six tips for coping with christmas sales
What to sort out before the gift-buying rush hits.
It’s the classic small business headache: you’re stressed when you’re too busy and when you’re not busy enough (to be honest, even being medium-busy is still pretty bloody stressful). And Christmas is a particularly difficult time. Jobs are flying in, your inbox is pinging non-stop, and you’re pretty sure you just mailed an order to Melbourne, Florida by mistake. We sat down with two whip-smart business experts to find out how to survive Christmas without hitting the eggnog. Ho, ho, ho!
Get your marketing sorted According to Kelly Thompson, the brains behind Makers’ Markt, the trick with Christmas marketing is not to leave it until Christmas. “Makers Mrkt is about encouraging people to be considerate about who they spend with, and this is something I touch on constantly throughout the year,” she says. “It isn’t just marketing spin.” So while it might be worth stepping up your EDM campaign in December, or dabbling in Facebook advertising, the real magic is pushing consistent brand messages all year round. That way, when customers start panicking about presents, your business is already front of mind. It’s also a good idea to set expectations when it comes to postage: packages and orders can take a bit longer over Christmas, so including some expected delivery dates on your socials, checkout page, or the confirmation email, can save a lot of hassles down the track.
Set your price (and stick to it) As a rule of thumb, running sales before Christmas is no good. Not only are you undercutting yourself and shaving those profit margins, you’re devaluing your overall brand. “If you know everything will just go on sale in a month, why would you pay full price?” says Kelly. “I prefer to give rewards or small discounts to regular customers, or as a welcome when people subscribe to the mailing list.” Think of discounts as the cherry, not the sundae – the sundae needs to be your product, your marketing, and your value proposition. “I always say discounts are forgettable,” agrees marketing expert Trish Martin from Chromatical. “Makers and creators put so much time and energy into their business, and they’re usually under-pricing themselves as it is. Find a different way to give more.”
Stock up This is often the biggest problem faced by product businesses over Christmas. How much stock do you actually need? It’s even harder if this is your first Christmas period, since you’ve got nothing to go on. “It’s a little bit of a guessing game when it comes to how much you'll need, especially as you’re growing,” Kelly says. “What I think is a big order often ends up being not-so-big by the time it arrives.” There’s no hard-and-fast rule for this one, but if in doubt (and your products aren’t perishable) it’s usually best to over-order slightly. Better to have products and not need them, than need them and not have them. Don’t forget cheeky gift packs, either. If you've got any old stock lying around, you can bundle them up with new pieces to create limited-edition Christmas boxes.
Sell hard, sell often Trish says a lot of small business owners ironically struggle with selling stuff, particularly this year, when COVID and the bushfires might make sales-y emails feel inappropriate. You have to get over that guilt. “It’s OK to sell hard and talk about your products,” she says. “It’s what you have to do. Ads are especially amazing. I always recommend re-targeting ads for small businesses – you know, the ones that follow your around the internet? – because they’re super cheap and highly convertible. Don’t just assume people will think to shop with you.”
Polish your website Your website is your shop front, your first impression, the Big Kahuna. And it needs to be practically humming by Christmas time – or preferably, three or four weeks beforehand. This is your chance to do all of those things you haven’t bothered to do yet: clean up your SEO metadata (just be aware, this might take a week or two for Google to rank and refresh), invest in some good product photography, fix that weird glitch on the checkout page, and make sure everything looks schmick on mobile. Trish says it's always good to set a date in the calendar, maybe twice a year, to review your website. "Check your copy, make sure all your links work, that products aren’t sold out, and that it’s easy to navigate. Just give it a good old clean-up.” If your webstore is packed with items, it’s also worth thinking about creating curated stock pages (e.g. ‘Gifts under $20’) to make browsing easier. Just throw up a banner on the home page and push the message out through your marketing channels.
Look after yourself We’ve saved the most important tip for last. While most people are winding down in December, small business owners are usually winding up, and you really need to look after your mental health. “Taking time out for some exercise, even if it’s just a small amount, really helps,” Kelly says. “As do early nights, trying not to drink too much and keeping your workspace tidy.” Don’t be afraid to reach out, either, if things start to spiral. Lifeline, Beyond Blue and Head Space are just a phone call away. “And find your team,” Trish says. “Find a community. If it’s just you, watching everyone else power ahead, you’re going to feel super-alone. You need to find people and say, ‘Guys, I’m really struggling, what should I do?”