Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’


4 Questions to Ask When Planning a Company Holiday Party

88a1e9184b62fcf2_shutterstock_165467636.previewIt’s the second week of December and a thought just hit you like a ton of bricks: you forgot to plan your company holiday party. Don’t panic. You still have time (and could always organize a New Year’s party in January instead). Not sure where to start? Christina Millikin, founder of Glow Event Design in San Francisco, offers four questions to ask yourself as you dive into planning.

What’s the budget?

How much are you willing to spend on this event? Be specific. “Saying you want to ‘make it nice’ means different things to different people, so it is best to start with a set budget and move backwards from there,” recommends Millikin.

Once you have a number in mind, decide what party components are most important. If securing a specific venue is high on your list, spend a good portion of your allotment there. If team-building activities are important, allocate your funds differently.

Who will be invited?  

Will this party be for your sales department or for your whole staff? Will you be inviting significant others? If you’re worried about over-extending your budget by inviting husbands and wives, hold the party during work hours. “But if you are planning it for a weeknight or a weekend, it is best to allow people’s partners to come along,” she says. “All of us work hard and spend time away from our families. You don’t want to take your staff away for another evening.”

What activities will be offered?

Many of us have been to holiday parties at restaurants where the sole activity is to hang out at the bar. Think outside the box this year by tapping into the interests of your employees. “If you have staff members who love bowling, for example, consider hosting your party at a bowling alley,” says Millikin. “Or transform your office into a casino for a night and offer prizes.”

How will alcohol be handled?  

Access to alcohol can be a little tricky at company parties. On one hand, you may want to treat your employees to a few recreational drinks, but on the other hand, you don’t want things to get out of control. “We’ve all been to parties where someone drinks too much, makes a scene and the mood is awkard the next day,” she says. “It really pays to think in advance about the temperment of your employees and how they may handle alcohol.”

Opt to offer just beer and wine or an open bar for a limited peroid of time, or forgo drinking altogether with a lunchtime party, recommends Millikin. “And always offer non-alcoholic options so as not to isolate anyone,” she offers. “Come up with a really fun mocktail and offer it as part of the menu.” 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 3 Ways to Keep Your Office Flu-Free This Winter

It’s that time of year—the time when hacking coughs, sneezes and nose-blowing ring through every small business. How can you keep your employees healthy (and productivity high) during cold and flu season? Here are three tips.

  1. Encourage sick employees to stay home. The benefits of having a sick employee come in to handle his or her work are far outweighed by the risk that the person will infect the rest of the staff. However, if employees feel penalized for staying home, they won’t do so. One study found that staying home just one day when sick reduces the chance of co-workers’ catching the flu by 25 percent; staying home two days cuts the risk by 40 percent. If employees are worried they’ll get overloaded with work while they’re out, try letting them work from home. At the same time, don’t require employees to work (even at home) if they truly need to rest.
  2. FluOffice_m_0926Keep it clean. Colds and flu spread in winter because people are more likely to spend time inside in an enclosed environment. Keep that environment as germ-free as you can by making sure your office is properly maintained. Keep disinfectant sprays on hand and regularly spray down door handles, break room surfaces, bathroom faucets and anything else that lots of people touch all day. If your staff shares tech tools like tablet computers, handheld bar-code scanners, desktop computers, cash registers or headsets, make sure you have the appropriate cleaners and cloths to disinfect these surfaces at the beginning of each shift or when people trade off their equipment. Also keep tissues and lots of hand sanitizer on hand—consider having some available in every room.
  3. Encourage healthy habits. Post signs in the restrooms and break room reminding employees to wash their hands with soap. Also post signs reminding employees to clean equipment that is shared. If your business offers health insurance that covers flu vaccines, encourage employees to get vaccinated. Since many people don’t want to make a special trip to the doctor’s to do this, see if your insurer offers any type of mobile vaccination clinic. Some medical providers will come out to businesses and provide flu shots for a fee. Even as a small business, you may be able to band with other local businesses to get this service or piggyback on a bigger company in your office building that is bringing in a flu shot clinic. 

