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By Rhett Doolittle

5 expert tips and ideas to prepare your small business for the holidays

5 expert tips and ideas to prepare your small business for the holidays 

The holiday season is back and in full swing. Before you know it, you’re scrambling last second at Bath and Body Works trying to put together a somewhat decent gift for your in-laws. But for small business owners and managers, decking the halls requires a completely different type of mental and physical preparation.

Winter brings along the busiest shopping season of the year, and having everything fully prepared can lead to a holly-jolly Q4. To make life easier, we’ve created an overview of the essentials you need to tackle the daunting holiday period.

 

1) Remember Remember the 27th of November

November 27th, infamously known as Black Friday, kicks off one of the most chaotic shopping weekends in the world. An estimated $17.2b was spent among Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday alone in 2018; how would you feel knowing you missed out on some of that cold hard cash? 

Cater your marketing strategies around these dates using in-store and online promotional deals, social media and website content, and direct mail. You’ll also want to make sure that you have everything in order logistically, such as inventory and additional employee scheduling, to properly support your in-store foot traffic.

Key Takeaways: Though all three dates may not be necessary for your business, it is essential to participate in the ones that do matter. Map out your promotional and operational plan ahead of schedule to get the word out in time for your customers to act.

 

2) Strategize Your Marketing Communication

With so many other businesses doing the same preparation for the holiday season, it’s your job to outshine their efforts – especially in terms of your content strategy. To do this, you must utilize the most effective channels and messages to reach customers with the highest intent to purchase.

Email: Email is the most engaging tactic for letting your existing customers know about promotional deals, store events, and anything needed to know about your business. Remember, these contacts have more than likely purchased from you before, so their intent to buy is already significantly higher. Use holiday templates and themes to get your contact base in the festive mood.

 Social: If you’re a savvy digital socialite, you know that social media is a key method to reach your target audience. Our advice to you? Plan out your content ahead of schedule so you can focus on engaging with your customers in real-time. You don’t want to be spending time each week crafting new posts, which takes away from other essential work duties.

Web: Your website is the first thing you should update with new holiday information. We can’t express the importance of having your site perform at a high level, especially your mobile pages. Conversions fall by up to 20% for every second that a mobile page is delayed; how are you supposed to get your message across if users bounce before they even get to your website?

Key Takeaways: You’ve taken the time to create a strong message, now it’s time to put it out there for your customers to see. Take a minute to understand which channels are best to deliver your message and schedule it in advance so you can make tweaks with minimal effort.

 

3) Hone In On Your Website

If there’s any time to ensure that your website performance and keywords are optimized to the best of your ability, it’s now. 8 out of 10 consumers reported having been influenced by internet search prior to purchase, illustrating the leverage that intent-based search can have on the average holiday shopper. 

In a digital age, it’s not shocking that these numbers are so high. Put yourself in a customer’s perspective: how many times have you searched online to figure out where or what you wanted to buy? 

While performance and relevant keywords are crucial to generating website traffic, it’s also important to support your website with attractive promotional deals for the holidays. This could be free shipping, a coupon or discount, or holiday guide; all of which can be an effective tactic to close a final sale. 

Key takeaways: Ensure your website is performing up to speed, utilize free keyword research tools to increase search-based page traffic, and add holiday promotions to your product mix to close a final sale.

 

4) Clean the Bells and Whistles

Part of preparation is making sure that all of your t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted. Making sure your holiday hours are correctly listed, your addresses are accurate, and all online information about your business is up-to-par are just some of the many tasks that should be on your radar. You don’t want to be facing a plethora of issues when you’re neck-deep in the trenches, especially issues that have the potential to do some damage to your business.

Key Takeaways: Don’t allow things to fall through the cracks that can creep up later on. (Pro tip) Search your business online and see what you find. You will be able to immediately identify any errors in your business listings and eliminate the possibility of incorrect information.

 

5) Show some love to your team

Your business wouldn’t be able to conquer the holiday season if it weren’t for your employees. The time between mid-November and the end of the year is brutal; from family commitments, traveling, to immense financial pressure, the added stress from the work environment can be even more discouraging to your team. It’s your job to keep employee morale high even after retail Armageddon arrives at your front door.

Though company Christmas parties can be hit-or-miss, sometimes it’s best to keep it simple. Asking your employees how they would like to celebrate is an easy way to cater to a more interesting event for everyone. Remember, they know what they like better than you do! 

Establishing a yearly tradition, such as working on a charitable project for families in need during the holidays, is also a great way to bring the team together and focus on something other than work.

Key Takeaways: With the added stress of the holiday season, your employees are the ones that have been right beside you in battle at every moment. Show your appreciation for them by celebrating as a team, whether it’s a fun gathering or charity event.

