I will admit that it seems a little bit cruel to be bringing up this subject mere days after most Canadians have settled into their couches to recover from Thanksgiving, but for small businesses of all kinds it paramount to look ahead at the winter season to come. That’s right. Christmas and New Year holidays approach, and with them what will likely be one of the busiest times of year for retailers, restauranteurs, creative professionals, and a myriad of other small businesses.
That being said, lest your thoughts turn to panic at the prospect of preparing for the holiday rush, there are some simple and effective ways to ensure that it won’t overtake you in a wave of things to do and deadlines to meet. Your small business holiday preparations will help you make the most of the seasonal change while keeping financially stable and low on stress.
This is the big one. If you haven’t thought about your plans for the winter season, there’s no time like the present. Whether winter is a high season or a low one for your business, think well in advance about how you will need to retool, adjust and launch new initiatives. If your goal is to roll out a new marketing campaign or promotion, set a hard date on it well in advance of your “real” target: allow customers to slowly but surely absorb the new message rather than rushing them into it. Take consumer momentum into account as it builds throughout October and November. Build a promotion schedule that will aid you planning what offers and channels will be promoted when. Remember to build in production time for design and content that needs to be created – for example: gift guides or staff picks. This schedule can be weekly or daily – so long as you remember what you’re doing and when.
As Christmas approaches across the world, children will start to think to themselves: “have I been good this year?” – and it’s not a bad question to ask of your small business, either. Look back at what you did last year at this time, and consider how you might improve it. Did a particular order sell exceptionally well? Or did a specific promotional strategy fail to bring customers through the door as readily as you expected? What did your balance sheet look like? Have new trends emerged in your industry that you need to be on top of? Did your e-commerce website have the resources ready to meet the increased demand?
Think of Your Customers
As you get busier during the run up to the holidays, it’s important to set out a clear picture for your customers’ expectations. Identify the schedule that might determine when they should order items that need to ship before a critical date. Make any changes to your operating hours clearly visible on all the channels through which you connect to people. Allow your customers to prepare with the same prescience and confidence that you have applied to preparing your business.
Consider Your Staff
Increased demand can beget the need for more staff in order to have enough hands on board to cover the necessary bump in business. Looking at the trend map from previous years will help with this decision, but ensure that you have the time, money and space to pick the right short term help during the holidays. Don’t forget that this time of year can be stressful for employees as they themselves need to adjust to working pressures as well as the external demands of family, social gatherings, end-of-year financial number crunching, and the desire to take time off where available.
Don’t Forget January
The holiday rush is exciting and challenging, but don’t let the spike in activity melt away like so much snow. You’re likely to connect with new customers, foster supplier relationships, and partner with other local small businesses during this time period: make sure that you can convert these opportunities into longer-term sources of revenue and advocacy for your small business year-round. This would be a great time to increase your business’ newsletter circulation, offer promotions that might be redeemable in the future, and incentivize online-savvy individuals to follow your social media channels.