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STAFF PHOTO/LOWELL PHILLIPS Keith Yurgosky, business consultant for the University of Scranton SBDC, discussed marketing practices for the holiday season.

September may seem a little too early to think forward towards the upcoming holiday season, but for businesses, using this time effectively could make all the difference.

Keith Yurgosky, a business consultant for the University of Scranton’s Small Business Development Center, conveyed this message in Tunkhannock last Wednesday.

The Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce hosted Yurgosky as this month’s business series lecturer with “Marketing for the Holiday Season” last Wednesday (Sept. 11) in its office on Warren Street.

The University of Scranton’s SBDC provides business consulting and training programs in Wyoming, Susquehanna, Lackawanna, Bradford, Monroe, Pike, Tioga and Wayne Counties.

As a business consultant, Yurgosky’s outreach area includes Wyoming and Susquehanna Counties.

Through this role, he helps small businesses get started and existing businesses continue to find success.

“We work with existing entrepreneurs and existing business owners to keep them up to speed,” he said.

In Wednesday’s presentation, Yurgosky gave an audience of business professionals tips on how to boost their holiday sales.

The business consultant went over what motivates consumers to make purchases.

This includes deals such as free shipping and the ability to buy online with an in-store pickup option.

Limited time sales or promotions such as free gifts with purchases also draw in customers, as well as helpful customer service.

“All of those are known to motivate buyers to make a purchase,” he said.

Businesses can also greatly benefit from gift card sales, especially during the holiday season.

Since 33 percent of gift cards never actually get redeemed, Yurgosky called it “easy money” for businesses.

“Fifty-six percent of customers who redeem will spend 20 percent more than the value of the card,” he added.

Oftentimes, customers research products that are within a certain price point as well, so businesses can streamline the process by creating gift guides, especially for holiday shoppers looking for gifts on a budget.

“You’re helping the customers and making it easier on them by showing them what falls in that price point,” he explained.

Yurgosky also encouraged businesses to employ online strategies such as user generated content where people share information about products or a particular business.

This not only helps get the word out, but many people turn to online recommendations, especially millennials, he noted.

Lastly, Yurgosky encouraged business owners to make sure they’re listed locally in every way possible.

For example, members of the Chamber of Commerce receive a listing on the chamber’s online business directory, and businesses could also ensure an online presence through a listing with Google in addition to pages on Facebook and other social media platforms.

With the holidays approaching, Yurgosky said it’s important for businesses to stay mindful of these tips because a majority of sales come during the holidays.

With companies like Amazon dominating the holiday markets, this time period gives smaller businesses a chance to make their mark.

“We need to create an experience for our shoppers and create a reason to buy from us,” he said.

Sometimes this takes businesses banning together as well.

Using downtown Tunkhannock as an example, Yurgosky said one store staying open late doesn’t really give someone a reason to come out, but several stores staying open later at once provides an incentive to shop and perhaps also grab dinner somewhere local.

“You have to work with other businesses to create that environment to get people in town,” he said, noting that business owners can also collaborate in other ways.

With the holiday season approaching, Yurgosky encouraged businesses in Wyoming County to put these tips to use.

“It’s important that they are ready because starting in September and October, 25 percent of people are already making decisions on what to buy for Christmas,” he said. “It’s not too early to get started.”

Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce President Gina Suydam agreed that it’s beneficial for small businesses to begin thinking about the holiday season early.

“Keith brings a good perspective as far as what works and what doesn’t work with marketing,” Suydam said. “He stays on top of the latest trends and was able to discuss that with our members.”

In the presentation, Yurgosky commented on how social media platforms tend to promote videos before photos, which stuck out to Suydam as a way for businesses to promote new merchandise arrivals for the holidays and in general.

“I think that was something that stood out to people and I did see some businesses using that already, so that was exciting,” she said.

She also reminded Wyoming County business owners that they could use Yurgosky and the SBDC as a business resource in the future.

For more information about the SBDC at the University of Scranton, visit scrantonsbdc.com.