“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ―Benjamin Franklin
Pumpkin spice is everywhere. Days are getting shorter. And for the makers out there, sales are starting to ramp up. That’s right; the holiday season is upon us. For most product-based companies, the next two months are the busiest of the year. Now is great time to check in and make sure you are prepared.
Check Supply Levels
Before the holiday onslaught begins in earnest, make sure you have enough supplies to get you through the season, especially for any customized products like business cards. Take stock of your ...um, stock… to make sure you have enough for the rest of the year. Some things to look for are:
- product packaging materials
- shipping boxes
- mailing labels
- business cards or postcards
- office supplies like tape, twine, stickers, etc.
- booth supplies for holiday shows, like zip ties, kraft paper, binder clips, signs, etc.
If this isn’t your first holiday season in business, you’ve probably been making product for the past couple of months with an eye to stocking up for the holiday season. That’s awesome. Keep going. November and December get busy with the business of selling, mailing, packaging, and shows, often leaving little time to actually make your products. Take advantage now, and get as much product made as you think you will need. Etsy recently posted a good formula for predicting your growth rate, which is an excellent way to estimate your holiday sales.
This is also the time to think about making your products more giftable. Can you add a gift wrapping service? Maybe market and package several items together as a gift set? Do you have a gift certificate available in your shop? Yet again, Etsy provided a great blog post about ways to make your products more giftable for the holiday season.
If your wholesale clients are organized, you’ve probably already received emails from them asking for holiday products. Now is the time to contact your buyers, let them know if you have any new products for the holidays, and take final orders for the year. If your wholesale volume is high, and your products are time-intensive to make, be sure to set a realistic final order date and communicate this to your clients. Now is also a great time to follow up with clients who have not reordered in a while, to make sure they are set up for the holidays.
Save yourself some money and stress by making sure any items needed for holiday show booths are ordered and made now. Express fees for printing banners, signs, and business cards can add up. Make sure you know your booth arrangements and layouts now, so that when it comes time for the shows, you are prepared and ready to go be awesome.
Print deadlines have long since past, but many blogs are just now taking submissions for products for gift guides. A quiet weekend now, preparing pitch emails and getting together a list of media contacts is time well spent, and time that you likely won’t have even a few weeks from now.
Your newsletter to your email list is another great marketing opportunity for the holidays, but they often take longer than expected to compose. Get ahead of the game by spending a little time now drafting a missive to your fans. With services like Mailchimp, you can even write it now and schedule posts to go out later -- perhaps for Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday sales, or the launch of special holiday products.
And speaking of scheduled writing, if you have a blog, now is a great time to stockpile posts and schedule them to post throughout November and December, when you’ll likely be too busy to write.
This will be my fourth holiday season running Drywell Art, so I know how hectic and stressed life can get as a business owner during the winter. Planning in advance is the key to sanity in these final few months of 2014. There are frequently times when I am too busy to cook, or even leave the house for take out. Instead of relying solely on delivery, I make huge batches of food in October and early November and freeze them for easy eating later. Meal delivery services like Munchery and Sprig are a great (though slightly pricier) option as well.
Thankfully, this time of year has always been my favorite, so I power through on a stream of non-stop Christmas music and holiday cheer. Remembering to take time out from working and celebrate with your friends and family is key to surviving the season sane and intact. In order to make it work though, you must schedule in advance. For the past five years, I’ve organized a holiday cocktail crawl with a small group of pals. We get decked out and walk to all the festively decorated hotel bars in downtown San Francisco. The only way it works for me is by planning it well in advance. I have something to look forward to and it is an appointment on my calendar. (even if I only do get one night out in December). Now is the time to plan some fun activities with your pals in November and December.
If you have any other tips for holiday preparations, or ways to stay sane during this season, I’d love to hear them!
Here’s to a happy, productive, and well-prepared holiday sales season!