The holiday season can bring in a huge influx of potential revenue for many small businesses, while others experience a significant slowdown during the holidays. Whether you’re a business that thrives during the holiday season or one that sees a decrease in sales, it’s important to plan ahead to make the most of the season. How can small businesses plan for the holiday season?

Understanding your sales cycle

sales cycleThe first item any business owner should undertake is understanding the over sales cycle for your company. Does the demand for your product or service stay constant regardless of the season, or do you offer something that is in higher or lower demand as the holidays arrive?  Do you sell a commodity item, or perhaps a more high-ticket item that requires budgeting on behalf of the buyer?  Understanding how your business ebbs and flows throughout the year, especially during the holidays, will go a long way in knowing how to plan for the upcoming holidays. Regardless of whether there’s increased demand for your product or service, your offerings are not impacted one way or another by the season, or you potentially see diminishing sales during the holiday, you can plan for any of these three scenarios by understanding your sales cycle.

How to get more sales this holiday season

If you’re a business who sees an increase in sales during the holiday season, planning ahead will ensure you enjoy not only increased revenue, but that the season is a successful one for you and a good experience for your customers. Score has six tips for preparing your small business for the holidays:

  • Order supplies now – Check last year’s orders to anticipate how much of basic supplies you’ll need. Remember to order early to avoid rush shipping charges later in the season. Being prepared can help you meet your customers’ needs with ease.
  • Determine your holiday hours – The holidays mean extended hours for those businesses that see an increase in sales during the season, so establish your hours early and let your customers know your business hours.
  • Make sure you have enough inventory on hand – If you sell a product, make sure you have enough inventory on hand to meet the needs of your customers. If you offer a service, make sure you have the resources and staffing to be able to effectively provide a high level of service in light of increasing demand.
  • Ensure that your website is ready – Every year we hear stories of how business website crash, unable to handle the increase in traffic. Make sure your website is technically up to snuff. If you have promotions that you’re running, be sure they’re up early and clearly found on your website, so your customers can take advantage of your offerings. And don’t forget to post those holiday hours!
  • Get in the spirit of the season – If you’re a brick and mortar business, it’s time to decorate for the holidays to get staff and customers alike in the holiday spirit. If you’re an online business, you can still get in the spirit of the season by writing holiday-themed blog posts, adding holiday flair to your site, and again promoting holiday specials or hours on your site.
  • Start your holiday marketing early – Marketing for the holidays should start months in advance!  Think two to three months of holiday marketingmarketing to really see an impact on your sales. That means marketing for Halloween starts in July/August, Thanksgiving in August/September, and Christmas in September/October. It’s a good idea to create a marketing calendar to plan for email blasts, mailers, ads and social media efforts. Whether you offer coupons, discounts, or special shipping offers, etc., you want plenty of time to get people excited about your business and what you’re offering for the holidays. The week before Christmas is NOT the time to send out coupons; you’re way too late to the dance at that point. Take the time to see when ALL the holidays are, including those shopping days, and take advantage of them now. Check out these holiday marketing ideas to get started.

Planning for a slowdown in business during the holiday season

There are a lot of small businesses that see a significant decrease in sales as the holidays approach. If your business is one that slows down significantly during the holidays, it’s critical to plan ahead so you’re not caught off guard. There are several activities that you can do to potentially increase revenue during the season, or better prepare yourself when the new year rolls around.

  • Offer holiday-related products or services – Offer a product/service that people use during the holiday season. As an example, if you’re a small business marketing consultant, perhaps you can offer a holiday marketing strategy or holiday marketing calendar. Think of how you can spin what you offer into a holiday-themed product or service to make it more desirable during the season.
  • Run a big holiday sale – Everyone expect a sale during the holidays. Why not offer a holiday sale for your products or services?  You could offer discounts to new clients, or even have a sale to upsell existing clients. Give customers a reason to purchase your product or service during the holidays by enticing them with big savings.
  • Create a charity event – The holiday season is the ideal time to give back, and cause marketing will benefit both you and your charity of choice. Increase your sales while benefiting others is a win/win for everyone, and customers are always willing to support a business that helps others.
  • Start planning and preparing for the new year – There are simply some businesses that cannot increase demand on products or services during the holidays due to their seasonality. You can still take this slower holiday season to plan for the new year. Take the time to do a complete review of your business. Where are there opportunities to improve? Do you need to revise your marketing strategy?  Perhaps it’s time to update your business plan. Set some goals while you have the extra time to plan for the new year. Create a few new year’s business resolutions that you can work on to hit the ground running in January.

How small businesses plan for the holiday season can make a significant difference in how business owners weather the holiday season. If you’re not sure how to approach the holidays for your small business, reach out to a small business professional to help you plan and have a successful holiday season.

Patty Hughes
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