SME summer checklist: Get prepped for Christmas and the new year
Getting ready for the summer holidays is a full-time task. It’s easy enough to set up a few discounts or Christmas-themed perks, but Christmas time requires you to start your preparations early.
This is the perfect time of year to try and limit stress and develop your business. You’re probably already busy planning ahead for the summer months, but with these top tips you can hot things up even more and see your business grow from strength-to-strength.
Order supplies and stock extra inventory
You don’t want to find yourself turning customers away and straight into the hands of your competitors because you’re out of stock.
If you’re selling goods, make sure you keep some extra stock in case things start flying off the shelves. When it comes to inventory management, it can be a struggle to have the right goods, in the right place, at the right time. Not having the item in stock obviously leads to lost sales, while in keeping too much inventory could harm your cash flow.
Product availability is key to driving sales, so given that demand peaks at the end of the year, forecasting sales for this period requires special attention. Seasonal patterns need to be taken into account and it is best to do so with accurate data, looking at sales patterns of the same period in previous years.
Plan a holiday-specific marketing campaign
Viral videos, website content, send your customers an SMS alert, offer an in-store promotion… the possibilities are endless. The summer holidays – and Christmas in particular – give you the chance to get even more creative than usual. Find your niche and give your customers a tailored experience they can’t get elsewhere.
You could update your company’s branding with a bit of festive flair by adjusting your logo and social media profile pictures to incorporate Christmas elements, for example. You can also add Christmas flair to your social media header images, either as a single Christmas-themed image for the duration of the festive season or regularly changed to reflect any promotional offers you have running.
The holiday season is a good time to boost your email marketing strategy too. Highlight specific products and offers, share important information relevant to the season – such as extended trading hours, for example. A “12 Days of Christmas” campaign would be a perfect way to build momentum and share time-limited offers.
Take on extra staff if needed
You don’t want to be short on bodies over the year’s busiest period, that’s for sure. Give your staff overtime if they want it or look to bring in new recruits.
A lot of your usual competition will be waiting to get started in January. Others might be unable to push recruitment due to having spent budgets earlier in the year.
So, while others are busy planning what to wear to the Christmas party, you’ll be meeting with top candidates and planning your recruitment strategy to get ahead for the next year.
Plenty of talented people will be looking for work to cover Christmas, if you’re worried about being left with a surplus of staff once normal service has resumed, you could explore the options of bringing in temp staff on short-term contracts.
Minimise back office work
Everyone’s busy at this time of year, so managing the back end of a business can easily fall by the wayside. One way of maintaining them – while also making sure your time is being put to the best use – is to automate them as much as you can. Save yourself lots of time and effort by investing in automation tools to make your business much more efficient and profitable in the long run.
If you’re having trouble keeping up, you don’t have to waste time tracking sales, purchases and receipts over the new year.
You can also choose to automate your emails, which could give you a boost in sales and revenue. If you have an online store, for example, you can use email automation to re-engage customers who haven’t made a purchase in some time, encourage customers who have abandoned their cart to complete the purchase, highlight products related to what customers have bought in the past, and reward first-time customers and your best customers.
Stay on top of expenses
Another task that can get forgotten about during busy periods is employee expenses. This is the time of year when you need to stay on top of them more than ever, so you don’t want to spend more time than is necessary sifting through timesheets, checks and balance sheets.
Luckily, there’s an app for that. You can use an app like TSheets to simplify your payroll, invoicing and job costing with GPS tracking via mobile tracking software.
Go the extra mile with customer service
The summer holidays are a busy time for businesses and customers alike, so make each other’s lives that bit easier by being as flexible as possible with your policies.
If you’re providing goods, for example – specifically anything that might be being bought as a gift – remember to provide extended returns until after the new year.
Customers remember this kind of thing and will likely be more loyal to your business as a result.
Reward your employees
If you want to engage and motivate your people ready for the new year, it’s time to go one bigger with your ideas and rethink your approach to Christmas reward.
Show them that you don’t just see them as cogs in the wheels that keep your business going by giving them something that is a real treat – it’s about recognition and the message of thanks that goes with it.
Your employees might see a bonus just as compensation rather than an expression of appreciation, so Christmas parties, secret Santa, or an extended Christmas break would certainly get you into their good books. Just remember it’s more important to spend smart than big.
Decorate your workspace!
Spreading some Christmas cheer around your workplace will put a smile on your employees’ faces – it’ll help get your customers into the Christmas spirit, too.
If you own a shop, Christmas is the perfect chance to make a statement that wonder and magic lie behind your doors.
One-of-a-kind window displays and custom elements that customers can activate with their phones might be a little out of your price range, but you don’t have to rely on technology or gadgetry to create a different shopping environment or shopping experience for your customers – the more you can decorate, the more energy and excitement you bring to passers-by.
But the fun doesn’t have to stop there: why not add some banners to your website, or get creative with packaging? Go all out.
There you have it – get those bits in order and all that’s left to do is to put on your Santa hat, pull a cracker and fire up the barbecue. Now, where’s that tinsel?
Luis Sanchez, general manager, Receipt Bank