This is a guest post by Divya Pahwa of Now in Store.
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.