 

Although it is important to put your brand out there during the holidays, it shouldn’t be limited to ¼ of the year. Managing and optimizing your digital presence can be a full-time job on its own, making it tough for business owners and managers to handle when things get busy. For those looking for a little extra help, Business Warrior gathers public information about your business and prioritizes any errors that may be hurting your bottom line – so you can tackle the holidays with ease.

For more information about Business Warrior, you can follow the link here for your free 14-day trial.

 

By Rhett Doolittle

How a Small Business Can Change Your Life

When we are little, we are often asked what we want to be when we grow up. Common answers are usually those of “astronaut”, “president”, and “ superhero”, but what about “business owner”? This is a thought many don’t have until later on in life as they dream of having freedom in the workplace and passion for the work they do every day.

What if you could be all these at the same time? As a small business owner, you can explore the unknown as the president of a company while you heroically serve people in your local community.  Like any other job, being a small business owner is hard work, but can produce the most wonderful and abundant fruit.

Certainly, starting a business is a big leap into the unknown. Before deciding if you should jump into the large pool that is business ownership, take some time to gather the necessary information. In honor of November being Bluume’s Small Business Month, we are giving you a head start with a list of 5 useful tips for starting a new Small Businesses or how to run your current one more efficiently.

 

1. Create a Business Plan

Like anything else, starting a business requires a plan and, a very detailed one. The Small Business Association (SBA) says that 30% of new businesses fail within the first two years of being open. This is largely the fault of a finicky plan and poor execution. Think of every possible problem that may arise and already have a solution; every risk needs to be assessed before anything is put into action. Think of the goal you are trying to reach, as a business and as an owner. They may look different, and that’s okay, but make sure you never lose sight of your goals. You can change the plan as needed, but your goal should always stay intact until you reach it.

2. Define a Marketing Strategy

We all know location is key for a business to thrive, however, internet location is just as crucial. Marketing is the structure of every successful company. It is a very important tool for businesses but is often forgotten, abandoned, or not used correctly. Today, consumers shop, research, and explore options online before even actually getting in the car. Because of this, your online and social media presence is as important as the physical presence of your company. Look at all your options for marketing, including online tools and agencies, like Bluume and our software Brand IQ, to help you reach the level necessary to be successful in the online world. People want to find you, so make sure you are present and ready when they do!

3. Pick Your Management Carefully

We have all heard the saying “a bad system can ruin good people”. This is true for any of management: business, money, and employee. When you take this leap, make sure that you have the right people around you. Know your weaknesses and surround yourself with those who had value to you and your new business. Businesses fail because of a lack of cohesion among those who are in some sort of position of power. Take pride in the culture of the company you create and bring those in who accent it. Listen to what your gut tells you, but always make sure you check into the feedback you receive from your employees and customers. They see the company in ways that you don’t, but an important viewpoint for an owner to take into consideration when making changes to the plan.

4. Embracing Change

There is no doubting that the world around us is always changing. New trends, technology, and ideas are always blooming around us. Take advantage of these and use them to the benefit of your new business. Make sure that you are constantly monitoring the market and know when changes may need to happen to the business plan. When you stay in the loop of all the changes happening in the field, you are able to adjust your strategy and your company will remain successful.

5. Do your Research

Having a business in something you feel strongly about is the best way to go, but make sure that you are doing all the necessary research before diving head first. You can’t put the puzzle together until you have all the pieces. From the current market to funding options, there are many things that need to be considered. It’s simpler to create a new product or market, and then fulfill this new demand rather than trying to compete in a market that is already saturated. Add a twist and make your business or product proprietary to set yourself up for success. Aside from the products or services, make sure you have the best internal processes for your business to be successful. Do you want people to be able to shop online? Is a POS the best option for your storefront? Which processor will help you grow the strongest? These are all questions that are unfamiliar to someone who has never been a business owner before but are vital for the health of a company.

 


Being a business owner may fulfill the drive inside of you that you never knew existed. You can bring to life your childhood dreams believed to be abandoned while helping those around you along the way. Small businesses are what keep our economy thriving because they are the framework that we are built upon.

During November, make sure you remember to shop local and support the small businesses in your community! Bluume celebrates the importance of small, local business all month long. Make sure you stay up to date with all things Bluume by following us on all our social media.

By Rhett Doolittle

The Five Metrics Your Local Small Business MUST Track

Know Your Numbers: The Seven Metrics Your Local Small Business MUST Track

According to the Small Business Administration, about one-fifth of small businesses will fail within their year in business. Just a mere one-third of businesses will make it to ten years.

