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Finding Balance During Holiday Chaos

The holiday season is here.... and some small businesses won't survive it.  Here are some of the most important lessons I have learned over my several years of small business ownership during the holiday season.

1. Know what your limitations are.  Before the chaos of the season starts, make sure you have identified what your limitations are.  Write them down and post them somewhere that you can see them as a reminder.

2. Do not fall into the comparison trap.  Just because another small business is doing xyz does not mean you have to do xyz.  And don't forget.... not all small business owners are truthful about their success.  There is nothing worse than trying to keep up with the Joneses and then findout out later the Joneses weren't even at the level they portrayed to be.

3. Do not let rock bottom sales put you out of business.  Everywhere you look over the next several weeks you are going to see crazy sales.  Do not try to compete with those sales if those sales don't fit into your business financials.  Not all sales are good sales.  For example, if your total cost in a cup is $7 and you have them priced at $15 in your shop, but offer them for 1/2 off because Busy Betty has a Black Friday sale for 50% off all her inventory and you saw her posting that she has sold 200 cups in the past 2 hours.... then you are only going to make $0.50 profit.  Per cup.  Let me say that again.... $0.50 profit per cup just to try to compete with Busy Betty who you don't know how many actual cups she sold or what her price per cup actually is.

4. Do not forget the importance of customer service.  Customers may not always remember exactly what they purchased from you, but they will always remember how you made them feel.  It's easy to get frustrated with customers, especially when you feel like you are answering the same questions over and over.... but that isn't your customers fault.  If you are seeing the same questions over and over again, think about ways you can answer the same question easily over and over again (think macros if you are using a support desk, creating a FAQ section in your group or website that you can direct people to, etc).

5. Do not get distracted by the $$.  The fourth quarter of every year is typically the highest in sales volume for product based businesses.  If you are running pre-orders on made-to-order items, make sure you cut off your orders before you get overwhelmed.  It's easy to see the money coming in and get so excited about all of the sales that we let the orders continue to roll in once we have hit our max capacity.  

6. Set very clear expectations with your customers.  Always under promise and over deliver.  If you know your orders will go out within 7 days of the order being placed, tell your customers your turnaround time is 10 days.  This gives you cushion in case anything goes wrong, but also gives them an incredible customer experience if their order ships before they expect for it to.

7. Make sure you do your homework on any new vendors you are going to use... especially if running a pre-order on any of their items.  New vendors are going to start coming out of the woodwork to offer wholesale items.  Some will be legit that you just haven't heard of yet, some will be newer vendors who are just recently opening up to the world of wholesale, and some will be scammers that prey on small business owners who are just trying to bring great products at cost consicous prices.  I'm not saying don't order from a vendor you have never heard of... but I am saying check for independent reviews, review their social media platforms, run a google search for their business to see what comes up, etc. 

8. Don't forget to capture new customer's email addresses or phone numbers for continued marketing.  You're going to see a lot of new customers during the holiday season and you don't want them to be a one time customer... so it's important that you give them the option to sign up for future marketing.  If you're using a website like Shopify then you can set your customers to accept marketing by default (they have to deselect the option when checking out), or you can post a discount incentive for people who sign up for text messaging marketing (I use txt180). 

9. Use this time to build relationships with your customers (this is why I am such a big fan of Facebook Groups).  The holiday season is all about spending time with friends and family... let your customers get to know you, your family, and your holiday traditions.  Remember, customers can purchase from dozens (if not hundreds) of other shops who offer the exact same thing you do... so why do they want to purchase from you?  Well, the initial purchase may be because they saw something you have that caught their attention, but future purchases are probably going to be because you have something they like and because they feel a connection to you and want to support you.  

10. Lastly.... don't let yourself fall to the wayside.  You are probably already pulled twenty different directions every day, and the holidays are going to increase that tenfold.  Schedule time for yourself.... like, literally schedule time for yourself.  Write it down in your planner, in your notebook, on a sticky note that you stick on your computer, or whatever.  But make sure you take time to disconnect completely so you can restore your own balance.  Do not let the chaos of the holidays steal your joy of being a small business owner.  

Here is to hoping this holiday season is your most successful season yet!