By Amy Castro//October 31, 2023//
By: Amy Castro//October 31, 2023//
The holidays are here, and it’s probably one of your busiest times of the year, both for your business and personally, and it can be tempting to coast to the end of the year. However, the holiday season is a fantastic opportunity to showcase your products and services, attract new customers, and keep them loyal without creating too much extra work for yourself. Here’s why now is a great time to launch a year-end push for new customers.
Many people are at their happiest and in festive moods this time of year, so they’re more likely to treat themselves and their fur babies to something special. You and your team can jump on this holiday spirit sleigh by offering holiday-themed products and services. For example, you might offer themed gift baskets or stockings with holiday toys, treats, and accessories for dogs or cats so your customers can quickly check Olaf and Mittens off their holiday shopping list. Groomers could offer a holiday photo prep makeover package with a festive haircut and accessories so customers’ furry friends look spiffy on the family holiday card.
The holidays can also be very stressful for those who have to travel during the busiest travel time of the year. If you offer boarding, many people need to find a reliable and trustworthy place to leave their pets while they are away. You can position yourself as the perfect solution to travel stress by letting current and potential customers know you provide high-quality care and attention to their beloved pets. However, you can take things a step further and stand out from the competition by offering special activity services such as snow playtime or changing up the themes of your accommodations. Your standard “large dog suite” could become your “Big Dog Ski Chalet” for the season, with a name change and a few simple changes to décor, toys, bowls, or bedding. You can also offer discounts or incentives for referrals, positive reviews or repeat reservations.
The holiday season is a time of giving and gratitude, which means it’s an excellent time for you to show your appreciation to your existing customers for their loyalty to your business by sending them thank-you cards, holiday newsletters, or emails with helpful information about special pricing, coupons, freebies, or special events you’re having. You can also include practical advice on how they can keep their pets healthy and happy during the holidays. Finally, you can show how much you care about your community by donating a portion of your profits from a special event or offer to a local animal shelter or charity. If you do, be sure to make it known on social media and write a news release for the local media letting them know what you’re doing so that potential customers hear about your good deeds.
Along those same lines of marketing and publicity, creating a catchy, holiday-themed marketing campaign that reflects your brand can really set you apart during the holidays. Be sure to use multiple channels to convey your message, from social and traditional media to email marketing, signage, and banners on your property and in-store to reach your audience. Take the opportunity to engage new and potential customers with things like photos with Santa, a social media photo contest with pets dressed in holiday outfits, or a special gift guide with recommendations for different types of pets.
At the beginning of this column, I said this wouldn’t be a lot of extra work, so if you’re starting to think I was lying, here’s an idea to lighten the load. A great way to attract new customers is to partner with other local businesses that have the same target market as you and offer complementary products or services to yours. For example, you could partner with a pet-friendly cafe, hotel, or store and offer cross-promotions, referrals, or discounts. If you’re in a walkable town or city, you could co-host a holiday-themed scavenger hunt with a prize at the end for the winners. You can also collaborate with a local charity or animal shelter and donate a portion of your sales or host a fundraising event.
Customer service should also be front-of-mind always, but especially during the holidays. Now is definitely not the time to drop your guard when it comes to customer service. If your customers are already stressed out with what’s going on in their lives right now, they’ll be much more sensitive to poor service and much more reactive. Every year you hear stories of the holiday chaos in stores and the bad treatment of customers on the part of frazzled customer service providers. Because first impressions are lasting impressions, providing calm, expert, excellent customer service can make a big difference in how new and existing customers perceive your business and whether they will come back or refer others. Therefore, before the holiday traffic starts to rise, be sure to hold refresher training with your team on dealing with stress and providing outstanding service.
Finally, don’t forget your internal customers, your team. Everything you do for them impacts their ability to provide excellent service to your customers. The holiday season is just as busy and stressful for them as it is for your customers. They’re juggling long hours, high customer demand, and increased pressure to meet sales goals as well as their kids’ expectations and possibly family drama. As a leader, you need to show your support and help them cope with holiday stress.
Remember to provide that positive feedback and appreciation we’ve talked about before. It goes a long way in boosting your employees’ morale and motivation. Let them know that you appreciate their hard work and dedication. Think carefully about scheduling and be as flexible as possible. If you can, let them have some control over their shifts and breaks. A more flexible schedule can help them balance their work and personal obligations and reduce the risk of burnout. Also, remember that people who don’t have children shouldn’t be the ones to pick up all the extra holiday hours. Just because someone doesn’t have kids doesn’t mean they don’t have family or friends they’d like to be spending time with. You can also show your support by encouraging them to work together to create a positive and collaborative work environment as well as creating opportunities for them to interact socially and have some fun, through a special team lunch or holiday party. Because finances are often tight for employees this time of year, incentives and rewards can provide some year-end motivation you need to keep customers happy. Be sure to reward employees for their hard work and achievements, such as meeting sales targets or getting positive feedback from customers. Remember that rewards don’t always have to be monetary, so if your budget is just as tight as theirs, you can offer small non-monetary incentives, such as gift cards, year-end bonuses, or extra time off.
Implementing even a few of these ideas can help you attract new customers to your business and keep existing ones Labrador loyal during the holidays, keeping your business profitable and growing well into 2024.
Happy holidays from our team to yours!
Amy Castro is a business and leadership expert who speaks, trains and consults with pet businesses that want to build best-in-show teams that deliver a Five-Star Customer Experience. She’s also the host of the Starlight Pet Talk podcast, where she interviews pet industry experts and others to give advice and information for pet parents to help their pets live long, happy lives.