Continuing the Christmas cheer into the New Year

Another year over. A new one just begun.

When the decorations are looking worse for wear, and you can’t stomach another helping of Christmas leftovers, you know it’s time to get back to work.

Coming off the high of the Christmas rush, January can be a nervous period for business owners as consumers set their New Year’s resolutions in motion – spending less and exercising more.

The post-Christmas slump is a very real phenomenon for most sectors, and if trade doesn’t pick up quickly or there’s no buffer in place, this slide in sales can cripple small business.

It’s easy to say “preparation is key”. And I agree, you should be putting plans in place now for this time next year.

But that’s not helpful for businesses needing sales, and money, today.

Before you rush into the new year, make sure you’ve had time to reflect, rest and reset.

Don’t launch into a full annual review, but take a quick look at the figures and trends of 2017, what clearly worked, what didn’t, and get some clarity and closure on that before moving forward. Even writing a dot-point list of the lessons you learnt during the last year can help.

And although our waistlines might suggest we’ve had more than enough ‘rest and relaxation’, make sure you’ve actually had a chance to switch off and reset.

Christmas can be a hectic time, filled with travel and family gatherings, or for many business owners, a lot of work. So try to take at least a couple of days to yourself before launching into the new year.

As the slow season sets in, keeping up appearances is everything. Yet marketing is often one of the first cuts businesses make. Nobody’s buying, so why bother?

Social media doesn’t take a holiday. Even if they’re not looking to buy, your customers are still using social media and checking emails over the Christmas and New Year period.

Social media algorithms favour pages that post often, so if you vanish from Facebook over the festive season, your posts are less likely to reach your customers when you do get back online.

It doesn’t mean you have to spend your summer thinking up fresh content, or spend a fortune on advertising.  Low cost digital marketing methods like social media and e-newsletters can be scheduled in advance, allowing you to deliver timely and relevant content to your audience. While you tuck into another slice of Christmas pudding.

While it’s important that you don’t lose momentum, if your business isn’t on track, don’t be afraid to switch lanes.

Have you ever found yourself feeling nervous about merging in heavy motorway traffic?

If you hesitate, you’ll get stuck in the wrong lane, hurtling 100km an hour toward the wrong exit and end up in a dead-end street of a back suburb. Already way off course, you waste more time driving around in circles trying to find your way back to where you started.

But if you watch the traffic, get the timing right, and take swift and decisive action – you’ll be on your way to your destination in no time. And it’s always easier than you expected.

Perhaps one of the most important moves you need to make, is how you market your business at this time of year.

A lot of businesses choose to tackle the January sales slump by slashing prices, offering two for one deals or throwing in bonus extras.

But when you’re trying to increase your profits, are discounts really the best approach?

The fitness industry is one of the few that thrive during the Australian summer. Gym memberships are at their highest in January, despite membership fees usually being at their peak.

Cost factor isn’t the motivation to buy here. It’s the post-Christmas bulge, the pants that no longer fit, and the disappointment people feel when they don’t like what they see in the mirror.

This emotional driver is powerful enough to make someone sign up for a 12-month gym membership at a premium price, even though reports show most will only visit three or four times. Data released by the Commonwealth Bank also shows that by the first week of February, Aussies have swapped Pump class for the pub, spending more on alcohol and cigarettes than health and fitness.

That’s why most successful marketing appeals to the human condition. It evokes memories, stirs emotions, and triggers the consumer into action.

Instead of telling them what you have for sale, or listing its features to explain why it’s the best, just get them thinking about how it will make them feel. When you connect with your customer on an emotional level, your goods and services will sell themselves.

Car sales traditionally plummet in January, but a car dealer that promotes a vehicle as an extension of the buyer’s ‘new year, new me’ campaign, will soon turn those figures around.

Some sales are motivated directly by the time of year. Take air-conditioning for example. Sales of air-conditioner units spike in Australia’s hot summer months, and servicing and repairs are also high in demand.  But appeal to the customer’s emotions, get them thinking about the discomfort of them and their family sweltering in a hot house when summer hits, and you will sell air-conditioners in the cold depths of winter.

So the time of year, and what you sell, really doesn’t matter if your marketing is right.

And remember, New Year’s resolutions never last.

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