Is that a misprint? No, not at all. You really should be thinking about next year’s Christmas now. Let me tell you why.
If you run a hospitality, leisure or retail business, Christmas is one of your busiest times of year and the last thing on your mind is probably next year’s marketing ideas. But now you have a captive and potentially new audience whom I’m sure you’d love to see again in the New Year and next Christmas too.
What better way to promote your Christmas/New Year/peak period events, promotions and activities than to give people a taste and show them what they’ll get, whether that’s having fun and celebrating at your venue, seeing your business and team looking their best in all their Christmas splendor, or hearing feedback from your happy customers?
So, here are some things to do now.
1. Always plan ahead
Plan ahead so that even on your busiest days, your customers get a fantastic customer experience. Being busy shouldn’t be used as an excuse to let your standards drop. And for many, this might be their first impression of your restaurant or shop so make sure it’s a memorable one so they’ll be happy to come back and recommend you to others.
2. Offer something extra
Put something in place now that will be an incentive for people to visit your restaurant, shop or leisure center again in the New Year. What might be an irresistible offer that gets them into the habit of coming to you at other times of the year? Plan this now so you’ve got everything set up. Feel free to read through my blog post A customer is for life not just for Christmas for more ideas.
3. Take photos
Once you’ve got your decorations up, take photos of your business in all its Christmas splendor while the decorations and Christmas tree are looking their best – don’t leave it until half the needles have dropped off or the light bulbs have gone out. Keep an eye out for a clear, frosty morning and go outside with your camera to take some shots of a wintery scene. Or if it’s a product you provide, a good idea is to capture details or samples of your handiwork so you’ve got something to show next year’s customers.
4. Record videos
If your business is somewhere people come to celebrate or relax, you should get some video footage of parties or people enjoying themselves – best when guests have just arrived and have had time to relax with their first drink. But don’t leave it until the tables are strewn with empty glasses. (Obviously, firstly always check with customers that they are happy for you to record, and secondly for the footage to appear on your site.)
5. Keep an eye on the details
Record details of what you’ve delivered to your customers so you can prompt them next time around. That way,you’ll be able to deliver a consistent service which is at least as good as this year’s.
6. Ask for customers’ feedback
Capture feedback from your customers; and if they’ve had a good time, you could ask them for testimonials that you could use in next year’s marketing. Find out what your guests liked and disliked. Make a note of what you’ll repeat or build on for next year – or perhaps what you would do differently. Do this now while their emotions are still running high from their experience – not in three weeks’ time when everything is back to normal.
7. Stay updated on your costs
Keep tabs on your costs to ensure you have an accurate picture of your expenditure and profit margins. If you run events or promotions, a good idea is to include post costings for each event to take account of uptake, wastage, and actual spend.
8. Note down failures and successes
Learn from your successes and failures. Take stock at the end of the season, so you can build on this for next year. Don’t kid yourself you’ll remember; you won’t… Make sure you record all of it in as much detail as possible. Then file it where you can find it easily and make sense of it when it comes to planning next year.
9. Involve your team
Get feedback from your team and involve them in the review process by asking for their ideas. What worked well for them, where did they struggle to meet customers’ expectations, what can be improved next year, what should be done differently to ensure the customer experience is still a great one even when you’re busy and so on.
10. Follow up with customers
Follow up with your customers to show your appreciation. Take this opportunity to remind them of any forthcoming incentives for them to return. Tell them what customers enjoyed over the Christmas period, and what else you have planned for the year ahead to sow the seed for further business throughout the year or at the same time next year.
11. Reward your team
Recognize and reward your team accordingly if they’ve put in extra hours or efforts to make your busy periods a success. If they know you appreciate them, they’ll be happy to do the same again next time.
Take the time to celebrate your successes and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
So if you want to capitalize on your existing business and keep those customers loyal and coming back next year, start planning now.
Caroline Cooper is a speaker, author, trainer and consultant on customer service and customer loyalty. Caroline is founder of Naturally Loyal who specializes in helping businesses develop their teams to deliver consistently great customer service to retain more of their quality customers. She is author of “The Hotel Success Handbook” on practical sales and marketing actions for small hotels and of the free Ultimate Customer Service Guide which you can download here.