My business has a ‘holiday rush’ but it’s really after the holidays.
My highest revenue products are wedding invitations and stationery. Wedding season begins with a bang right after New Years, when everyone starts initial planning after all those holiday proposals over eggnog and champagne.
So, much of my holiday planning takes place during the holidays. This isn’t easy considering I like to enjoy the holidays as well!
A few of the things I do in order to get ready for my busy period:
Design new products
Reach out to the media to share new products (I start this around the end of October)
I use these products keep activity and traffic moving towards the site. I can’t just coast through the holidays.
One of the ways I plan to maintain momentum during the holidays this year is have a series of advent posts (one each day of advent with some kind of treat) on my store blog. I’ve meant to this for awhile, but something has always gotten in the way. To make sure I don’t miss it this year, I’m starting draft posts now.
What steps do you take to prepare for the holiday rush?
If you’re a maker you already know that it’s never too early to start planning.
In the world of retail Christmas is exactly what you start planning early for. My suggestion is that you front load your work in September and October so you’re ready to go and able to manage problems as they arise.
Over here at Now In Store we like to get independent business owners prepped for success. I put together this Christmas guide, which we lovingly call the Ultimate Guide for Holiday Sales.
1. Use last year’s sales as a benchmark
To start, sit down on a comfy couch, with mug in hand, a pen, a journal, and your computer. Look up your sales from last Christmas (look at your sales from November 1 2013 to December 20, 2013 – or whatever your Christmas order cut-off date is) to set a benchmark for how much inventory or supplies you need this Christmas. Plus add 10-15% more. Not having enough inventory is far worse than having too much (you can always sell off extra inventory in the following months).
2. Collect data from your consumers
The purpose of collecting data is to have a data driven Christmas marketing strategy. This doesn’t need to be a perfect science where you end up with complex spreadsheets of data. No sir, feel free to be messy and add your flair to the data collection process.
Your first step is to simply create a survey with 5-10 questions. Use an easy and free software such as Survey Monkey, Type Form, or Google Forms. Ask your customers and your target customers about past user behaviour.
Here are a few example questions:
How much did you budget for Christmas presents last year?
How much did you actually spend?
To the best of your memory, list all the gifts you gave last year who you gave them to.
If you could change one thing about Christmas shopping what would it be?
Get the survey out as soon as possible, send it out to your previous customers via email. If you collect emails for a newsletter (like Jess does!) send this survey out with your next newsletter. Aim to get anywhere between 10-20 responses.
The insights you collect will be extremely valuable as you price your items, decide on discounts, and find the right messaging for your Christmas promotion.
I cannot stress how important this point is. If you do one thing from this article it’s this one. Collect data from your consumers.
3. Prep for Cyber Monday in the U.S.
If a large portion of your clientele comes from the U.S. you should definitely take part in the Cyber Monday insanity promotion. Cyber Monday is the online equivalent of Black Friday, where brick and mortar stores offer large price discounts the day after American Thanksgiving. It falls on December 1 this year.
Sit down and decide on what discounts you will offer on Cyber Monday and what discounts you will offer for the rest of your Christmas promotion. A rule of thumb is that the discounts you offer on Cyber Monday should be the lowest they go for the Christmas season.
4. Create a marketing timeline: treat Christmas as a keen student would their study schedule.
Marketing often falls to the wayside for many makers. Over here at Now In Store we firmly believe that the time spent making and promoting should be evenly split. Just as you would plan in advance to have all your supplies, so should you plan to have your marketing all mapped out.
We often encounter makers with sporadic marketing schedules that have not been tested or thought out.
If your marketing in the past has been based more on compulsion and impulse than a grand advanced planned process, it is time for a change. (You can tell if your marketing is based on compulsion if your response to “What do you do for marketing and promotion” is “social media”.)
Here is a rough example plan that is extremely flexible. Remember to keep coming back to the goals. Frequently ask yourself: Does this help me achieve my goal?
September – November Christmas Marketing Plan:
Goal: greater awareness about my product amongst my target market.
Quantified goal: increase high-quality converting traffic by 10% by the end of November.