What many business owners aren’t aware of is that there are simple steps you can take to keep you on the right side of that equation and increase your likelihood that your business will be around for the long haul. At the top of that list is knowing your numbers, and we don’t mean just knowing your daily sales. Yes, that’s certainly important, but by itself it tells you little about your performance.

It’s like looking at your weight, for example. Is weighing 150 pounds a good or bad thing? That all depends on various factors. Weighing 150 pounds could be clinically obese (if you’re 4 foot 11) or downright skeletal (if you’re 6 ft. 2).

You would need to look at your weight in context: How tall are you? Is it an increase or decrease over last week? What is that number like compared to last month? Last year? Do you have rocks in your pocket or are you holding a 10-pound baby? And what are your other vital statistics, like your age, temperature and blood pressure? Of course, that example is a little simplistic,  but it serves to get the point across: numbers can be useful, but to really get the most from them, you have to look at various metrics and track them over time, and in relation to each other. When you do that, you can get a full picture of how you — or your business — is doing.

You have to look at various metrics and track them over time, and in relation to each other.

Here are seven metrics you must be tracking for small business success:

1. Inventory Alerts

Many small businesses rely on employees to oversee inventory and alert management when stocks are running low. This process is inefficient and introduces the potential for human error into your business that you may not be able to afford. When you don’t have a wanted or needed item in stock you don’t just miss out on revenue, you also damage your relationship with your clientele. After all, a sure way to send a customer away disappointed is to tell them your restaurant is out of their favorite dessert, or that your health food store ran out of the protein powder that’s become an indispensable part of their daily routine.

“If you’re sold out, then you’re turning away people who are primed to buy–and that’s worse than having no customers at all”

-Mike Sowinski, CFO Consultants Founder and Business Expert Mike Sowinski in Entrepreneur Magazine

Not managing inventory properly can also affect your bottom line by tying up too much of your cash in inventory. You may think, “well, it’ll sell eventually…” but what if the overstocked item is a slow seller and you have to discount it to move it? It also may be occupying resources that are more profitable or that represent faster turnover.

In fact, after looking at two decades’ worth of retail data, researchers from Vanderbilt and Cornell found that the companies with low inventory and high turnover outperformed those with high inventory and low turnover. Proper inventory management is even more critical in the restaurant business where spoilage and waste are huge issues. According to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, up to 10 percent of food purchased by restaurants becomes kitchen loss before reaching the consumer. Food is typically the largest cost for a restaurant, so reducing food waste even a few percents can be the difference between a profitable restaurant and going bankrupt.

Additionally, regardless of the type of business you run, proper inventory frees up money to use in other revenue-generating areas, such as marketing.

Instead, of guessing, imagine having an inventory alert set up right in your POS to let you know when it’s time to order, and what and how much to order. This information lets you limit waste, direct resources where they’re most effective, and free up cash flow.

2. Top product sales

Any savvy business owner knows at a gut level that you should figure out what products are selling best — and sell more of it. Likewise, you want to eliminate the clunkers and maximize your sales. However, it’s the “figuring out” part that can be tricky. After all, you’re probably not at your business 24/7. You can’t rely on anecdotal evidence from your staff (your morning employee says, “the new mocha’s a big hit!” while the afternoon barista tells you they didn’t sell a single one… who’s right?). The only way to know at a level that can drive your business decisions is to track it.

Having a POS system that can provide reports on top product sales lets you see objectively which products are the most popular. Then you can cross-reference this data with other reports, such as profit margin and inventory, to ensure you’re investing your cash where it’s going to give you the biggest returns to the bottom line.

For example, the latest quarterly report shows that your customers love the black Yeezy trainers but aren’t so excited about the PVC wedges, and you’re only selling one $850 pair every week. Compare that to the trainers, which retail for $250 and are selling three pairs a day.

Now, you can make an intelligent decision about whether or not you should order three times as many trainers as wedges because you’ve got the hard data to work with. Having this information lets you plan promotions for poorly selling items with higher margins, or dedicate more shelf space to inventory that will turn over quickly. Once again, the name of the game is looking at the numbers in the context of other metrics so you can make the right business decisions to reach your goals.

3. Sales by hour

If you are not currently tracking some of the other metrics, such as product-based profit margin and top-performing products, it may seem like overkill to talk about tracking sales by hour, but this data is essential, particularly in a service-based business.

