It’s only September, but the time is NOW to prepare your small business for holiday season sales. One thing I’ve learned in my decades-long career helping small businesses is that you can never start too early for the holidays. Q4 sales can massively increase your bottom line, but to maximize your results, you’ll need time. Check out my list below for 7 steps to prepare your small business for holiday season sales.
7 Steps to Prepare for Holiday Season Sales
The frenzy begins on Thanksgiving Day, so the time to prepare for holiday season sales is now! Here are 7 steps I recommend to the small business owners I work with.
1. Set Your Goals
As you prepare for holiday season sales, you’ll want to project the numbers you’d like to see in terms of sales, profit, customers, etc. Making accurate projections will help you with the other items on this list, including ordering the right amount of inventory, having an adequate number of employees on hand, and setting the right budget for your marketing. To set goals and make projections, look back on past year’s data to make predictions about this year’s sales. Some things to analyze from past years include:
- Sales during the holiday season (Thanksgiving through Christmas or the New Year)
- Inventory levels
- Marketing efforts that worked (and didn’t)
- Busiest days
- Products and services that sold the best
2. Build Your List
Another thing you can do right now is to work on building your email list. Even if you haven’t been building your list throughout the year, you can double up your efforts and make significant gains in the next month or two. Your email list is vital to your marketing efforts, and if you start adding leads to your list now, you have time to nurture them and build a relationship before the holiday season begins. If you’re new to email marketing, check out my 6-week online course, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing!
3. Choose Your Products
A calculated holiday season sales plan includes selecting which products you want to push in your marketing campaigns. Whether you’re trying to get rid of old inventory or want to encourage sales of a new product, your promotions need to be aligned. Research what will be hot in your market/industry this year, or consider asking your customers what’s on their radar.
When you’ve identified the products you will push this holiday season, review your current inventory and order ahead of time to ensure you have what you need. The longer you wait, the more likely you may face problems like shipping delays or out-of-stock products.
Bonus Tip: You can also consider creating your own gift guides to highlight your products and steer your customers toward specific items. You can add your gift guides to your website, write blogs about them, and post about them on social media.
4. Think About Your Sales Strategy
To prepare your small business for holiday season sales, you must realize that this time of year may differ from the rest of the year. What worked in March may not work in December! With everyone slashing prices, you might need to get a little more aggressive in Q4 to remain competitive.
With your holiday season goals in place (see tip #1 above), you can start devising a sales strategy to help you reach those goals. What promotions, offers, freebies, or other incentives will you try out this holiday season?
5. Layer on the Marketing Plan
Setting goals, building your list, identifying products, and thinking about sales strategy are all necessary steps to think about before you layer on your holiday season marketing plan. You’ll want to complement all of the decisions you’ve made thus far, so your content marketing, advertising, social media marketing, email marketing, PR, and all other parts of your marketing align.
When planning out your marketing, keep in mind big dates like:
- Black Friday: The Friday after Thanksgiving is the big kick-off to the holiday shopping season. What will you do to grab a slice of the sales that day?
- Small Business Saturday: Local small businesses may want to focus on Small Business Saturday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving) when consumers are encouraged to ‘shop small’ and support local businesses.
- Cyber Monday: If you’re an e-commerce business, you’ll want to consider how to use Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) to boost holiday season sales. What will you do to increase website traffic to your online shop?
- Panic Saturday: Panic Saturday is the name for the Saturday before Christmas when last-minute shoppers flood in to complete (or start!) their shopping. Do you have a marketing plan to get those last-minute holiday season sales?
While you may not participate in all these important dates, you’ll want to select one or two to include in your holiday marketing plan and have additional marketing ideas for each week leading up to Christmas.
6. Plan for Extra Staff
Chances are you’ll need a little more help when business picks up for the holidays, which is why one important way to prepare for the holiday season sales is to plan for extra staff. You’ll need enough workers to handle your projected sales increase and keep customers happy. Although you’re looking closely at the numbers and wanting to maximize that Q4 profit, hiring a temporary cashier or customer service agent is typically worth the extra expense, so your customers get the best experience shopping with your business.
You’ll need time to train your workers for the holiday season, so hire early and create a training program to teach them what they need to know to work during the busiest time of year. Training your staff will give them the confidence they need to assist customers and use technology like point-of-sale software. You might even hire some workers that are so wonderful you’ll want them to stay on in the new year.
Bonus Tip: Make sure to document your training program, including the extra elements that are only relevant for the holiday season. That way, you’ll have them for next year too and won’t have to reinvent the wheel.
7. Focus on What Makes You Unique
As a small business owner, you may find it hard to compete against your bigger competitors on price during the holiday season when businesses are slashing prices to bring people in the door. Therefore, your holiday season sales and marketing plan should focus on accentuating what makes your small business unique (and thus why customers should shop with you).
What makes you unique might be the type of products you sell, your connection to the community, your level of customer service and personalization, or something else. Figure it out now, so you can use it to motivate new and old customers to do business with you this holiday season.
Boost Your Holiday Season Sales!
One-third of small businesses say they are most profitable in the fourth quarter, which illustrates why it’s never too early to think about and plan for holiday season sales. Follow the steps above, and you’ll be ready to boost your sales this season and create loyal customers that will follow you through to the new year!