Holiday season planning for your small business: Employee management, marketing, and technology

For small businesses, the holidays are the make-or-break season that can determine a year's success. That’s why you should start thinking about how to improve your seasonal operations now.

Here are a few ways to find the right people, optimize your marketing, and use technology to increase your sales throughout the holiday season.

Managing staff during the holiday season

Whether you need to hire additional staff or find ways to reduce the stress on your existing team, employee management will have an outsized impact on your ability to serve customers and generate revenue.

Here's how to find and keep employees motivated during the holidays.

Identify staff resources

Hiring staff starts by determining the people necessary for your holiday season, including part-timers, full-timers, and contractors. While you can consider hiring lower-cost talent like college or high school students, don't skimp on salaries and benefits if you want to attract more experienced employees.

Make these decisions in advance, so you have the time to search, find, and train your new staff. If working with contractors, put a contractor invoice process in place to ensure freelancers are as easy to pay as employees who are on payroll.

Create job listings

Write a specific job description for each position you're filling – no matter how small. Check that each responsibility is accounted for and easily measured. When hiring for a small business, you need to be exact when it comes to the specific experience and skills you're looking for.

Place your ads on popular employment and freelance hiring sites like Monster, Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Upwork, and Craigslist. You can also look for talent among your friends, family, and community.

Consider incentive commission plans

Think about offering incentives or commissions to employees based on sales and profits during the holiday season. Have weekly sales and on-time fulfillment targets, and consider hosting contests to keep your employees focused on your goals.

Think about how to keep employees happy and motivated

Keeping employees happy can help alleviate the natural stress of the busy holiday season. For instance, if you're increasing headcount, make sure your staff has enough space to do their work. If necessary, rent a temporary location to hold inventory or create a production area. Also, consider work hours and whether you need to be operational 24/7 during the busy holiday season.

Marketing during the holiday season

While marketing is important all year long, holiday season marketing plays an especially important role in helping you achieve yearly revenue goals.

Take the time to optimize your website so that it showcases your products in the best possible light. Review product descriptions and photos, and consider adding new content like video, reviews, or user-generated content to give shoppers all the information they need to buy. You can also optimize content by adding keywords that help your product pages show up in searches.

Also, start thinking about your holiday marketing campaigns that you'll use to strategically attract shoppers. Campaigns may include email, search marketing, social media, and traditional advertising and may be designed to attract new shoppers, capture more sales from loyal customers, or garner press by targeting influencers. Track performance metrics like website traffic and conversion rates, so you can adjust how you spend your budget to get the most bang for your buck.

Speaking of budget, don't go into the holiday season without knowing what you're willing to spend. Your holiday season budget should be based not just on what you have available, but on the return on investment you expect to generate from your efforts minus the cost of the product.

Optimizing holiday season shipping

The last thing your customers want is to find the perfect item, only to have it arrive too late, receive the wrong item, or wind up damaged. Here are a few holiday shipping best practices to keep in mind:

  • Clearly display your return policies so people can buy with confidence
  • Confirm that you have all the tape, boxes, and packaging materials you need to keep packages moving out the door
  • Check each product before it goes out the door to ensure it's the right item and that it’s free from damage
  • Advertise your cut-off dates for holiday arrival so customers can shop accordingly

Optimizing payment methods

By offering multiple payment methods, you can reduce cart abandonment, increase brand loyalty, and capture new customers who have strong preferences about their payment methods.

When evaluating your holiday season payment methods, take a look at your current checkout options. Items to review include:

  • Ensuring your website is mobile-friendly, so people can shop and buy from their phone
  • Optimizing the checkout process to eliminate steps, maximize the use of auto-fill tools, and increase customer confidence
  • Expanding your ability to accept digital payment options that are popular with your specific market
  • Evaluating if you need to invest in a POS system that can accept touch-free payments like QR codes

The sooner you start planning for the holiday season, the better prepared you'll be when holiday shoppers start making their lists. Check out our holiday financial wellness playbook for all the steps you need to take to make the most of the holiday season.

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