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 6 Last-Minute Ways to Get Your Team in the Holiday Spirit

canstockphotDos-and-Donts-for-company-holiday-party-1024x661It’s too late to plan a company holiday party—you and your staff have been too busy to deal with it, and now all the venues you wanted are booked up and the caterers are busy. No worries: Here are 6 last-minute ideas you can still pull together in time to celebrate the season with your team.

  1. Volunteer. Celebrate the season by giving back to your community. Does your business already have a local charity or community group you work with? Do you or your employees have favorite causes that you love to help out? If so, find out what these organizations are doing and what they need help with this time of year. If not, check your local newspapers’ listings or talk to your chamber of commerce, Lions, Kiwanis or Rotary club to find out how you can help. Also think outside the box: Homeless shelters often have more volunteers than they can handle at Thanksgiving or Christmas, but charities such as animal shelters or battered women’s centers may be less swamped.
  2. Eat and be merry. Have a potluck lunch at your business where everyone brings in a traditional holiday dish. Or get creative: Have staff members bring in food from their family heritage, set a theme like Mexican or Cajun cuisine, or do a dessert bake-off where everyone brings in a sweet treat (bonus: You’re sure to have leftovers people can take home). Be sure to decorate festively and plan for appropriately themed music and silly games. Put an enthusiastic employee or employee committee in charge, give them a budget and see what they come up with.
  3. Secret Santa. There’s still time to put together a Secret Santa exchange. Keep it affordable (under $20 or even $10) so no one feels put upon. You can make it more fun by doing a Secret Santa grab where everyone gets three chances to “steal” a gift from someone else.
  4. Holiday contests. Hold an ugly holiday sweater or holiday costume contest where everyone dresses up. Offer prizes for the winner/s such as gift cards to local retailers or restaurants. Or have a cubicle decorating contest to see who can come up with the most over-the-top desk décor.
  5. Take time off. If you don’t have time to plan an event, chances are your employees are as stressed out and overloaded as you are. If your business schedule allows, consider giving everyone an afternoon off with pay. They’ll appreciate some extra time to get their holiday shopping done or just catch up on all the obligations of this time of year.
  6. See you next year. Instead of stressing about not having a holiday party, why not plan a New Year’s celebration? Rates for venues and caterers are likely to be lower after the holidays, and you’ll have more options available to you. Plus, you and your team will be more relaxed once the holiday rush is over. Bonus: In addition to looking back at the past year, a post-New Year’s party gives you a reason to look ahead and get everyone psyched up about the plans you’ve got for even greater business success in 2014.

Cheers!


Work Your Biz Wednesday: 5 Tips For The New Year

Is your business ready for the New Year? The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson, gives you 5 tips to get your business optimized for 2014 in this week's Work Your Biz Wednesday.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Use Free Shipping to Make the Holiday Sale

Want to provide great customer service this holiday season (and boost your sales in the bargain)? As we head into Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday and the rest of the holiday shopping season, one of the biggest motivators you can offer online shoppers is free shipping. Most major retailers offer some form of free shipping on their websites, so providing the same can help level the playing field with your bigger competitors.

Are you worried about free shipping eating into your profits? Of course, you’ll need to run the numbers and figure out what types of purchases you can safely offer free shipping for. Here are 3 ways to have the best of both worlds by providing free shipping without destroying your margins:

  1. Offer free shipping after a certain minimum purchase level is reached, such as $25, $50 or $100. You can vary the levels on different days, or send different offers to different customers based on their past purchasing behaviors. Shoppers will usually spend more than they intended in order to get the free shipping.
  2. Offer free shipping during a certain time frame. On highly competitive days, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you may need to offer free shipping just to stay in the game. (You can still set a minimum order level so you don’t end up shipping $1.95 products for free.)
  3. Offer free shipping for VIPs or members. Consider how successful Amazon has been with its Amazon Prime membership, where customers pay an annual fee to get everything shipped free. You could set up a similar program—either have customers pay an annual fee, or offer free shipping to customers whose annual purchasing stays above a certain threshold.

