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7 Tips to Prepare Your Business for the Holidays

The holidays are one of the busiest times of year for many businesses, and you don’t want to miss out on them. To ensure you’re ready to take advantage of the potential revenue, keep the checklist below on-hand while you prepare your business for the holidays.

With your checklist in hand, it’s time to start mapping out your holiday strategy. You may think it’s too soon to prepare your business for the holidays, but the close of summer and the beginning of fall is the best time to start preparing.

As a business owner, you should put yourself in a position where you are prepared for the holiday season. In order to do that efficiently, review and analyze any hiccups that occurred last year, including what you weren’t prepared for, shipping issues and revamping hours of operation.

Here are seven tips for you to get started on planning for the holiday season.

  1. Staff input

The first item on the list is to meet with your staff. It’s important to include their input in this process. Ask them what they noticed last year during the holiday season. What was their experience? What was it that they think worked successfully? What failed miserably?  And make sure to discuss holiday schedules if necessary.

Additional holiday hours are typically needed to accommodate additional sales and orders, so develop a schedule for additional hours for your staff. Staffing additional man-hours may be out of the norm for your business, so try incentivizing your employees to work overtime.  There are different ways that you can go about this. The obvious and popular way is a monetary incentive, but you can try offering additional time off after the holidays or gift incentives.

If the end of the year is a time that your business is closed on some days, developing a skeleton crew is a must. This would work by having some staff work on some days and then alternate days or hours. As a business owner, developing a plan to use a skeleton crew is also good to lower the expense of paying for additional hours. But once again, this will depend on the type of business that you operate.

  1. Stay organized

During the busy time, you definitely have to stay organized. So, what can you do ahead of time to make sure everything is in order? If you have a brick-and-mortar location, getting organized includes making sure that your location is clean and holiday ready. This should include ordering holiday decorations and cards if you don’t have them already.

The holiday season is the time that you should also order any additional supplies that you may need. Research online tools that you can use during the holiday season, which may include online tools to track inventory and shipping as well as social media marketing management systems (think Hootsuite). You can start now by scheduling your social media marketing campaigns and posts.

After you have met with your staff and you have determined the amount of personnel you need, start scheduling their hours now. By preparing the schedule now, you won’t have to worry about it later when you’re swamped with clients and orders. As a business owner, you know there will be emergencies or situations that you can’t foresee, so it’s always a good idea to make sure that you’re not short-staffed. Depending on your type of business, it may be a good idea to hire additional seasonal staff members if your budget allows it.

  1. Review policies

Reviewing current strategies is important to counteract any holiday season-related hiccups. Take the feedback that you received from your staff and implement it in your policies. During this busy time, it should be imperative that your customer service is impeccable. This ensures repeat business year-round. Therefore, you should review all of your policies concerning returns and shipping.

As it relates to shipping, some businesses participate in Free Shipping Day. This can be a win for you to attract customers. However, it’s important to make sure that the process is a smooth one. If you decide to participate, make sure that your policies are updated to reflect it. Initially, there may be some hiccups, but if you plan for them, they don’t have to become a headache.

After you’ve met with your staff and come up with a plan to embrace the holiday season, you should strategize. In order to reap the benefits of the holiday season, develop a holiday marketing plan to increase your profits.

Think about it this way: How many times have you walked into a store like Wal-Mart during October and have seen nothing but Christmas trees and decorations? You should be doing the same for your business. How will you strategize for the holiday season? Here are a few suggestions on what to include in the marketing plan: 

  1. Create a marketing strategy

Strategizing in the anticipation for this time of the year is a great idea for any business. So, make sure to incorporate creativity in your holiday promotions. Do something different to attract all of those holiday shoppers or clients who love to spend this time of year. Perhaps include a handwritten note to your existing client base wishing them a Happy Holidays with a small sample of your product. By doing this, you’re showing customers your appreciation while also keeping your business in their mind.

  1. Promotions/Sales

With the presence of end of year holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes discounts and sales. It’s a great time to entice your existing customer base with discounted products and services, which is always a good marketing tool! Use this to your advantage by sending targeted incentives (such as coupons and exclusive deals) to a preferred customer list. While promoting the business, it may be a good idea to inform your clients of any pre-holiday promotions. However, don’t go overboard. Remember: You want to make a profit, too!

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)/Content marketing strategy

Similar to your regular marketing plan, in anticipation of the holiday influx, you should make sure that SEO and content marketing is implemented wisely. Go back to your previous years’ campaigns and analytics. What worked? What are the trends for this year? When looking at the trends, it’s a good idea to uncover what people are searching for related to your industry and the holidays.  So, make sure that your SEO is on track by researching the historical trends for keywords. When it comes to any content, make sure that you are using your content to inform them, but at the same time tie it into the holidays. Reinforce your new content by sending out email campaigns. Just remember that engagement is key, so engage get them excited about the impending holiday.

  1. Website preparedness

Now would be the perfect time to perform any necessary upgrades to your website. More and more customers are shopping online, so it’s important that your website is running smoothly and able to handle new customers in addition to existing clientele. Your website must be able to accommodate all of the sales that you’re going to receive, so take the time now to work out any bugs or kinks dealing with your website for a smooth user experience.

Don’t forget to double check and troubleshoot all payment processing. You don’t want to lose out on any potential revenue because your website was down or because your merchant credit processing was having issues. In addition, update your website with all necessary holiday information including holiday hours and any additional policies including shipping, returns and special pricing. The key to website preparedness is to make sure your website is ready to accommodate the herds of clients who are coming your way.

After all those hours of preparing for the holidays, one of the most important tips is to remember the holiday spirit. With all of the work that goes into the preparation and the planning, remember to have a good time and encourage your staff to do so, as well.