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Finding the Right Festive Holiday Scent and More of Your Questions for December

Including how to handle necessary free increases.

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Finding the Right Festive Holiday Scent and More of Your Questions for December

Just about all our costs are rising. What’s the best way to raise our fees so as not to drive customers away?

Just do it, says small business strategist Andrea Hill. “Don’t make an announcement or excuses. If a customer happens to notice and brings it up, be transparent: ‘Yes, our suppliers have increased our prices and we’ve passed along some of that increase.’” Most people understand. “Be strategic and raise prices only where you need to,” she says. After that, focus on these three areas:

  • Double down on brand messaging. It’s time to reinforce those three questions you’re supposed to answer with everything you do: Who are we? What do we do that makes us different? Why do we matter? “Consumers will price-compare, but they find it difficult to abandon brands they trust,” Hill says.
  • Get creative with product selection. Offer options for all budgets. If you haven’t offered a “bridge” or economy line before, now’s the time.
  • Promote products with the best margins. Yes, prices are increasing, but those increases don’t occur evenly across all products and categories. Times of volatility will throw up opportunities if you’re looking for them.
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We want to be seen as environmentally conscious. Where to start?

If you are jumping on the green bandwagon because it seems the thing to do in 2022 (or that you should have done 5 years ago), you run the risk of being exposed by customers who know their BPA-free water bottles from the less environment-friendly kind. Steve Robbins, director of sustainability at branding consultancy Willoughby Design, recommends that when building your “green” brand, you work from the inside out. Start small and get everyone on board. That can be as simple as sorting your plastic from your paper or using vegetable-oil based printer ink, to a program as comprehensive as an energy audit. “When a client visits us…we bring a pitcher of ice water and lemons to the meeting room, instead of bottled water,” said Robbins. “It’s a small modification that takes no extra time or inconvenience, but it says a lot … [and] helps reduce costs.” Once you’ve got the home front organized, you can move on to evaluating the products you sell, and finally communicating your commitment to the environment, Robbins says.

What’s a good approach for dealing with a disgruntled customer — the type that just can’t be satisfied?

It’s true, some people just seem to want to vent no matter what you suggest. In such cases, the best approach is to ask them straight out what it is they want rather than offering up your own solution. “Listen, empathize, then ask,‘How can I make this right?’” suggests business coach Candace D’Agnolo. “Sometimes they may ask for something you can’t possibly do, but in most cases their request should be reasonable.” And if you can comply, “you know he’s going to leave satisfied,” she says.

I’ve got a string of black-tie industry/social events coming up. What’s the deal on getting a tux? Can I just show up in dark jacket and white shirt? Our practice vibe is pretty relaxed, after all.

Unless you can pull it off with the flair of Johnny Depp, we suggest you follow one of the basic rules of etiquette: When in doubt, overdress. The classic penguin suit is a single-breasted peak-lapel jacket paired with a French-cuff shirt. If you have some formal weddings or other events on your calendar this winter, you might want to consider buying your own tux and having it tailored. (Wear it six times and it’s paid for itself.) Final piece of advice: Your shirtsleeves should reach the base of your wrist bone, with a quarter inch of cuff showing. You don’t want to look as if you’ve arrived at your junior prom.

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How can I achieve the right holiday scent in my store?

“Including the right scent in your store during the holidays can be as important as the merchandising displays,” says Roger Bensinger of Prolitec Inc., whose AirQ service provides ambient scenting services. “Holiday scents can be a lot of fun, adding a festive air to your store and putting customers in the buying mood.”

Ask yourself:

  • What type of mood am I trying to create? A sense of home can be created through the use of traditional holiday scents: evergreen trees or mulling spices, for example.
  • Will I be offering any refreshments during the holiday season? If so you might consider adding a scent such as coffee or peppermint latte to increase the impact.

The owner of one optical told us she uses a branded scent that is diffused through their optical area, creating an experience “similar to that of a 5-star hotel” when patients walk in.

“Our patients always say that there is something different about our office but can’t explain why… but we know what they are referring to.”

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