Preparing for the Holidays in September

With summer season winding down, businesses of all sizes are wrapping up summer sales and gearing up for the holiday rush.

FedEx asked past winners of the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest – an annual event in which FedEx offers grants and services to passionate small business owners – to share their best advice for managing a surge in sales during November and December. I’ve had the opportunity to personally work with these grant winners and many have experience with rapid growth and handling an increase in customers. Read what they had to say:

It’s all about preparation

Mark down key dates on your calendar and try to have all email blasts set, ads created, graphics designed, and other materials completed at least one week prior to the deadline This will give you time to tweak any necessary items, remember any last-minute things-to-do and allow you to get a deep breath before the big day. – Shark Wheel

Start early with inventory planning

Avoid getting caught in a back-order situation or, worse, overselling during the holidays. Start now by organizing data on your best sellers and make sure to have those items in stock. Account for any planned promotions that might impact sales of a particular promoted product. – LuminAID

Stock up early a little at a time, so you don’t dent the glorious cash flow. If you’re a small business, you know the importance of protecting your cash flow. This is an easy way to get the holiday supplies without breaking the bank.  – Dream Beard

Understand the availability and order lead time for some of the special ingredients or packaging pieces you will need.  It’s a terrible surprise to find out your ribbon, for example, is out of stock when you order in November and you have to find a new supplier immediately.  Bring the supplies in early, if you can afford to.  Search for alternate suppliers now and order a small amount from them so you have an established account and so that you can make sure their version of the ribbon really works for you. – Fat Toad Farm

Plan ahead to avoid shipping mistakes

Most carriers publish recommended delivery cutoff dates around the holidays, but it may be helpful to add in a few extra days just to be safe. – Sword & Plough

Build your email list

Prepare at least one month in advance with various techniques that might increase your customer base. Having a pop-up quiz on your website, driving social media followers to your email signup with a free giveaway, or hosting in-person trade shows to build up your email list are examples that could help your business. The bigger your email list, the better chance of a sale in each email blast. – Shark Wheel

Email marketing is one of the most direct ways of reaching your customer base. In addition to traditional shopping days like Black Friday, consider sending emails on “off-days” as you head into the holiday season given that customers will be bombarded from all angles in their inbox by other e-retailers.

LuminAID

Think about the possible mistakes early

Think about where the bottlenecks are going to be in your business when you get a surge of orders – is it production? Putting together special gift items?  Shipping?  Figure out if you already have staff that can get “re-deployed” in those areas or if you need to be talking to people who could come in on a part-time basis for 4-8 weeks to help. Talk to them now because there may be others that would like their help too. – Fat Toad Farm

Try something new

Use the holidays as a time to try a new experimental product. People are more willing to buy and try new things around the holidays. If you’ve been creating something new for your brand and are unsure when to release it, this might be the perfect time. – Dream Beard

Set social goals as well as revenue goals

Look at last year’s data and set measurable goals for the upcoming holiday season. While the focus is always on revenue, set goals for social media engagement, too. Set minimum, expected, and stretch goals. – Humdinger Kettle Korn

You did it!

Within the first two weeks of January, review the past season and devise a plan to streamline any stumbling blocks for next year. Automate or simplify as many processes as possible. Then, take a well-deserved break from the office and enjoy a one week holiday! – Humdinger Kettle Korn

— By Becky Huling, Vice President, Customer Engagement Marketing at FedEx Services