The holiday season is an exciting time for small businesses. Most see it as a time to make quick and easy money, but what many fail to appreciate is that there is a lot of preparation required in order to make the holiday season a success, both for business and customers.
Supply and Demand
If you have a product that you sell to customers, then one thing you should really check in advance of the holiday season is what your suppliers are doing and not doing for the holiday season. Will they have shipping on days that they normally don’t? Will they stop shipping from a set date? Will they guarantee shipping for Christmas day or other days? All of this will help you determine what your policy will be for your customers. You should also make sure to allow extra time in case things do go wrong, and also be aware of the amount of extra items that will be going through the postal system, many of which will not be labeled correctly and can cause extra backlogs. This also helps you to make sure that you will have enough inventory for a potentially busy holiday season.
The holiday season is a great time for hackers to steal information from holiday shoppers. The other thing hackers might do is post links to other undesirable websites by placing links on yours, causing Google to block or remove your site. Keep a close eye on back links and comments. With the high volume of transactions that might happen over the period, you could be less likely to notice extra transactions or wrong totals. If you have a brick and mortar store you also need to be on the lookout for in-store thieves.
Be on high alert for DoS attacks and make sure that your site has up to date security on all transactions, by making sure you have SSL certification.
Back up your information! Everything from your phone to your laptop to your company’s servers should always have regular backups. You should even think about a service where you store information in the cloud. As someone who works online, I have a backup service that works between my phone, my laptop and the cloud, to ensure that I always have access to important documents. This system also saved me a lot of time when I had to reinstall my laptop 4 times in 3 days. I was still able to work because I was able to access important documents from any computer.
Although you might be out of the office, your customers do not need to know this. There are some websites that actually shut down and have an out of office/happy holiday’s page up on their site. A lot of people use the holidays as a time to catch up on things. However, it’s important to remember that nothing is more likely to turn a potential customer away than a “closed” website.
Not having a marketing plan for the holiday season
I have bad news for you. By the time you start reading this you should already be halfway into your marketing plan for the holiday season. This is all about knowing your clients and when they are most likely to make purchases. You should already have been drip marketing your clients for the past couple of months, because we all know that most sale cycles take anything from 6 – 18 months. If you do a quick marketing plan and don’t think it through or miss some parts out, it will do more damage than good for the reputation of your company.
However, it’s never too late to offer incentives, such as an “exclusive” discount, a special giveaway or a complimentary service to help ease the stress of the holiday season.
Not taking time for yourself
For a small business owner, the holiday season not only means that you will be busier than normal dealing with the holiday rush, but you will also be burning the candle at both ends by trying to attend all the networking parties that will be going on at that time of year. Do not feel like you have to go to every event and be the life of the party. You have probably met most of the people before or will again at a better time when their companies are actually looking to buy and have not shut down for the holiday season. The New Year will be lousy if you have not prepared well enough to work at it full throttle.
About the Author: Janice Chaka is an accomplished entrepreneur as well as an experienced HR professional, with over 8 years of international experience providing HR expertise to companies, ranging in size from small start-ups to multi-national conglomerates. She is active in startup communities worldwide, which ties in with her love of travel.