Ho, ho, hold up. We’re interrupting your summer to bring you Christmas in July. While it seems like the holidays are far off in the distance, the end of summer is the perfect time to do some small business holiday planning.
According to the National Retail Federation, the winter holidays can represent as much as 30 percent of annual sales for retail businesses. Prep for this peak season by putting together a holiday marketing plan four or five months in advance. This will give you time to set goals, implement new programs and get everything in place with time to spare. Here are six tasks to do now to prepare your business for the holidays.
1. Plan Your Inventory
Reviewing last year’s fourth-quarter sales can give you an indicator of what you might expect this year. This will give you an idea of how many products and materials you need to order so you can factor in lead time, especially if you import items from overseas. You don’t want to worry if there’s a delay in shipment, as a January delivery won’t do you any good. Also, take the time to organize your inventory of products so you’re sure of what you need.
2. Create a Promotion Calendar
Start thinking about the sales and specials you plan to offer during the holidays. When promotions are thought out in advance, they’re easier to implement during the busy season. Identify products, dates, and offers and write your marketing campaigns and advertisements now while the pace is slower. This helps avoid making last-minute mistakes that could cost your business revenue or customers.
3. Start Looking for Seasonal Workers
A busy season means increased foot traffic and online orders. You’ll need to make sure you have staff in place so you can offer great customer service. Don’t wait until too late in the season to hire employees or it may be hard to find good people. Start looking for new employees you can hire in early fall so they’re trained and up to speed by the time the holiday season arrives. A great place to start is to ask your current employees if they have friends who are looking for a job, as employee referrals are a significant source of hires.
4. Confirm Your Shipping Options
Don’t overlook shipping as part of your customer service. Check in with your shipping company to get holiday shipping dates. Being able to deliver purchases on time during the holidays is crucial. Also, confirm pickup options as well as rates. If you’re offering free shipping promotions, you want to be sure you’re getting the best rates.
5. Check Your Website
Now is the time to make sure your website is running efficiently. Check every page for mistakes or glitches that might send error messages. If you’re making any changes to your website, make sure the updates are done and tested well in advance of the holidays. A website that crashes or isn’t user-friendly can be a liability, especially when many customers will be researching products online before deciding to purchase anything.
Also take this time to update your website’s search engine optimization (SEO), which will help you rank higher on a search engine’s results pages. Many customers look online before making a purchase and having strong SEO can make or break your business during the holidays. Make sure your site is optimized. Ask yourself, “What would a customer search to find me?” You might also want to add phrases to your product descriptions that might be searched during the season, such as “Christmas gift for teachers” or “holiday hostess gift.”
6. Build Your Blog and Social Media Following
Social media is an important part of your advertising and sales, so focus on building your following during the summer and fall so you have a strong presence when it’s time to share your holiday promotions. In addition to planning your holiday promotional calendar, write your blog and social media posts ahead of time. Creating and coordinating your content helps you deliver a streamlined message.
Christmas in July isn’t just a cute saying — it’s an important part of small business holiday planning. Make sure you and your business are ready so you can give yourself the gift of great sales during the holidays.