The holidays can be both your most profitable time of year and your best opportunity to reach out to new customers. You can make the most of them by planning ahead.
If November and December are your busy season, here are five things you can do now to get ready.
1. Take care of things you've been putting off
If you've been considering changes that would help you bring in more customers or streamline your processes, put them in place now. These might mean a website update, an improved inventory tracking system, or some extra help with marketing.
You won't have time to make big changes once the holiday shopping season begins. And, if you delay, you'll miss a golden opportunity to boost your business and make it run more smoothly.
2. Plan your marketing and promotions
Set aside time to strategically plan your holiday marketing. Use all the data you have, including what customers responded to last year, what the current trends are, and what you know about your loyal customers' needs and tastes.
The internet is a great resource for creative ideas—just make sure they will work for your business.
Identify the marketing channels that are most likely to give you a good return on your investment, whether this means Facebook ads, direct mail postcards, email campaigns, or traditional newspaper or radio advertising.
Once you have planned your promotions, go ahead and order your free giveaways, have direct mail and ad pieces designed, and create a timeline so you'll know exactly what you'll be launching when.
3. Hire and train seasonal workers
If you'll need extra staff during the holiday rush, start the hiring and training process early.
Well-trained seasonal workers can ease the burden for full-time employees and help you deliver outstanding customer service. Without good training, though, seasonal employees can make life harder for your year-round staff and increase the chance that customers will have a bad experience that keeps them from coming back.
Seasonal employees also increase the risk of accidents and theft at your workplace. An early hiring process gives you the time to adequately screen applicants, and proper training helps keep the workplace safe for everyone.
4. Establish vacation policies
If you don't have a specific holiday vacation policy, now is the time to create one and communicate it to all your employees. Employees like to take time off around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that may not be realistic.
Without a clear policy that's communicated well in advance, feelings get hurt and morale suffers.
Whether you use a first-come, first-served policy, one based on seniority, or some other system, try to be fair. Consider offering a perk to employees who volunteer to come in on holidays. And remember to comply with state and federal laws regarding overtime and holiday pay.
5. Plan ways to boost employee morale
The time from mid-November through the end of the year is stressful for many people, with family celebrations, social commitments, and the pressure to buy gifts and have fun during the holiday season. The pace at work increases, too. You can help your employees feel good about the holidays with careful planning:
- Office parties can become just another obligation in an already over-full calendar. Get staff input on what they'd enjoy most, even if it means you keep it simple and delay the big celebration until January.
- Consider decor that reflects your staff members' varied traditions and heritages. Don't assume that everyone will be thrilled about the office Christmas tree.
- Consider supporting a charitable project. Let your staff choose a charity and match their contributions in some way.
By establishing office holiday traditions, you can encourage your employees to come together as a team, helping improve morale at a stressful and busy time.