Whether you run a business with a physical location, or you operate completely online — it’s crucial that you start thinking about the Christmas season in advance, so you can be prepared for it.
You already know that any kind of marketing effort takes time to work, and Christmas can be the most stressful time of year for anyone in business. Naturally, the sooner you start planning, the easier it will be.
You can also do this for any other obvious holiday seasons throughout the year (Easter, Thanksgiving, Black Friday etc.) but we will be focusing on Christmas in this post.
Here’s how you can get your small business prepared for the festive season.
You don’t want to find yourself waking up mid-December and you’re up the creek without a paddle. Time goes quickly — especially when you’re running a business, so don’t let it slip away without making a plan for the holiday season.
Some businesses have their busiest time during Christmas, while others find they’re much quieter than usual. It’s your job to plan accordingly depending on this — particularly when it comes to your cash flow (which we’ll talk about in detail later in this post).
If you know sales will be lower than usual, you’ll need to have enough money to tide you over. Whereas if you know you’re going to have an extremely busy period, it’s probably worth investing in extra staff, or stock to meet those demands.
Have you got enough money?
So many businesses end up closing during the Christmas and New Year period. Is yours one of them?
If so, you need to work out what your cash flow will look like over the next 30, 60 and 90 days.
A budget for everything during this time including low income, staff holiday pay and bonuses, and the office party.
Take the time to do this properly, and forecast your expenses, so you can rest assured you’ll have a healthy bank balance to see you through the holidays, and you can relax without worrying.
Look the part!
If you own a physical store or restaurant, you’re more likely to think about sprucing the place up and making it feel festive during the holidays. But online stores often get overlooked completely.
Whichever one you have, it’s important to make an effort and embrace the season to be jolly!
Work with your current brand identity, and colours where possible, and take some proper time to plan how you can decorate your store and make it a joy to walk into (or browse on).
If you have a physical location, you’ll need to think of health and safety, but if you have an online store it will be much easier — especially as there are many decoration templates you can now purchase without needing design experience yourself.
This doesn’t mean it has to look tacky — stick to what works for you and your customer, but make sure your decoration isn’t an afterthought. Winter themes on their own can be really elegant.
A festive theme will make customers feel more welcome, and encourage them to stay longer, and purchase more!
If you sell physical products — offer gift wrapping
Plan ahead to make sure you have some pretty wrapping or gift boxes available for all purchases from November onwards (earlier if you’d like).
So many people (particularly men) are terrible at wrapping presents, and short of time, too. Offering this extra service means the entire gift is taken care of, and ready to give to the receiver without any extra work involved for the buyer.
Customers are usually willing to pay extra for this service, so it’s a great way to add to your profit margin, while also taking care of your customers.
Spread the holiday cheer in the office
Christmas can be a very stressful season for everyone involved. Your employees probably feel more under pressure than ever during this time — particularly if they’re having to deal with chaotic or angry customers.
So, what can you do?
Be sure to check in with them regularly and make sure they’re coping. Make sure they’re adequately trained to do the job you need them to do. Pair newer staff members up with old-timers to make sure they’ve got someone to reach out to if you’re not around. Stress the importance of maintaining a positive attitude at all times, even with difficult customers!
And if there’s a staff break room or canteen — keep them topped up with some treats now and then to show your employees you care.
Most people want to take some time off during the Christmas period, so you need to organise a rota for your staff that keeps track of this, and makes sure you don’t have a shortage.
If you’re not going to be busy around this time, then as we mentioned, you’ll probably close for a few days. But if you are going to be busy, you need to make sure you have enough people to share the busy workload. Hiring temporary members of staff is a good idea to fill a gap as and when needed.
But make sure your opening times and hours are clear to your customers as far in advance as possible, so they know when they can and can’t visit you.
Offering discounts on items or even delivery costs in the run-up to Christmas can be a great way to drive more people through your doors. This will also increase the chances of you being recommended to their friends, and talked about often.
If you can afford to offer free delivery, then consider doing so, because this will give you an edge over your competitors.
Think about advertising
You don’t need me to give you a marketing lesson right now — you already know by now that there are plenty of advertising options available to you and your business. You’ve just got to decide the best route for the customers you want to attract.
You might use ads on facebook or Instagram to bring more visibility to your business and your offerings — which are pretty simple to set up and get running. You might also use Facebook ads to re-target people who have already visited your website.
You may choose to advertise a Christmas sale using Google Adwords or use Google Shopping to display specific products.
Prepare for refunds
If you run a store where people are purchasing gifts for other people, you will probably have to deal with refunds at some stage.
Check on your refund limits beforehand to make sure you don’t have any issues. Keep a copy of all the transaction receipts and file them securely. There are many systems that will now keep digital copies of all your transactions so you don’t have to keep stacks of paper.
If you run an online store, make sure there’s a system in place to deal with a larger volume of email queries from customers, as well as to process returns in a timely fashion.
Start planning for your Christmas season early enough, and you can be sure you’ll have a successful one.
Follow these steps, and you won’t go wrong. Plus, you’ll have more time to relax with your loved ones and get merry, without being totally stressed out.