Week 1 – Benchmark and collect data (see point #1 and #2)
Week 2 – Continue to collect data (see point #2)
Week 3 – Testing: partnership promotion (giveaway), targeted social media posts, and ads
Week 4 – Review: which test had the highest return on investment? Let’s say partnership promotion did. Focus on that for the month of October.
Week 1 – Email 20-50 potential makers to do a partnered promotion with
Week 2 – Partnership Promotion – test contest
Week 3 – Partnership Promotion – giveaway
Week 4 – Partnership Promotion – test a different promotion
Week 1 – Try and get press (appeal to local news, blogs – persevere)
Week 2 – Partnership Promotion
Week 3 – Prep for Cyber Monday (see point #3),
Week 4 – Continue prep for Cyber Monday (see point #3), tie up lose ends and set marketing plan for December
#5 Wrapping, cards and the little things
Plan to offer beautiful gift-wrapping, ribbon, customized cards, and tracking numbers. Offering these services (free or for a small charge) goes a long way. Especially for those running behind on Christmas…
#6 Last-minute services
Which brings me to this point. Target the procrastinators. We wrote a set of mini-guides for online sellers on how to target those who forgot Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (See: How to Take Advantage of Late Mother’s Day Sales) – and Christmas is no exception. Basic rule of thumb: continue to do some marketing very late in to December (even on December 23/24 if you have products in stock!) and offer expedited shipping at a higher charge.
To re-cap: plan for your inventory by benchmarking last year’s sales, collect data from your consumer (I repeat: if you do one thing – do this), prep for Cyber Monday, create a flexible marketing schedule with quantifiable goals, offer to wrap gifts, customized cards and tracking numbers, and target the procrastinators.
We will be writing lots of posts in the future about what we’ll be doing to prepare for the holidays but I wanted to ask the makers: What will you NOT be doing this year that you did last year? The answers may surprise you.
As it stands right now, I will not be doing any holiday shows this year. The past three years I have done shows at the holidays but this year I’m in a new location and I’m not sure what the “scene” is like yet. So I’ve decided to just focus online this year and hopefully I won’t regret it!
This year we have my husband’s niece staying with us while she attends a nearby college – so my plan (and part of our deal with her) is that I get some cheap holiday labor out of it! I also plan to stick to store deadlines so I am not doing any wholesale orders after the first week of November.
This year I will not be offering holiday gift wrap. Sure, it was lucrative, but we now offer so many products in differing sizes that it simply slows us down too much to wrap up each order! Maybe next year once we have added another member to the Gingiber team.
Most years since I started Epheriell, I have actually closed my shop in mid-December, to forestall those last-minute orders that people sometimes place when they miss my holiday delivery order dates.
This year, I’m not doing that. I’m going to keep the shops open, and just plaster ‘holiday break’ notices everywhere! Since a lot of my orders are non-holiday related (wedding orders), I don’t want to cut customers off from me for those few weeks if they just have a regular order. It comes down to maximising order taking time – because I know my shop will be shut for 3 months next year, so I need to maximise revenue while I can before that big break!
This year, I won’t be letting things get too noisy around the holidays. I’m like Clark Griswold in that I always overdo it. “Never mind that I’m hosting the biggest sale of the year for my business, let’s invite 14 people to stay with us for Thanksgiving weekend too.” – True story. I’m going to make space for a much quieter celebration, and I’m already looking forward to it.
I will not be doing any ‘big projects’ (like overhauling my website) next year. Instead I will focus on producing and marketing more products as well as perfecting systems that allow me to onboard more help. I also hope to spend less time on scheduling social media (as the result of hiring a helper) and when I do engage it will be real-time. Finally I’ll spend less time uploading products to all my online channels (my own store, Etsy, etc.)
This year I will not be doing every single craft and art fair in the area. I’ve become very selective after crunching the numbers from last year. I don’t just want to cover expenses and travel; I want to make enough profit to cover all the hours I’ll be standing there. So as a result, I’m only doing 2 shows this year instead of 5. I’m also setting earlier deadlines for my wholesale shops because I really struggled with stocking them AND keeping enough stock for my shows at the last stretch of the holiday season.
What about you? What will you NOT be doing this holiday season?