While we’re still a few weeks away from putting up the Christmas tree and holiday decorations, now is the ideal time to make sure your small business is set up and ready for the biggest shopping season of the year. Most businesses — especially those in retail — significantly add to their bottom line in Q4, but not without a little advanced planning.
It may seem early to start your Q4 planning, but trust me: you can never start too early. Use this as your checklist to ensure that you’re ready to roll once the frenzy begins on Thanksgiving.
- Get Your Sales Strategy is in Place
What’s worked to appeal to customers throughout the rest of the year might not be your best approach to attract business during the holidays. Your sales strategy might need to get a little more aggressive in Q4 to compete with everyone else slashing prices in an effort to holiday sales.
What are your goals for the holiday season? You should have specific, measurable objectives that you can work toward. If you set goals last year, assess results as you develop your strategy for this year.
- Identify the Products to Push
Whether you’re trying to ride the wave of a popular new product or get rid of some older inventory, your promotions should be aligned with what you want to sell. If you’re selling the hottest toy this holiday, you can either drop the price below what your competitors are selling it for or offer some additional value with the purchase. The latter strategy, naturally, doesn’t cut into your profit margin as much, and can create repeat business. Giving, for example, a gift card with purchase can not only boost sales of that product but also get people to come back and spend more later.
If you have aging inventory, consider bundling it with more in-demand products. Create gift sets of multiple products at a slight discount from what each product would cost individually. Market these bundles to send them flying off of the shelves.
- Align Your Marketing Plan
Just like your sales strategy, your marketing plan may need to shift slightly to accommodate the holiday shopping season. Your content marketing, advertising, promotions, and PR will need to reflect the time of year to appeal to your audience.
Promote your Black Friday sale on social media. Write holiday-themed blog content. Hold a holiday giveaway. Donate a portion of profits to a charity. Each of these are marketing tactics can help your business have a major impact this time of year.
- Plan for the Extra Staff You’ll Need
Because business picks up at the end of the year, you’ll want to ensure that you have all the help you’ll need. It’s key to deliver orders in a timely manner, especially if you are selling online. The season is stressful enough; the last thing you want is for customers to have to wait in line to check out or not get your order before the holiday. It’s worth the extra expense to bring on temporary cashiers or customer service agents to ensure that your customers’ needs are met.
Hire newbies early, and get them trained well in advance of the holiday. You want your entire staff to feel confident and adept at operating your point-of-sale software as well as with assisting customers. If you’re lucky, you’ll hire employees that are so wonderful, you might want to invite a few to stay on in January.
- Have Enough Inventory
You’ll likely need more stock than you’d otherwise keep throughout the year, so don’t wait until December to order. You risk the products you want being out of stock, as well as shipping delays, both of which can cause you to miss out on potential sales.
Before you order your inventory, do a deep assessment of which products you want to push in your holiday marketing campaign. Gift-friendly products will sell better than useful products. When ordering, ask your supplier for a discount for placing a larger order. It never hurts to ask, and if you get the discount, you’ll add to your bottom line.
If you break out the tasks you’ll need to handle for the holiday season, you’ll make your work easier for yourself. There’s a lot to juggle as things heat up approaching Christmas, so do yourself a favor by starting your planning now while things are relatively calm. Not only will you be well organized and ready to churn out those sales, but you’ll be less stressed in doing so.