By Sarah Sewell
By Sarah Sewell
No doubt about it, being a handmade small business owner during the holidays is a rush like no other. Decorating, shopping, wrapping, running errands, attending activities, and that doesn’t include your everyday tasks or responding to the extra cha-chings dinging on your phone. Some shop owners report doing as much as 50% of their business in the last three months of the year and finding it necessary to put in 19-hour days in order to meet the demands.
But you aren’t in this business to be sleepless, burnt out, stressed about possibly missing events with your family, or pressured by less than happy customers.
So how can you be proactive in taking care of your shop, your customers, AND you this holiday and beyond? In a nutshell: planning.
In my membership group, Flourish at Artisan Indie, we walk through a series of 12-weeks beginning as early as the summer where we break down different aspects of your business in preparation for the holiday selling season. I’m including some of the highlights here as quick tips for you to get your business holiday-ready, and for you to save your sanity:
Ensure Your Shop is Ready to Receive Buyers
This is really something you should do all year, but I will add it to the holiday planning list. Successful selling is based on the five pillars of e-commerce: knowing your target market, branding, photography, seo, and copy. (You can read more about what I mean when I refer to the pillars of e-commerce here.) Each of these is essential in everything you do from the products you create to your marketing efforts and your continued relationship building after the sale.
Take steps to review your audience and the products you are creating. While it’s difficult to say which of the pillars is most important in your strategy, photography is certainly a key. Remember when a potential buyer is browsing online, they have seconds viewing a thumbnail-sized image to decide if they will click on your listing for more information or a competitor’s option. Your photos should show your product clearly, with lifestyle photo options, and consistent editing reflecting your brand and attractive to your ideal customer.
Some other questions to consider when looking at your shop with holiday-shopper’s eyes -
- Have you designed a special collection to be released for the holidays?
- What current trends are hot this season?
- Which of those would appeal to your market and fit in with your brand?
- Review your listing for SEO and keywords adding in any tags for gift suggestions as needed. Revise your listing copy so it evokes emotion within your buyer making them see and feel having your product in their life - or better yet, so they can’t see their life without your product!
- Ensure customers have a way to sign up for a mailing list if you offer one or can follow you on social media.
Have Your Policies Set in Place
While we are talking about having your shop set up properly go ahead and fill out all your sections - including your about section and your policies page. Your buyers are likely in a hurry to find the perfect gift and have everything crossed off their list. Anticipate and answer as many questions as you can in your policies. This may avoid a lot of unnecessary back and forth conversations with your customer such as your personalization or customization options, your turnaround time or shipping time, return policy for gifted items, your policy regarding items not delivered in time, and so on.
You may also wish to re-state key points in your transaction email response with your buyer. And if you have a stand-alone site that allows for a Frequently Asked Questions area, you may state it here also.
It’s true a hurried shopper may not read everything you have prepared, but knowing where you stand on issues will give you peace of mind and a set answer rather than spending time evaluating each matter on a case by case basis. You will have a cut and paste response to work from which will save you time in e-mailing responses.
Did you know major retailers have their holiday marketing planned in the spring? Start planning your holiday marketing as early as June or July. Watch for trend reports, plan your collections, order any supplies for inventory preparation and shipping. In your favorite planner or on a designated calendar in your studio, mark off shipping deadlines (announced approximately September).
Having a focused plan will allow you to know when you are working on your specific products, have your photography scheduled (either outsourced or models scheduled), ample time for photo editing and promotional graphics to be created, sales to be announced and run, etc.
Schedule Your Content in Advance
Now that you have all of your important dates marked off as far as promotions and deadlines, you can begin scheduling your content. Be aware of which platform your audience spends time online, and concentrate your heaviest marketing efforts there, but don’t neglect other avenues of traffic as well. There are many schedulers available each with different features, benefits, and pricing options. Choose your favorite and dedicate time to upload your graphics and captions so you are assured that your content is being posted automatically. Consistency is key to brand awareness and to assuring your customers you are to be trusted.
Of course each day you will want to visit each platform and nurture any relationships thereby responding to comments, interacting with your audience, and engaging with influencers, but the heavy lifting of making decisions around what to post is already handled. The engagement piece can be achieved in a relatively short amount of time each day.
It’s pretty likely you are going to be ten kinds of exhausted by the time you ship your last order. What will you do with your shop after the holidays? Despite desperately wanting to tune out from your shop for a couple of weeks and regroup without responding to every ping on your phone that comes through, it will take much longer for you to regain the momentum in your shop statistics.
