To All of the Ebenezers - Have a Heart

If you are a business owner, put on your consumer hat for a moment. It is now the deepest part of the holiday season. We are all looking for deals because expenses are high and funds are tight. We are looking for deals because we have many recipients on our gift list; to show love of our family, gratitude for friends and thankfulness for those that go the extra mile. You know, spread some holiday love.

Now put your business owner hat back on. I know you are in business to make a profit - to grow, offer more, hire more, spread the economic love. It's good for everyone when you make a profit.  But at this time of the year - have a heart. In a barrage of emails starting in November, I've noticed the good ones, could-be-better ones and the I'm-taking-advantage-of-your-vulnerability ones. Like these taking-advantage examples;

1. Hiking up shipping charges. I wanted to order a box of 4x6 envelopes for my holiday cards. The box was selling for $2.99 for 25 envelopes on the Office Depot website only. I actually found this out after I visited the store to see they were charging almost $15 for a box of 50. What? Right? So I went home to order online. Only when I went to click on order, I noticed that is was costing me $9.95 in shipping (economy). What? Does it really cost that much to ship a box of envelopes to me? Don't take advantage of my need. You pushed me into this box by selling the store version much higher.  So now I'm really mad because I wasted my time visiting your store. Where I left empty-handed. (Let it be known!)

2. Lack of knowledge.  People are shopping for loved ones. So they may be dipping into unknown territory like guitars...or crafting...or some other hobby that is foreign to them. Don't take advantage of this. Be truthful in your sale and in what they are getting with it. For example, I had a HVAC company inspect my near-aging furnace. I don't know furnaces. I know how to operate my thermostat and it ends there.  Knowing that my warranty recently expired and that I have no clue how to measure the efficiency of my heating/cooling system, this company told me I had many parts 'failing'. The parts, since out-of-warranty, are extremely expensive and only covered for a year. And that I should be thinking about purchasing a new $8k system. I called somebody else for comparison's sake. They were honest. Told me I had at least another 5 years with this furnace and that I wouldn't need to replace the entire system at once.  Guess who will have my business from now on?

3. Desperation.  It's late in the season. There are low quantities available. Whatever the reason for this desperation, do not take advantage - no matter how tempting. Um...Hatchimals?  Hard to find since early November when they were being sold for $49.99. Every kid has one on the list. Now that supplies are sporadically being replenished, the price is now $69.99. Really? Did production costs go up that high in a month?

Just today, it was announced that an attorney in L.A. is filing a lawsuit against 4 major retailers on their pricing deception - making you think you are getting a better deal than you really are.

Don't be these businesses. Be somebody that everybody can trust and not feel like they have to constantly look over their shoulder.

Yes, take advantage of shoppers during the holidays to boost sales and gain new customers. You can do this without taking advantage of people's trust and naiveness. Because betraying trust is counter- productive and going against loyalty marketing concepts.

Here are some ideas for rewarding customers for choosing your business during the holidays:

  • Offer honest discounts and savings
  • Start a rewards program with this purchase to encourage loyalty beyond the holidays.
  • Throw in some free samples or offer a free service in the next few months.
  • Have them sign up for your newsletter.
  • Show compassion to charities.
  • Use this time to develop new ads and videos to reach new audiences.

These tactics will work. Honestly! And soon your loyal customers will be spreading love for your business well beyond the holidays.