This year, Black Friday is expected to once again set sales records. If you own a business, particularly one in the retail industry, here are some last minute tips for getting the most from the day.

Determine your last-minute sales goals

The great thing about Black Friday is that it opens the door to a large number of prospects and existing customers who are interested in what you have to sell. The primary question is: How much do you think you can sell on Black Friday? Without a sales forecast, it will be hard for you to guide your company in the right direction. You might not have enough inventory, which would result in lost sales. Equally troublesome, you might have to deal with frustrated customers because you didn't increase your part-time holiday work force.

So examine your historical Black Friday sales results and come up with a realistic number for this year's big shopping day. This will help you determine your inventory, work force, payroll, equipment, and marketing needs, to name a few. An accurate Black Friday sales forecast, even one you put together at the last minute, is the backbone of efficient, profitable, and customer-focused business.

Prepare the staff

If there's not enough time to hire new employees, it's important to train the existing staff how to handle the extra customers. Schedule the right number of workers, and make sure you have enough tending to the cash registers during peak time periods. On Black Friday, shoppers get frustrated when they have to wait in long lines or can't find someone readily available to assist them. The right number of staff members will keep your shoppers happy and cash registers ringing.

Last-minute inventory check

Shoppers today are more demanding than ever. They expect quality, low prices, and a positive shopping experience. If their expectations aren't met, they will move along to a different retailer, especially on the biggest shopping day of the year. Shoppers also expect, particularly on Black Friday, for the items you are selling to be in stock. If you don't have the inventory, you will miss out on sales opportunities and give a boost to your competition. So stock up, as needed, prior to the Black Friday weekend; if you're short on cash, a short-term working capital loan is a great option. If you are buying in large quantities, ask wholesalers or suppliers for discounts.

Offer incentives to employees

You will need to meet with your long-tenured employees and seasonal staff members and provide them with a Black Friday overview. Delegate responsibilities, explain sales goals, and create an employee schedule. You might also want to offer special incentives to your workers to keep them energized, as some are known to mentally check out during the holidays. Give your hard-working employees welcome words of encouragement and recognize their accomplishments to keep morale high.

Launch a last-minute Black Friday online marketing campaign

The big advertisers' integrated marketing campaigns will be seen and heard on all media, and local businesses will allocate funds to promote their Black Friday deals. Your intended audience will be exposed to several thousand marketing messages every day leading up to Black Friday, so you will need your last-minute marketing efforts to stand out from the clutter and be price-driven. Everyone has a tight budget during the holidays, so consider offering incentives.

Website updates

Making periodic updates to your company website helps keep it optimized for search and shows your visitors that you are active online. Promoting your Black Friday deals and extended store hours is a sound online strategy. Put this information, along with images of the products that will be on sale, on your homepage. You can promote your upcoming Black Friday deals via social networks such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

Pay-per-click advertising

With pay-per-click advertising, you cre­ate small ads that promote your Black Friday specials and place them on search engines. Each time the ads are clicked, you are charged a set price. When users click on your PPC advertisement, they can be directed to a page on your website that is relevant to the Black Friday content in the ad. PPC advertising is highly specialized and needs to be outsourced to an independent web specialist or search en­gine optimization company.

Summary

It's only a matter of time before Black Friday is here, so getting ready now is a smart business decision. Don't just assume that you and your employees can work longer hours and still provide your customers with top-quality service and a memorable shopping experience. There are a number of things that can go wrong and make Black Friday a disaster for your business. These might include running out of inventory or shopping bags, a point-of-sale system malfunction, a website crash, or not having enough employees to help your customers. Taking the time to prepare for Black Friday can help your business avoid potential problems. Even better, it can help you sell your products and services like never before.

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