Every year, the holiday season seems to sneak up on consumers everywhere (and it often does so earlier and earlier, as we’re all eerily familiar with.) However, for businesses of all kinds, lacking preparedness for the holidays is simply not an option. For many small businesses in particular, the end of the calendar year can be a make or break period. Orders may jump in volume – or they may drop off and signal that now is the right time to look inward and plan for the busy season to come. Owners and their employees will look to balance their work obligations with their personal time. Customer service becomes the factor that will push you above and beyond your competitors. Finally, marketing and outreach strategies, both in brick and mortar and e-commerce, will take on renewed importance for this specific time frame.
Don’t let the holidays stress you out. Here are our top pieces of advice for small businesses whose wishlist includes a profitable, manageable holiday season.
The ideal place to start with any plan for the upcoming holidays is, of course, your data from the previous year. What were your biggest successes? Did any products or packages sell particularly well, or did any underperform? Do you recall thinking “I wish I could have thought of that?” What lessons from ongoing trends in your market can you apply to your approach this year, and how has everyday life changed over the past year for your core audience? Take the time to review, and apply the lessons that may have gone unpracticed since you last focused on your seasonal marketing.
Make a Calendar
Many households are decorated with advent calendars, counting down the days to the 25th of December. While one of these might be visually appealing for your small business to display, a different type of calendar might be more valuable than even the delicious chocolates hidden inside the more common variety. By this, we mean a promotional calendar of course! You need to consider supply chain and manufacturing schedules as well as your business’ available working capital—alongside your marketing plan—to take anticipated changes in order volume into account. Include important milestones such as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and others relevant to your market. If you operate on social media, build the content release schedule into your calendar as key customer deadlines, such as those for shipping, draw near.
Innovate More Than You Discount
It’s easy to offer steep discounts on your products or services in the hopes of attracting more customers. However, this strategy generally works better for larger businesses. As a small business, taking this approach can quickly make profits plummet. The best way to compete against larger-scale competition is by building relationships with your audience, creating opportunities to partner with other local businesses, hosting events, or creating value-add incentives that will entice consumers in ways that go beyond pricing.