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Three holiday-season tips for small-business owners

Christmas in Redlands Last updated

As we head into fall, businesses and merchants should begin to think about their approach to the holiday season.

Now is the time to be thinking about how to reach clients in a way that serves their needs and supports yours too.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Be PRESENT: If at all possible, be in your store/shop. Be available for questions or just a hello. When customers can put a face to the business itself (think Jax Toys vs. Target) They are likely to feel like they have a connection to the business, which leads to a deeper feeling of loyalty.
  2. Interact with your customers in an authentic way. I am not suggesting that you're being fake now, but if you are all business, you are passing up an opportunity to be seen as a person and a neighbor by your customers -- and being seen on that level will build trust and customer enthusiasm. Engage with your customers and clients, learning about them and sharing about yourself. Learn and remember their names. And if someone shares a frustration ("I had to drive around the block three times to find parking!) Acknowledge their negative experience. ("Ugh! I know how frustrating it is! Thanks so much for be determined to get in here!")
  3. This may sound counter intuitive, but REFER to the competition! If you don't have what someone is looking for, suggest another local business that might. ("You know, I saw something in JD Myers that sounds like what you might be searching for -- have you been there?") A client remembers a business who puts their needs before profits. And your local business neighbors remember too. They are likely to reciprocate. Imagine how embracing a cooperative business community feels to shoppers. Many would even drive out of town regularly to spend their money where they feel the entire downtown is looking out for them.

My final note is this: Often the most important part of reaching clients is through connection. I am willing to pay a little bit more sometimes to have an interaction with someone that I enjoy. Likewise, I may love a particular product that someone sells, but will avoid that shop if I have had problems with someone or didn't feel welcome or valued.