Make sure you clearly display cut-off dates and times for any free shipping promotions, as well as the “fine print” such as minimum order needed. Doing so will alleviate any customer frustration by preventing customers from loading up a shopping cart only to find they can’t get the items shipped free by the desired date.

Maximize your free shipping marketing potential by participating in Free Shipping Day December 18. Participating merchants guarantee free shipping by Christmas for orders placed on this day. You can learn more and sign up to be a participating merchant at the Free Shipping Day site. 

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How to Take Advantage of Small Business Saturday

small-business-saturday1-e1320932175381Black Friday is always a difficult day for small business owners to compete with the hoopla around early morning discounts at big box retailers. The day after Black Friday has become a day to focus on shopping at small businesses. American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010.

Here is how to take advantage this year on November 30, 2013 to drive customers to your company:

  1. Give $10 gift to each customer. Promote that American Express is offering a $10 credit to card members who register and use their card to shop at small businesses on that Saturday. Multiply this $10 when they use it at your company.
  2. Build a specific campaign leveraging this day and American Express’ brand. There are few times when a small business can tie their company directly to a national brand and promotion. This gives them the leverage of a large big box retailer. Build marketing offer specifically for this day. This can be exclusive pricing, bundles, free add ons or availability.
  3. Customized marketing material. Use free customized online ad cards, logos and other recognizable images provided by American Express.
  4. Social media starters. Use Twitter and Facebook templates available to help spread the word about your company leading up to this day. Use the #SmallBusinessSaturday hashtag on Twitter. If your business has never used social media, these templates are an excellent way to easily get started.
  5. Welcome mats. Free Small Business Saturday Welcome mats (literally) are available from American Express.  If you do not have a physical retail location, use the mats in creative pictures on Facebook or Pinterest.    
  6. Join a neighborhood circle. Get involved with local merchants to drive traffic to each others retail locations (or online sites). American Express will help you form this relationships. This is an excellent way to work with other local businesses that can extend well beyond this promotional day.
  7. Get on the map. American Express has built an interactive map to help their cardholders find and shop at small businesses. They are also giving their members an exclusive offer redeemable only at merchants that appear on the Small Business Saturday Map. Get found!

How will your business be promoting Small Business Saturday? 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Thank Your Military and Veteran Customers This Veteran’s Day

veterans_day1Veteran’s Day is next week, and if your small business numbers veterans as customers (or wants to attract them), here are some ideas for ways your small business can cater to, thank and help veterans.

  • Give a freebie. Lots of national restaurant chains provide free meals for veterans on Veterans’ Day. Consider offering something free to veterans, whether a meal, drink, haircut, car wash or downloadable ebook from your website. It’s even better if the freebie is something that a veteran might share (like a meal, where he or she might bring friends or family who will buy their own meals).
  • Give a discount. Post a special promo code on your website, social media and in your store that veterans, active-duty military or military families can use to get discounts that day.
  • Volunteer for veterans. Take the day off with your employees and volunteer at a local organization that helps military veterans or active-duty military families. Contact your local Veterans Administration to find organizations in your area.
  • Donate to veterans. Announce that you will put a portion of your sales for the day, or all profits from a certain item or items that day, toward a military cause. Visit Charity Navigator and review their list of veterans’ organizations to make sure the group is reputable.
  • Provide a free consultation to active-duty military, military veterans and families. A business such as a personal trainer, home remodeler or accountant can benefit by offering free consultations to help a veteran decide if he or she wants to pursue your services.
  • Celebrate veterans. Create an e-card customers can send to thank veterans for their service. The card should also offer a discount for veterans and military who buy from you. Share the e-card on your website and social media and encourage customers to pass it on. Check out this list of sites to create free e-cards.  
  • Hold a Veterans’ Day sale. You don’t have to limit your offerings to veterans—copy the big retailers and hold a Veterans’ Day sale. Consider offering special extra discounts to veterans, active duty military, military families or even customers who bring a military member or veteran with them.
  • Alert the media. Be sure to let local newspapers, radio stations, cable news and bloggers know about what you’re doing for the military members, families and veterans in your community.
  • Start planning now for next year. Advertising in military newspapers and on military websites is a great way to reach active-duty military and families, but you’ll likely need more than a week to place your ad, so while it might be too late for this year, it’s not too early to start now and plan even more veteran outreach for 2014. 

