While you may be heading to the beach and enjoying some fun in the sun, #spoonflowermakers like Jen Kesler of Pitter Patterned are using the summer season to prep for the busiest time of the year for their business. To help lower the stress level that the holidays can bring, Jen is here to share her insider tips for successfully preparing for your best season yet. Whether it’s making time to brainstorm your marketing plan or using her extra handy Holiday Prep Checklist (you’re going to want a copy!), this Small Business Grant recipient is about to change the way you prepare your business for the holidays.
It’s close to 100º in sunny California but I’m ready to prep for the holidays! That’s right, I’m already prepping for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday and everything in between – and I’m here to tell you why you should be too! I’m Jen from Pitter Patterned, a custom organic baby bedding and toys business, and starting to not only think about the holidays during the summer, but actually doing a good portion of the work now will set your shop up for its best holiday season yet!
Most shops, both large and small, experience a slump in sales over the summer. This makes it the perfect time to dig in and get your shop in shipshape! The ultimate goal in starting early is to not only make the season a financial success, but to make sure you also get to enjoy the holidays and take care of yourself along the way.
How to Get Started
I like to start with a good old brainstorming session. What worked last year? What didn’t work? What are this year’s trends and how can I capitalize on them? Do I have any new products to promote? Being armed with both intuitive information and the hard numbers (like last year’s holiday revenue and your growth rate this year so far), you’ll be able to set a realistic sales goal for the coming holiday season.
Marketing your Business
Next, let’s sit down and create a marketing strategy – this is more than just a sale or promotion. Think about your target customers and what their problems are, how can you solve their problems with your products? What creative ways can you get your message across that resonates with their needs? Where are your customers spending time online (and offline) and what are they doing? This last question will inform where your advertising budget will be best spent. And speaking of budget… it’s time to create a budget! It’s easy to boost every post on Facebook and end up with a much-larger-than-anticipated bill, so create a budget broken down by source, and stick to it. If your sales goal is lofty this year, you may need to increase your advertising budget accordingly. And don’t worry, a big budget isn’t necessary, but being aware of your spending in relation to your budget will set you up to not overspend.
Spruce Up Your Shop
Ok, let’s talk shop! Set aside a week or so to really take a close look at your shop. Start by reviewing your branding: take a look at your packaging from the perspective of a customer. Unboxing is a real thing and for good reason – everyone enjoys opening a package with good presentation and products inside. Ask yourself: Is it a pleasure to open? Does it look professional? Does it make you want to recommend the shop to everyone you know? If not, consider adding a little something extra: ribbon, tissue paper, a thank you note, branded stickers and business cards are a great place to start.
Next, add any new products to your website or Etsy shop so they can begin to gain traction, revisit your pricing structure and make sure you have products in a variety of price points. Refresh your FAQs with brief and easy to understand answers to common holiday questions such as “When will my order ship?” Also make sure your return and exchange policies are clear, as returns will increase substantially during the holidays. Consider updating photography and descriptions if they are outdated. Then dig into SEO and / or keywords and tags. To boost the status of your pages, reinforce new content by linking in newsletters and pinning to Pinterest, and finally, make sure your website is mobile friendly.
Now that the initial legwork is done, it’s time to talk inventory! Keeping your sales goal in mind, you can estimate the necessary inventory that will get you there. You don’t want to sell out in early November, but you also don’t want every closet in your house to be stuffed with unwanted product. Take into consideration your best sellers, your new products, price points and current trends when deciding on inventory for individual products. Then order supplies to create the inventory you need for your sales goal. I like to keep a spreadsheet of all the big sales my main suppliers have throughout the year, so when I’m ready to place a big order I can check if there might be a sale coming up. Summer sales to watch for: 4th of July, Labor Day and Back to School. If you currently sell on more than one platform (like Etsy and Shopify, for example), consider using a tool like Trunk to automatically sync your inventory across platforms.
Get the Word Out
Start contacting bloggers, influencers and any relevant publications you are interested in being featured in. Magazines and bloggers are also preparing for the holidays during the summer so it’s the perfect time to make contact. Be sure to send a bio of your company and images suited to their needs: square for Instagram, high resolution for print publications, etc. If you make their job easy, you’re that much more likely to be chosen for a feature!
Send out an end of summer email so you stay on people’s minds as they begin to think about holiday shopping. Take advantage of email segmenting to send special messages and new products to your returning customers and show off best-sellers to new subscribers.
Start pinning! It seems way too early, but Pinterest pins have a longer life than most social media posts. You want your holiday-themed pins to be available when your customers start searching for them, and pinning now puts them in prime position to be noticed by editors and bloggers looking for products to feature in their holiday content.
Automation and Streamlining
When it comes to the busy holiday season, automation will be your best friend. Check out services like Tailwind, Hubspot, Hootsuite and Later to schedule social media posts ahead of time. Automate and streamline any aspects of your shipping that you can; set up shipping profiles for common box sizes and weights. Create a shipping station with everything at close reach: tissue paper, business cards, packing tape, boxes, scissors, etc. along with ample counter space for packing up shipments. Take a look at other aspects of your workflow and streamline anywhere you can, every bit of time saved in your process will be awesome to have during the holidays!
Create a Calendar
Create a calendar for the holidays and start filling things in as soon as you schedule them. Your calendar should be in whatever format works best for you; paper, Google Calendar, white board, etc. Set your ordering and shipping deadlines and mark them on your calendar so you’re not caught off guard when customers start asking about them. Schedule family time so it doesn’t get completely squeezed out, and include time for self care. I find if I don’t set aside time for it, it’s the first thing to go when things get busy!
Think up some fun ideas to create a buzz around your business.
- Set up a holiday themed photoshoot
- Create fun videos to use on YouTube or Instagram and Facebook
- Make a stop-motion video of your newest product
- Set up a themed giveaway with other makers on Instagram
- Encourage donations to a charity you love
- Hold a photo contest
Staying on Track
Things are bound to get busy, hectic and feel utterly chaotic when you’re a one (or two or three) (wo)man show during the holidays. It’s inevitable, even with ample planning and preparation, some of the things you’ve planned for will change. When I feel overwhelmed and off-track, I know it’s time to pull back and spend some time recharging: keep customers in the loop when it comes to any changes in ship dates, and spend some time on yourself. Even a quick walk or phone call with a loved one can make all the difference! I also depend on my network of other small shop owners for support and encouragement during the holidays. It’s also of vital importance to have vendors and suppliers that are reliable and trustworthy, I can’t say how thankful I am to have had Spoonflower to work with for the last 7 years, they help me create amazing products and are such a pleasure to work with!
About the Guest Author
Pitter Patterned is an heirloom line of handmade baby and toddler products aimed at inspiring curiosity. We create imaginative and educational designs for quilts, blankets, cloth books and rattles made with 100% organic cotton materials. See what Jen is up to over at @pitterpatterened.