Between school vacations, travel plans, holiday parties, and gift shopping, there's no doubt the holidays are stressful.
When you add running your own small business to the mix, that stress is sure to double...trust me!
With your time already limited, you'll want to be as prepared as possible for the holidays. That's why I've put together a helpful list of things you should do before the holiday season really kicks in!
1. Do Your Research
Take a look at your competitors and the types of products they sold during previous holiday seasons.
- Did they primarily offer holiday-themed products?
- Did they focus on products for the new year?
- Did they make any limited edition products?
I also suggest taking a look at their social media posts to get a feel for how they promoted their businesses during the holidays.
Are you interested in learning more about effective competitive research? The competitor section of my eBook, "The Essential Guide to Building a Brand," includes 8 pages on this topic alone!
2. Start Preparing 3-6 months out
Start building up your inventory, determining your marketing campaigns, and planning out your discount campaigns well in advance. Your holiday season is going to be busy; having a plan and starting early will be a life-saver!
I recommend having your social media and email marketing campaigns planned out, written, and scheduled ahead of time. Posting content and sending out emails on the fly is hard to begin with, let alone when you're strapped for time!
People expect sales during the holidays, so make sure you determine your discount campaigns in advance too. While you might rarely offer deals on your products, if you want to be competitive, now is the time to do so!
A lot of shoppers also expect free shipping during the holidays. Consider offering free shipping on orders over a certain amount or running free shipping sales throughout the season.
3. Build Brand Recognition
Generating brand awareness ahead of the holiday season and maintaining it throughout is so, so, SO important!
People tend to shop at brands they are familiar with. Consistent branding creates a sense of familiarity, which helps consumers feel more comfortable doing business with you.
Even if a consumer isn't ready to buy, when they finally are, they'll be more likely to buy your product instead of a competitor’s, especially if said competitor is a brand they've never heard of.
To learn more about branding and why every creative entrepreneur needs one, check out my blog post, "4 Reasons Every Creative Entrepreneur Needs a Brand."
For those in need of a little more help, I definitely recommend downloading a copy of my eBook, "The Essential Guide to Building a Brand." In addition to getting a crash-course in branding, readers use interactive worksheets to work through the same steps used by professional marketers.
4. Create a "Shipping Station"
By "shipping station" I mean an area of your home where you can set up everything you'll need to ship out orders.
Creating a "shipping station" not only makes order-packing easier, but it'll also help you keep track of shipping supplies that are running low. Staying well-stocked cuts back on shipping times and increases the number of happy customers!
To help you make your own shipping station, I've put together a checklist of everything you'll need, plus a template for making your own custom-sized shipping boxes (a big-time $$ saver).
In addition to these must-have supplies, I highly recommend adding some branded packaging to your orders. This could be anything from a sticker with your logo to a branded thank you note.
One great way to stand out is custom packaging tape. This can help add a little flair to those boring kraft boxes and also help you build brand awareness.
My go-to place for all things adhesive is Sticker Mule. They don't only offer custom packaging tape, but they also offer custom poly and bubble mailers!
Sticker Mule's packaging tape is a reinforced gummed paper tape that is water-activated to securely seal your boxes. Each roll is 2.81 inches wide and every 300 feet is enough to seal over 100 packages.
5. Know Your Shipping Deadlines
Research the holiday shipping deadlines of your preferred mail providers and make those dates known to your buyers.
Add these dates to your website, post about them on social media, and send them out in your email newsletter. Make it clear to consumers that if they order past these deadlines, their gift might not arrive in time for Christmas.
Research what your competitors have done in previous holiday seasons. What products did they sell? What kind of sales did they run?
When it comes to the holidays, the earlier you start planning the better. This includes building your inventory, creating your marketing campaigns, and determining your sales.
Set up a shipping station to speed up your shipping and handling process. Click here to download my shipping station checklist.
Learn your holiday shipping deadlines and make sure you broadcast them to your shoppers.