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Steps to Get Your Customer Service in Shape for the Holidays

Black Friday is only a little more than a month away (in fact, this year there will be two Black Fridays as Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah fall on the same day—a rarity that won’t happen for another 70,000 years). With competition for shoppers’ dollars stiffer than ever, is your small business prepared to offer the kind of customer service needed to stand out in the crowd? Here are some steps you should take now to get your business’s customer service in shape for the holidays.

  1. Staff up. I posted last week about hiring tips for the holidays; if you haven’t already got your team in place, get going!
  2. Educate. “Showrooming”—customers coming into your store to touch and try merchandise, then using smartphones to look for lower prices online—is a game-changer for retailers (and not in a good way). Combat the practice by making sure your retail associates are educated about the products you sell so they can answer all your customers’ questions and basically be more helpful than the Internet.
  3. Equip. Make sure your team has the tools they need for smooth selling this holiday season. That means a well-stocked inventory, up-to-date point-of-sale systems and mobile technology like iPads and smartphones. Mobile tools can shorten wait times if you use software like Square so customers can pay from anywhere in the store (instead of waiting on line). They can also help fight showrooming by allowing clerks to look up product information or check inventory levels. 
  4. Test. If you sell online, make sure your customer service team is ready for the holiday overload. Start by testing your website to ensure it can handle heavy traffic and that browsing, shopping and checking out are clear and intuitive. Provide a variety of ways that users can contact your customer service team, from email and phone to live chat. Speed things along by making sure your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), shipping, returns and other information is current and clear. If customers can answer their own questions, they won’t need your customer service team.
  5. Motivate. Customer service can be a grueling task during the holiday rush, so plan how you will reward and motivate your team. Setting attainable goals, holding regular meetings to bring up problems or concerns, and encouraging employees with rewards and prizes are great ways to keep your customer service reps powering through the toughest times.

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3 Creative Ways to Promote Your Business Around the Holidays

The holiday season is swinging into high gear with Halloween, Thanksgiving and December celebrations right around the corner. This can be an excellent time to empty out aging inventory, introduce new customers to your brand and pad your bottom line as you move into 2014.

Here, Evan Lamont, owner of TLG Marketing, an Internet marketing agency based in Long Beach, Calif., offers a few business promotion tips for this time of year.

Mobilize a mascot

Get creative with your online messaging by creating a mascot for your business, suggests Lamont. Establish Twitter and Facebook accounts for your mascot and send out promotions under those accounts. Your customers will love it.

“We worked with a local chiropractic firm and created a new personality for them, a skeleton,” says Lamont. “Many owners don’t want to be the direct face of their business. The skeleton is an example of how a business can answer client questions and promote the business in a fun way.”

Own a bakery? Establish a cupcake with a personal name as your mascot and Tweet as that persona. Own a pet shop? Establish a dog bone with a personal name and send out Facebook posts as that mascot.

“You want to keep two different social media presences,” says Lamont. “One that is generic for your business where you offer pertinent advice and industry news and one that is your mascot’s account where you offer creative deals, special offers and communicate with your community in a less threatening way. Mascots can be great for beefing up a brand.”

Connect with the local media

Regional newspapers and television stations are always looking for feel-good stories around the holidays. Tap into that need by creating an event that will help the public and then distributing a press release about it, Lamont recommends. Just make sure to notify the press well in advance of the event date (at least 2 weeks prior). 

If you own a CPA firm, schedule a seminar on how to save money over the holidays. If you own a bike shop, schedule an event where you teach parents and children about bike safety. Then reach out to media outlets. Chances are good that they will show an interest as long as your event serves the community.

Schedule a ‘give back’ sale

The holiday season is a great time to give back to those less fortunate. Tap into this opportunity by donating a percentage of your sales to a local charity on a specific day and ask everyone (including television cameras) to stop by, offers Lamont. Giving back will only increase public feelings of goodwill toward your business and customers will remember your philanthropic efforts long after the holidays have come and gone.

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