When the pumpkin spice everything hits the shelves, the (real) pumpkins appear at the supermarket and much to our irritation, piles and piles of trees and tinsel start appearing too. The holiday season – or what’s known as “the silly season” in Australia – is upon us and this brings a bunch of questions for small business owners. Here are some of the most common holiday season questions I get:
When is it too early to start advertising holiday specials? How often should I promote holiday specials?
I usually aim for a 4-6 week promotional period. You don’t need to bombard people, but teasers and reminders are a great idea. Remember that a customer often needs to see your marketing more than a dozen times before they take action, so you’ve GOT to be promoting your holiday items for quite a while before they’ll remember to place the order with you. I’d start with a few posts a week and a newsletter, then ramp up my marketing as it gets closer and closer to the holiday. Don’t forget to include things like minimum orders or order closing deadlines, especially if you can ship your products before Christmas/Kwanzaa/Channukah.
You’ve also got to be aware of your target market and their cultural traditions – so if your business is in a Jewish area, offer Channukah products and so on. Be inclusive, be loving, and give your customers what they need and want at this time of year.
Should I close between Christmas and New Year?
I would. You need the mental and physical downtime and it’s a good time of year to do it. For MANY years in my business, I did not do this. I kept thinking everyone else would be closed so this was a great way to get more orders. I used to let my employees take this time off and personally do the orders. Every year, I resented it… and the orders I got were never really enough to justify the sacrifice of my sanity. Eventually I stopped doing this and I didn’t look back.
Should I charge extra for orders on holidays?
I never did this. To me an order is an order is an order, it costs what it costs. Of course if they are asking me to deliver on Christmas Day or something, I’d either refuse or charge enough to make it worth it.
What kinds of holiday products should I offer? I normally only do custom orders.
Holiday time is a GREAT time to test out new products and bring some cash in the door by offering seasonal items that are only available at this time of year. While I had a cake studio which was by appointment only, in the three weekends before Christmas I had a pop up store within my studio. I offered a lot of smaller, non-custom things. Gingerbread houses, shortbread, chocolate dipped pretzel rods, marshmallows, candy cane bark, small gift packs with a range of products in it, hot chocolate mixes and so on. I got to test out new products, make some cash for the holidays, and new customers popped in who had always wondered what we made. I really liked the mental change of doing that kind of product too. If you can, create a range of holiday products so it’s easy for customers to choose, pay, and it’s quick for you to produce. Having a defined range also means they can make quicker choices than they would for custom products. I also found it was great to increase order sizes overall, as some of my custom product customers would order something special then add in some of my “everyday” holiday products for their events and as gifts.
Should I bother with any marketing over December/January? Business is kinda dead around then!
Marketing doesn’t end when business is quiet, in fact that’s when you should ramp it up! This is especially true if you’re in the wedding market. A LOT of people get engaged over Christmas and New Year and then start searching online for all things wedding. Also, as more people tend to be home (or at least working less) over the holidays, they have more time than usual to be perusing the internet. So the end of year and start of year are GREAT times to be investing in your marketing, especially online.
At this time of year it’s a good opportunity to really branch your marketing out… because there’s all kinds of people looking for all kinds of treats. There’s a plethora of events, corporate gift giving, teacher gift giving and so on – this is a golden opportunity for you to meet the needs of all kinds of people and stretch your creative muscles. Don’t forget that it’s not just products that sell, you can also offer things like holiday themed tutorials, hands on classes in holiday treat making and gift certificates.
What are you going to do to make this your business’s BEST HOLIDAY EVER?