All good things must come to an end. We hope you have enjoyed the Small Business Success Summer Series with Donna Fenn. This will be her final blog post, but stay tuned tomorrow for her interview with Nikhil Arora, the co-founder of Back to the Roots.
For her final tip on making the holiday season a smashing success, Donna had the chance to sit down with three small business owners and chat about how to maximize holiday cash flow, which can be overwhelming with all the holiday hustle and bustle.
Janet – @jzablock
The Price is Right: Use Pricing to Maximize Holiday Cash Flow
By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert
Many entrepreneurs have love/hate relationships with the holiday season. At this time of year your business may be firing on all cylinders and the cash may be rolling in, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed unless you have a solid strategy for keeping the flow of business on track. One great way to do this is by using pricing to your advantage.
Use discounting strategically. At ScanDigital, a company that digitizes photos, slides, and film, CEO Anderson Schoenrock, says he typically sees a 40% increase in sales over the holidays. While the company offers discounts throughout the year, “we offer our final discount of the year on Black Friday,” says Schoenrock. “From that point forward, all orders are processed at full price. Between better efficiency due to the sheer volume, as well as more full-priced orders coming through the door, we see profitability increase by 10-15% during the fourth quarter.” Last year, the company offered 20% off plus free shipping (which essentially amounted to 30% off). This year, Schoenrock says he’ll offer a straight 30-35% off to drive larger volume, and he’s considering a tiered discount structure to incentivize larger orders.
Connect your price break to a cause. “When you’re buying a gift for someone, it’s nice to feel that you’re giving back,” says Joy Chopak the founder of Gunamuna, a startup that makes wearable sleep sacks for infants, which can help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Chopak offers a 20% holiday discount on select products to retailers and directly to consumers in October, which is also SIDS Awareness Month. “We donate to the Safe Sleep Campaign and we also ask retailers and consumers to pass some of their savings on to the charity as well, “says Chopak. The price break also encourages retailers to stock up early for the holidays, which gives Chopak’s cash flow a boost and makes her own holiday schedule a bit more predictable.
Stand firm on pricing. “We don’t get into a race to the bottom on pricing,” says Chris Zane, the owner of Zane’s Cycles in Branford and Fairfield, Conn. “So we don’t ever have a holiday sale.” What he does instead is make post-holiday returns very easy for his customers. “All year, we have an unconditional return policy,” he says. If customers know they won’t have a hard time returning an unwanted gift, they’re more likely to spend, even at full price. After the holidays, Zane typically gets $15,000 to $20,000 in returns, which can wreak havoc on cash flow. So he offers every customer the choice of a full refund or a store gift card with an additional 10%. “90% of people will take the gift card,” says Zane. “So we don’t lose cash in the drawer at a time when we really need it.”
Remember that your primary goal should be to make your customers feel comfortable buying your product or service sooner rather than later. Offer early discounts, promotions, or other incentives for them to pull the trigger before the rush. And when your promotion ends, stand firm on your pricing; an eleventh hour discount will only encourage the procrastinators.
Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.
Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 22, 2013 at 8:54 am