Planning for year’s end and a great start to 2016 for your small business

 

2016 is right around the corner. Are you ready?

2016 is right around the corner. Are you ready?

If you’re someone who depends on the holiday season for a big chunk of your annual sales or income, and you haven’t developed a marketing plan by now, it’s too late. For the rest of us, there’s plenty we can do to hit the ground running in the New Year.

 

‘Tis the season to:

 

Network. There are lots of holiday business-related networking events, and it’s a good time of year to see and be seen. People are generally in a holiday mood at these events, and it’s often easier to renew old contacts and make new ones. Use the opportunity to set up coffee meetings for after the holidays, when you can sit down and discuss business.

 

Merge and purge your mail lists. If you use a mailing list management program (I’m a fan of MailChimp), now’s the time to combine a holiday message with an opportunity to see who’s deleting your email, who’s opening, who’s email has changed, and who responds). If you use GMail, use the time to purge duplicate addresses. You can devise a simple message. Holiday hours, or simply “Thank you for working with us this year. Enjoy the holidays”. The United States Postal Service can provide similar options for snail mail users like “address correction requested.” All of these cost money, but they’re worth it.

 

Forge a last-minute alliance with a nonprofit and position your business as a community service provider. Giving Tuesday (December 1) is a national program for nonprofits to boost online contributions and donations. Find a nonprofit you believe in that has a strong social media presence and who is planning to participate in Giving Tuesday. Offer a challenge grant. Let’s say you can spend $500. Offer the nonprofit the money as a challenge to encourage their donors to contribute an equal amount on Giving Tuesday. You promote your partnership with the nonprofit. They promote their partnership with you. You get visibility through their social media networks before, during and after December 1. For information on Giving Tuesday: http://www.givingtuesday.org/

 

Review your advertising purchases. Aside from what worked and what didn’t work, look at your total expenditures by media type. Had you purchased a full year’s worth of advertising in newspaper A or radio station B at one time, and allocated it as you had, would you have been eligible for a frequency discount or bulk purchase discount? If you make your 2016 purchases this calendar year, you might find some year-end bonuses available, because many reps are working towards their year-end goals (and bonuses) and may have more negotiating power.

 

Thank your customers. Let them know that you appreciate them. A very effective way is with a card. Whether you buy a tasteful holiday card, or have one designed especially for your business, it’s the thought that counts. My company does simple post cards thanking our customers and the media for their support. We also keep it simple, because the money we’d have spent on something more ornate is donated to an area nonprofit doing something for the greater good. (We’re also careful to shy away from contributing to political groups, religious organizations, or any nonprofits that might cause controversy.) If you’re going to have cards designed and printed, or purchase gifts, shop locally. Your money goes further when you know the person you’re doing business with. And when you support a local business, they’re likely to turn around and reach out to you when they have business needs you can fulfill.

 

Thank the people who work for you. You’ve probably already budgeted for employee gifts or a party, but you can some extra things to brighten your employees’ holiday season. For those who have to work the day after Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve, throw some extra time off during the holidays their way. A Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts or independent coffee roasters or supermarket gift card can brighten up their holiday moods–especially on a day when they’re not expecting it, like Giving Tuesday, December 1.

 

Thank yourself. Running a small business is never easy, but without your efforts, determination, willpower, and vision, you’d be working for someone else, or not working. Treat yourself to something nice, and remember Carlotta Champion’s anthem in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies: “I’m Still Here.”

 

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Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.

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