Q4 Success Checklist - Maker’s Business Guide to the Holiday Season
4th Quarter and Holiday Season success for makers is the result of careful planning, inventory production, and strong marketing. If you can’t commit a significant amount of your time and energy to this year’s season, it may be best to wait until next year.
But the benefits of a plan that takes full advantage of eager shoppers looking for a unique gift can be significant. In fact, most small businesses report their entire year’s profits are made in the 4th quarter.
The success plan doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to be thought out and well executed. As online shopping becomes more competitive, paying attention to the important details below is even more critical.
Which means you need to start now, to avoid stressful last minute decisions that take the fun out of the holiday season.
Here is a quick checklist to keep you on track for a successful Q4 Holiday Season
Prepare Your Inventory and Promotions
It all starts with deciding which products you will offer. That may involve looking at what was popular last year, what has been a bestseller so far this year, and what you can produce quickly and efficiently. A wider assortment is not necessarily better. Focusing on what you do best, helps the customer quickly understand what you offer and their options. You can’t be all things to all people, so be careful not to try.
Focus on Personalization
Personalization will be your key competitive advantage over larger online, and brick and mortar retailers. Any ability you have to personalize your product, either by hand, laser, cnc or vinyl decal is your competitive advantage, so take full advantage.
Create Holiday Images
Once you have your assortment planned, create samples so you can update your website and Etsy images. Shooting product images with a holiday background allows the customer to immediately get in the mood for gift purchasing. However, simply removing the background and digitally adding a holiday background can be just as effective. I use the free website Remove.bg to remove backgrounds. Free and low cost holiday backgrounds can then be found at Rawpixel.com or Canva
Update Product Descriptions
This is also a good time to review your product descriptions for accuracy or misspelled words. Be sure to include any details the customer may need, like exact dimensions, a size chart for apparel, care and use instructions, and variants available. Remember, in a brick and mortar store, the customer can touch and hold a product. So your product description needs to compensate for that disadvantage.
Product descriptions should not only be accurate and grammatically correct, but should also address any customer objections. This means explaining why your quality deserves the price, having a clear return policy, and any position you have on sustainability and environmental impact.
Test Your Checkout
If you maintain your own website, October is an excellent time to test your checkout workflow. Test all your payment options, the ease of checkout, and any post purchase emails that automatically are sent.
Payment options like ShopPay from Shopify, Paypal, or Affirm that include installment payments might also be a competitive advantage for you, so take advantage if possible.
Create a Landing Page
A holiday gift landing page that includes your entire gift assortment, holiday promotions, key shipping deadlines, and personalization options is an efficient way for the customer to shop your store quickly and easily. Linking to that page instead of your home page, allows you to leave your main website intact.
Stock Up on Shipping Materials
Next, order any packaging or marketing materials you will need. Ensure you have an inventory of boxes, branded shipping tape, product enclosure cards, Thank You cards, stickers, shipping material, shipping labels and ink, and free gifts you plan to include. I’ve discussed this topic in some detail in my blog post Create the Perfect Unboxing Experience.
Plan Your Promotions
And finally, plan any offers, deals, bundles or sales you may conduct in November. Are you planning a Black Friday Sale? Maybe an offer for Small Business Saturday? Is there a Plan B if you end up with excess inventory in December? Better yet, what if you sell out early? Can you restock in time?
Planning now for November and December surprises can help keep your stress level down, and the profits up.
November 24 Thanksgiving
November 25 Black Friday
November 26 Small Business Saturday
November 28 Cyber Monday
November 29 Giving Tuesday
November 30 Remove any Black Friday promos from your website
Finalize Shipping Deadlines
Communicating your shipping deadlines to your customers not only provides transparency and good customer service, but provides a sense of urgency to the customer to make their purchase decision now. These deadlines should be on your website, landing page, your social media copy, and holiday gift product descriptions.
Here are the most popular shipping options, and their shipping deadlines for delivery by 12/24/22
- December 9th : UPS Surepost
- December 9th : FedEx SmartPost
- December 15th: UPS Ground
- December 15th : FedEx Ground
- December 17th: USPS Priority and First Class
Finalize Social Media Post Calendar and Email Schedule
Late October, early November at the latest, you should fill in a calendar with your planned social media posts. This ensures you feature all your gift options, can tease your Black Friday special, have time to clearly communicate the advantages to shopping with you (did I say personalization again?), and can stage out your shipping deadline reminders.
For more information on using a social media content calendar check here
Optimize Your Social Media Captions
There is plenty of tension naturally built into the Holiday season. Ensure your customer knows you understand their struggle, by writing captions that speak to it, and how your product relieves that tension. For more tips on writing successful captions, read this.
This is also a time to ensure you are using the best Instagram gift giving hashtags, which I posted recently, and can be found in the BUSINESS FOR MAKERS Newsletter, and here.
Take Advantage of Your Email List
If you maintain an email list, a weekly email at this time is not unreasonable. Remember email inboxes will be packed, so many will not be seen. If you don’t have a list, this is the perfect time to start one, by collecting the email addresses of your customers. Many ecommerce hosts offer an integrated feature to build an email list, or you can use a stand alone option like Mailchimp.
An email list is your key to reaching your customers, regardless of any changes social media platforms may and ultimately will make.
December 18 First Day of Hanukkah
December 25 Christmas
December 26 Boxing Day
December 31 New Years Eve
Week 1: Ok it’s now time to get down to business. Review your inventory, and decide if you can or need to produce additional stock. This is the hardest part of the entire process. Making an estimate of customer demand, based on late November sales, while balancing your ability or willingness to spend time in further production, versus that precious holiday family time. Only you know the answer that fits your situation.
Week 2: Promote last minute gift ideas. Remind your customers how your product can still be the perfect gift, if they act now! Include your shipping deadline.
Week 3: Promote e-gift cards if you can. Square offers the option for you to sell e-gift cards for your business here. The pricing is essentially the credit card processing fee, when the gift card is used. Gift cards are an excellent option for a gift, when the gift giver is unsure of a color, size or personalization, so take advantage of this option also.
Week 4: Happy Holidays
No matter how much we believe the world has changed, the basic tenets of marketing still hold true, especially in Q4. Product, Place, Price and Promotion.
Identifying your holiday gift assortment, pricing it at a competitive and profitable price, and promoting it on social media, email, website and Etsy in a planned well organized fashion, will help lead you to a profitable Q4.
What’s changed is how critical the details are to your success. A mood product photo, a description that answers all the customer’s questions in advance, a deadline for shipping in time, and the reasons they should shop with you and not Amazon, all contribute to that success.
Now go get yours!
Have questions about building your maker brand and business? Subscribe to the Business for Makers Blog and Business for Makers Podcast for insights and tips. Tune to Sawdust Talk on IGTV Live on Wednesdays at 10 pm CST to hear from makers about their projects and business and meet some great members of the maker community.
Check out georgesupplyco.com for more resources for growing your maker business!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Chervitz is the owner of George Supply Company, dedicated to helping woodshops build their brand. See more at GeorgeSupplyCo.com. You can reach him at Scott@GeorgeSupplyCo.com or on Instagram at @GeorgeSupplyCompany