I have always advised against putting your shop on vacation mode. Instead, I advise extending shipping times to allow you to ease back in at a slower pace. Consider adding a message in your shop announcement and in your transaction e-mail that you are enjoying reduced holiday hours and re-iterate your anticipated ship time.
You may have heard the saying you can do anything, but you can’t do everything all at the same time. This is so true within your business. All the higher income sellers have learned the secret of successful outsourcing. This can be challenging, especially in the early stages of your business.
But during the holidays this might become a sanity saver. Within your business, you might bring in support with production such as helping you make your products or a simpler task such as labeling, packaging, or running errands like shipping.
Or you might choose to outsource some home tasks like hiring a cleaning person or childcare to come in during the holidays and alleviate some of the household duties freeing up some additional hours for you to enjoy your family or devote to your business.
Bonus Tip: It’s Okay to Say No
I couldn’t help but add this one in, and it’s because self-care is a topic close to my heart. Again, you didn’t become an entrepreneur to be overwhelmed and unhappy by the work you are doing. Remember the holidays are a busy season, and there are many opportunities for activities, parties, vendor events, and more. Each time you say “yes” to one thing, it means you are saying “no” to something else.
Check-in with yourself as you run your business during the holidays and throughout the year. Make sure you aren’t making decisions to work extra hours or to accommodate customer requests at the expense of your own well-being and happiness.
If you enjoyed these tips and would like to receive ongoing support each month, I invite you to learn more about my craft and commerce community, Flourish at Artisan Indie. We offer training, brainstorming, and mentoring live and in saved presentations; access to over 40 experts and advisors each with specialties to support you in your business journey; a community of over 2000 members where you can find peer support and your new business BFF; discounts and offers on your favorite business tools; promotional opportunities on social media for your business; and so much more!
Looking for more holiday selling tips for your handmade business? You may also be interested in reading
By Sarah Sewell
This weekend was the largest online shopping weekend EVER. It is estimated that 6.22 billion sales happened on Black Friday this year which is a whopping 24% increase from last year in 2017! Cyber Monday's numbers just came in with an astounding 7.9 billion in sales 2 billion of which was done from a smart phone. Small Business Saturday sales were up 25% this year bringing in over 3 Billion in revenue. These numbers are INCREDIBLE and give retailers both in person and online much hope for the next 3 weeks moving toward Christmas.
These numbers show that retail is surely not dead and that e-commerce retailers have now got the large slice of the pie. With numbers like that surely the main question on shop owners minds is how to keep the momentum going.
The best way at looking at this is not to think of this past sales weekend as a Grand Finale, instead look at it as the opening ceremony. This past weekend was great for BIG business, lots of TV's, Appliances, Big Toys and Prime Deals were made, this means now the door is wide open for small business. Take advantage of this opportunity.
Now the big gifts are out of the way, shoppers are looking for smaller more meaningful gifts. Those businesses that offer personalization, customization, one of a kind items, or small batch craft goods have the upper hand to big business for the next couple of weeks. Craft businesses in general are sought out on platforms like Etsy or Handmade at Amazon because of the unique gift-able products they offer. This week is GO TIME for the makers, crafters and creatives.
Be sure to use social media to promote this week, shoppers may have PROMO overload so you want to promote a bit differently then offering something crazy like 40% off your entire store in bright neon lights, instead you want to appeal to buyers emotions. Remember they are seeking out the special gifts they couldn't find in the mainstream big box stores.
Here are some examples of how you can promote your business without sounding to sales-y:
1. Offer meaningful and value based promotions:
- Free Gift Wrap with purchase (solves a problem, helps the consumer)
- Buy One Donate One (this time of year shoppers like to give to charity)
- Free Personalization (adds value to their purchase)
2. Share your story! This time of year is when yesteryears times are often talked about and shared. Nostalgia is BIG during the holidays. Sharing your story is a great way to take a walk down memory lane, what inspired you to do what you do? When did you learn your craft and who taught it to you? You can turn your story into a video, or create a slideshow even that plays a nice tune. The story is what sells your brand, your product, yourself! Shoppers are attracted to those authentic brands who are great at storytelling.
3. Engage with new customers. This may sound like a no brainer, but often we get busy with orders....especially makers as we are making our products as the orders come in. Don't let conversations go unanswered for any length of time. Respond to posts and comments on your social media sites as they happen. Sometimes just being there to answer questions is enough for the shopper to turn into a buyer.
Remember this is the time of year for you to increase awareness of your brand. Get out there, engage and give stellar customer service. The momentum will keep going as long as you are up and moving forward. The big box stores are taking a break, which means it is your time to shine, so go out and MAKE IT HAPPEN!!