Getting your business ready for the holiday season
Black Friday might have come and gone but the upcoming Christmas season is all-important. For a lot of businesses, resources have been stretched thin by a long trading year, but with the right planning, you can put your best foot forward and close 2017 on a high.
Make sure you’re on top of your billing cycle, as a lax attitude towards invoicing can often result in getting paid at the end of January. As any small business owner knows, cash flow is a commodity too precious to take chances with. Invoice early and double down on late payments.
Get the details right
The all-important Festive Season shopping window needs to be capitalized on.
If you have a website, make sure:
Your site is displaying correctly across different browsers (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge.).
Your site is “optimized” for cell phones (i.e., it automatically reduces in size when it detects a cell phone).
Your home page is prepped to get customers interested (here are some great pointers on designing a good landing page).
Your payment gateway, if you have one, is running smoothly.
You’ve got Google Analytics installed to record buying habits. This will stand you in good stead for 2018’s Festive Season.
In-store? Ensure your staff are on point and keep inventory levels low. As Forbes commentator Paula Rosenblum notes, a lot of retailers make the mistake of buying too much. Forecasting can alleviate this problem. “Retailers still live on hope far more than I’d like. The math of demand forecasts work. It’s one of the best technology investments a retailer can make.”
In a social media age, you don’t need to spend big on advertising. An inexpensive campaign can be executed from a single computer and every click and conversion can be tracked.
First, start advertising on Facebook. Facebook’s advertising tools are easy to use (just make sure you disable your ad blocker if you have one). Experiment with different posts and put a little bit of budget behind each one. Check back to see who’s clicking, and tweak your intended audience (you can drill down into customer segments that include location, preference and more). A few dollars a day can make a big difference to your visibility on the platform.
Next, investigate Google’s Pay Per Click model. Here, you prioritize key words that you’d like to show up on the search engine for. Once you’ve determined the words/terms/key words that best describe your business, you’ll enter a bidding tug-of-war. The highest bids enjoy that seat on the front page of Google, but you won’t want to bid high on every term. Determine the two key words that are most important to you and bid accordingly. The good news is that niche terms will be less fiercely contested, so find a unique holiday angle and run with it.
Lastly, set up a blog. Blogging is the most effective advertising tool at your disposal because it’ll boost your chances of appearing on Google’s front page organically (which means you haven’t paid to be there). Start off with holiday-themed posts and keep going into the new year. Google favors websites that produce fresh content over websites that are static. If you’re pressed for time, hire someone to run the blog for you.
Once you’ve established a blog, start looking to share your posts/infographics/video clips with influencers and publications that might take an interest in your work. The aim is to get them to post about you. Search engines will pick up on this and boost your visibility accordingly.
Bring in an extra pair of hands
Students are regularly on the hunt for a holiday job, so bring in a fresh pair of hands to help out, whether in your store or on your website. Search Craigslist and Upwork for budding freelancers who bring savvy and smarts and are available for a short-term hire.
Make time for a holiday
Finally, ensure you’ve got a wedge of time booked off for yourself. America has one of the most grueling work-life balances in the entire world, so make sure you give yourself time to enjoy the “life” part. The holiday swing can be the most stressful season in business, and it’s no good burning the proverbial candle at both ends.