We’re in the middle of the frantic holiday season, and for most of us, it's a time of enormous potential and significant challenges. While increased sales are a welcome boost for businesses, navigating the competitive landscape, staffing shortages, and rising costs can feel daunting.

Fortunately, your Chamber of Commerce can be a powerful ally in transforming these challenges into opportunities for your members. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common holiday struggles and how the chamber can help.

If you’re not doing the items listed below, they’re something to consider. If you are, ensure your audience knows how you can help.

Challenge 1: Competition

The holiday season is a battleground for retailers. Big box stores and online giants have vast resources and marketing budgets. How can small businesses compete?

Chamber Solution:

  • ​Joint marketing campaigns: Encourage small businesses to pool resources with one another and reach a wider audience through coordinated promotions, social media campaigns, and events. Better yet, help bring them together by making the introductions or suggestions. Last-minute joint bundles and discounts can be big motivators for buyers.
  • Small Business Season or shop local initiatives: If you’re running one of these initiatives, tell everyone. If you already have, tell them again. Sick and tired of telling them? Make a video and show them.
  • Awesomeness Highlights: See a business doing something terrific, and give them a shoutout on your channels. For instance, one local business did a deep data dive and came up with a 2023 in-review graphic. It was fun and showed people the impact they had individually on the community.

Challenge 2: Staffing shortages

Finding and retaining qualified employees is a major challenge for small businesses, especially during the busy holiday season.

Chamber Solution:

These solutions take a little longer to implement but they’re something to consider for next year.

  • Job fairs and workshops: Organize job fairs specifically for small businesses and offer workshops on improving recruitment and retention strategies. Consider hosting a “holiday help” expo for businesses and people looking for holiday work.
  • Partnerships with educational institutions: Collaborate with local colleges and universities to develop internship and job placement programs that connect students with local businesses. Check with local schools as many are off for a few weeks during Christmas time. Letting them know of businesses that have temporary openings can be a win for everyone.
  • Mentorship programs: Pair experienced business owners with new entrepreneurs to provide guidance and support on managing staffing challenges through the busy season and year-round.

Challenge 3: Rising costs

From inventory to shipping, the rising cost of goods and services can significantly impact small businesses' profit margins. Businesses are looking for a way to cut costs.

Chamber Solution:

  • ​Negotiate bulk discounts: Leverage the Chamber's collective buying power to negotiate better deals on things small businesses might not be able to afford on their own such as benefits. Saving them money on the types of things that make them an employer of choice can make them very loyal members.
  • Create a member partner plan: For the next holiday season, consider creating a member partner plan that lists members who work in fields that could benefit other members, particularly at Christmas. For instance, members who create websites, manage cybersecurity, provide marketing services, handle social media, and other types of activities benefitting businesses can help your members get their business in order and be more appealing for the upcoming holiday. For this holiday, encourage people to consult your business directory for these types of businesses. Many times, members need help to be more competitive but aren’t sure where to start.

Challenge 4: Lack of online presence

Today, having a strong online presence is crucial for attracting customers and driving sales. Even when people are shopping in person, they often check online deals elsewhere and businesses don’t want to be left out of that by lacking an online presence. Consumers may also search about a business before going in. If the business has a lackluster website, shoppers may never enter the business.

On the other hand, the business’s social media presence can help people get to know, like, and trust them, and draw interest. Some people will go to a business after a positive social experience and others will follow a link to buy from them. Both are important in capturing sales during the holiday.

Many small businesses, however, struggle to develop and maintain a professional website and engage effectively on social media.

Chamber Solution:

  • Encourage them to tell their story: Every business has a story, and it doesn’t begin with the date they opened. Help your businesses tell their story in a way that is compelling and interesting. It should be unique to them not interchangeable with everyone else in town.
  • Dive deep into video: Video is one of the most popular forms of media they can use. If they’re hesitant to shoot video, help them out by creating videos of your members either as quick walk-throughs, interviews, or a “favorite finds” reel.
  • Share their special social: There’s no way as a chamber that you have time to share every post for every member, nor should you. Instead, share things that are spectacular such as a member’s Christmas display, cookie recipe, or gift-giving guide.
  • Suggest mobile offers. There’s no fighting it. People love to shop online. Encourage members to use text and a mobile offer or two to get sales from last-minute or impulsive shoppers. Speaking of…

Challenge 5: Reaching the Procrastinators

Some of the quickest weeks in the year seem to be at the end. It’s also a time of unparalleled last-minute purchasing. It’s a terrific time to increase sales for most businesses if they understand marketing.

Chamber Solution:

  • Teach them to leverage the fear of missing out: Explain to businesses how there’s already a deadline fast approaching for holiday sales. Teach them how to use it by creating a short video with examples. With video, they can watch them whenever they have a moment, unlike having to clear their schedule to attend an event.
  • ​Create a countdown: Whether it’s a countdown to the holiday or the last day for holiday shipping, show members how to effectively use a countdown to drive sales.
  • ​Issue Last-minute and/or thank-you discounts: Encourage businesses to go through their past-customer lists and issue last-minute thank you for shopping discounts or give a special discount to be used on their next purchase. Past customers are an easier target than new ones.

While it feels like the end of the holiday is upon us, there’s still plenty of time to attract last-minute buyers. Your chamber can help small businesses see this and create the opportunity for a great finish to a thriving holiday season in your community.

Want to do something for small business during the holiday...

Make a big impact on small businesses and your chamber's success by participating in Small Business Season. If your chamber is not already signed up, go to https://bit.ly/sbs-2023. You can come in at the Basic Level or the Professional Level.

Small Business Season is not just a campaign; it's a movement to support the backbone of our communities. Together, let's make this year's holiday the most prosperous yet for our local communities! 

Join us for Small Business Season!


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