When you know your sales peaks and valleys over the course of the day, you can make adjustments like:

Ensuring you’re staffed correctly for peak sales hours, so you can maximize sales results and provide ideal customer service. If you know there’s a post-church rush on Sundays, you can staff accordingly.
Saving money by reducing staffing levels during slower hours. Staff to your traffic levels — not above and beyond what you need to serve your customers effectively.
Implementing specials for slow days. If midweek evenings are a slow night for your bar, implement “Tequila Tuesdays” to bring in the customers.
Adjusting your marketing efforts to correspond with different times of the day. For instance, you can run Facebook ads just on specific days or times, or create special “drive time” radio ads for your pizzeria that play only when your potential clients are more likely to be in the mood to pick up a quick dinner on the way home.

Again, it’s not just the data that makes an impact; it’s the decisions you can make based on the data that will make you a more effective businessperson. Any time you can cut costs, provide a better experience, or increase traffic — or all three — you’re in the driver’s seat for building your business.

4. Sales by employee

“That which is measured, improves”

-Peter Drucker, Business expert

Nowhere is this truer than when you’re tracking sales by employees. Not only does creating a log of sales by employee over time help you understand who your best salespeople are so you can reward them accordingly, having this data helps in a number of other ways as well. For example, it allows employees to compete against themselves. A little healthy competition isn’t a bad thing, particularly if employees are encouraged to compete against themselves and improve their own metrics.

It enables you to create a “best practices” training environment. Your POS report shows that Syd is a whiz at encouraging diners to start with an appetizer, and her tables never leave without ordering dessert. How does she do it? Now that you know she’s got the top sales for the past three months, you can dissect her approach and teach it to your other employees. Most employees want to perform better, but simply don’t know how. Now they can model your most successful employees and improve their own sales.

It makes it possible to identify the bottom performers. You probably have a feel for who your best — and worst — salespeople are, but it’s tough to make employment decisions based solely on your gut. With your POS per-user sales report, you now have proof to back up your hunch. Based on that data, you can implement remedial efforts to train your less effective performers — and eliminate them, if the need arises.

Just knowing how people are performing will help with the myriad management and training decisions you have to make on a regular basis.

5. Sales by weather

Have you ever wondered how the weather can affect your business? Wouldn’t it be nice to know — not just guess — if the hot weather really does cause people to head to the barbershop for a trim? What if you knew that a rainy day meant half as many customers, while temperatures over 80 degrees brought a 15 percent increase?

Sometimes, logic doesn’t pan out. If it rains, are people more or less likely to head to the mall? Are they more or less likely to order another round of drinks? Are they more or less likely to buy a new sweater, stock up on reading materials at a bookstore, or get their nails done?

Only your POS data can tell you with certainty.

And once you know what the data says, you can take action:

Bring on extra staff when the data shows the weather’s going to have a positive impact on business, while reducing staff when you know times will be slow.
Do an email blast for a “Christmas in July” sale on accessories because you know your store traffic drops when the temps rise.
Run a promo where every time the mercury hits 90 degrees, you’ll give customers 25 percent off their order.

Lest you think tracking sales according to the weather is wasted effort, consider the birth of a little beverage called the Frappuccino. In the early 1990s, a manager in Starbucks’ Southern California region noticed that sales of their coffee drinks dropped when temps rose.

After doing a test run in a single LA-based store, the company rolled out its new iced blended drink nationwide in 1995. “Frappuccino changed the trajectory of the company by bringing in new customers who were not normally coffee drinkers, and filling its stores in afternoons and during warm weather when coffee business was typically slow,” according to the company’s website.

“20 years ago, the business, Starbucks hadn’t launched into a whole host of warm weather markets. We were reliant on the holiday season,” manager Dina Campion said. “With Frappuccino, we were able to level out the dips in store traffic in the summer.”

To date, the beverage and its tens of thousands of iterations accounts for about 11 percent of the company’s overall revenue, or over $2 billion per year…

…All because one manager noticed the link between the weather and sales.

Your Most Valuable Tool

Running and growing a small business is not easy. However, having real-time, detailed data is like having a personal advisor. It allows you to decrease costs, increase revenue, staff appropriately to serve your customers, and save time and make decisions with confidence.

In sum, having the right data at your fingertips enables you to make more effective decisions with confidence. When you have the metrics you need, when you need them, you’ve got a competitive advantage over other businesses in your class.

While it may sound complicated or nearly impossible to track these various numbers, it’s actually quite straightforward, with the right POS system. Your support expert can even help set up the reporting so you don’t even have to think about it with the needed data coming right to you.

Trying to make decisions without all the information is like trying to land a plane with no runway lights. It can be disastrous to have partial data. Don’t settle for half — get all the information you need to build your profitable small business.

If you’d like to hear more about how Bluume can help you track the data you need to make the right decisions, contact us today.

5 expert tips and ideas to prepare your small business for the holidays
The Five Metrics Your Local Small Business MUST Track