MYOB's six steps to help SMEs gear up for success in the silly season:

1. Review and learn from last year's activities

Take a look at the performance of the last festive season to pinpoint the positive and negative aspects. How well did each of your products, services and promotions perform? Other operational aspects? Did you cope with the boost to customer numbers? Think about what you can do this year to improve results, for example social media, new promotions, working a niche target group, changing the layout of your shop.

2. Get online

The internet has added a whole new dimension to shopping, with a vast majority of consumers shopping online on their smartphone, tablet or laptop. Establish a simple website or revamp your existing one as it's a powerful tool to help increase awareness and sales. An easy-to-use website builder such as MYOB Atlas helps you create an attractive website with its own .co.nz domain name and email in 15 minutes. It's free for the first year, pre-configured for Google searches, and includes e-commerce functionality via PayPal.

3. Shout from the rooftops

Don't be shy about making your business as visible as possible. Promote your unique selling points (most value or choice, best service, longest warranties, local, eco-friendly ) to remind loyal customers and attract potential ones. Consider adding limited-time discounts or expanding your sales/marketing channels.

4. Boost staffing resources if required

Hiring extra staff can certainly help with the extra volume of customers in the lead up to Christmas. Our research has shown that businesses investing more in staff have been more likely to improve revenue over the long recovery - so a little extra help may also be a boost to your bottom line.

5. Prepare your team to up the client service ante

Get your team ready via briefings on all store policies, service and complaint procedures, promotional stock and other important business aspects. Conduct training sessions to prepare them for the extra volume of customer and supplier interactions. They will be under more pressure than usual but this also applies to shoppers so a smile and a positive, helpful attitude will make the busy period more pleasant for all.

6. Keep your business house in order

There will likely be an abundance of gift wrapping paper, boxes and/or other packaging in your business as well as more paperwork. Get organised to reduce admin time and stress levels. Up to date accounting software, such as MYOB LiveAccounts or AccountRight Live, acts like a virtual assistant by automating many aspects of this. It also gives you a comprehensive snapshot of your business at any time to help you better control things like your cashflow, payroll, inventory and invoices.

After the hustle and bustle of Christmas, perform a business health check with your business advisor to help kick start your path to financial success in the New Year. Business tends to be quieter post-Christmas, so if possible, take some time off for a holiday to unwind and reinvigorate.

For many seasonal tourism/hospitality businesses around the country, the Christmas holiday period will make or break them. Tell us your stories. Email me, Gill South, at the link below:

- NZ Herald

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