The winter holiday season is notoriously frenzied. It's hectic enough when you're a shopper, but doubly so when you're both a shopper and a seller.
As a seller, I anticipate my holiday sales this year will be a little busier than last—though not as busy as I would like, and hope to attain next year. For any downtime I may experience this year, I have several ideas to implement so I can stay productive. But I'm also preparing in case my sales go through the roof—hey, you never know.
I'll share some of my ideas with you, in case you're like me and want to be ready for whatever happens this holiday selling season.
Find the bloggers you like and start connecting with them. Read their stories and leave comments, but don't try to advertise your shop right away
Networking as marketing
First, I believe networking is a crucial element to marketing oneself as a small business owner. It also lays a foundation to branding yourself as an expert in your field.
To do this, find some bloggers related to your niche that you enjoy reading. If you sell jewelry or clothing, find some fashion blogs. If you're a gal that sells tools, start with blogger Brittany from Pretty Handy Girl. There seems to be an endless number of tech blogs, antique blogs, pet blogs and so on.
Find the ones you like and start connecting with them. Read their stories and leave comments, but don't try to advertise your shop right away. Just get to know them, let them get to know you, and offer tips when applicable. Doing this regularly makes you a part of the community and establishes you as a businessperson that cares.
Dream up some sales
If you have a solid stockpile of inventory but sales are moving at a snail's pace, perhaps you can use your free time to improve listings that need a small facelift. Upload better photos of your products, add or update keywords for better SEO results, and update shipping services for those last-minute shoppers.
In mid-December, shipping carriers put out a shipping schedule so their customers can plan last-minute gift shipments properly. As soon as you get your hands on this year's schedule, share the information on your store site for those who want to buy from you.
And while you have your hands in your listings, dream up some sales and special discounts. Those with an eBay store subscription can use the "Markdown Manager" to schedule discounts. If you are active on Facebook or other social media sites, create a flash sale or figure out a way to offer coupon codes.
Develop timelines, marketing strategies, gift guides and blog content so you'll be ready when special gift-giving days such as Valentine's or Graduation come around
Plan for what's next
Another way to work your business while things are slow is to start preparing for the next set of shopping seasons. Develop timelines, marketing strategies, gift guides and blog content so you won't be flustered when special gift-giving days such as Valentine's or Graduation come around.
I have some inventory I'm already eager to unload so I can make room for 2014. If I have some time in the next couple of months, I'd like to plan out a clearance of these items that will start the day after Christmas. Maybe I'll bundle related items together or offer a "Countdown to New Year's" discount.
I think what's important for me as an online seller this holiday season is to not be discouraged if I'm not as busy as I'd like to be. Keeping my stores active and fresh during slow times in the midst of a busy season will not only keep my mind off the boring bits, but I'll learn new things if I carry out some of the ideas I've shared here.
Then I can just chalk it all up to "a learning experience" and use it to figure out how next year's sales are going to increase.
Be ready for anything
But just in case I become some sort of superstar seller this holiday season, I want to have some action plans ready.
I recently read several comments on an Etsy blog about how sellers are preparing for the holiday rush. Many experienced sellers agreed that having well-stocked inventory and shipping supplies is the key to saving time and reducing stress.
Tasks that need to be done but require minimal expertise can be delegated to a few friends and family. I might ask my mom to photograph new inventory, or pay the kid down the street to help prepare shipments.
The only way I can provide great customer service and efficient shipping is to somehow fit a little 'me first' time into the schedule
In fact, one Etsy seller said she preps her shipping boxes ahead of time with tissue paper and business cards. It seems like a small thing to do, but I imagine you'll be glad you did simply because that's one less thing you have to do when you need to ship out 50 packages a week.
I almost hesitate to say this, but although I want to be busy, I don't want my mental health or family time to be negatively affected. I have to come first or else everything beyond me starts to unravel.
This means the only way I can provide great customer service and efficient shipping is to somehow fit a little "me first" time into the schedule. Maybe it'll be a morning walk or an evening movie, but as soon as I start feeling flustered, I'll push myself just a little more and then step out of "business mode" for a moment.
When I start to feel overwhelmed, I have to ask myself, "Is this worth it?" I definitely love being an online seller, but I can get really engrossed in the business and let basic life tasks fall to the wayside. But one event that's most important to me is Christmas with the family.
One Etsy seller said she almost didn't have a Christmas break last year because she was so busy. So even if I have to put my shop in vacation mode for a few days, it'll be worth it.
How do you handle the holiday frenzy?