Last year during the holiday season, my daughter decided that she wanted to get my wife a nice tea set because my wife had recently gotten into drinking all sorts of exotic teas. I thought that was a super idea. One Saturday during the height of the shopping season, we bundled up, gave my wife some lame excuse about where we needed to go, and headed to the mall where I knew there was a store that sold nothing but tea and related accessories.
I had been in the store once before and found it to be a calm, serene place. But boy, were we unprepared for what we encountered once we arrived. That holiday season the store had apparently caught Selling Fever. Everything was On Sale! (Except it really wasn’t). The staff was Super Excited! And while enthusiasm is great, fake enthusiasm is not, and hard selling enthusiasm is the worst. The woman who was “helping” us was 100% certain that the simple tea set my daughter had picked out “just would not do. I am sure that your mom would love some of this blended tea from India. And these stainless steel tea strainers would cap the present off very nicely,” she said.
A $40 present should really become a $110 present, according to the saleslady. When we demurred, she practically insisted. We left.
It’s not hard to understand how the tea store got it so wrong. The holiday selling season is a time when 1) many businesses make the bulk of their income for the year and 2) competition is the highest. But mistaking the need to sell with a hard sell is not the answer.
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Instead, here are 5 ways to stand out during the holidays:
1. Become a destination: Instead of the hard sell, try the soft sell. Create a cozy corner where harried shoppers can have a rest. No pressure, no selling, just a rest stop. Offer everyone who comes into your shop some hot chocolate or a piece of candy. Or, have Santa arrive every Saturday afternoon for the month of December. That sort of thoughtfulness is what makes people want to patronize your business.
2. Have a special event for your best customers: In your e-newsletter, via your social media, or your channel of choice, announce a “Best Customers Only Event.” For these customers, open your store during the off hours, put a few great items on sale, serve cookies and punch and watch the register light up.
3. Donate to their favorite charity: Tell your customers that for every, say, $100 they spend in your store, you will donate $5 to the charity of their choice. You could have a form they fill out indicating the charity. Most people love that sort of generosity of spirit, and the chance to give to the organization of their choice (by shopping no less) and may help them turn to you for business instead of a competitor.
4. Give them a free coupon book: Remember when you were a kid and you would give your mom or dad a book full of coupons that said things like
“Redeem for one car wash”
“Good for one house cleaning”
“One free mowing of the lawn”
Well, why not do something similar for your customers, only specific to your business? This allows you to give your customers a present that would benefit you both.
5. Sell Gift Certificates: Because people love getting a bargain. What about selling $25 gift certificates that customers can use or give away – for only $20?
With a little ingenuity, your holiday season can be a successful one (and you won’t even have to hawk imported, expensive teas from India to make it that way.) How do you raise above all the other types of holiday promotions? Share your tips below with the SBOC community.
About Steve Strauss
Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.
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