Anticipating that ‘last minute’ from customers
Even though smart business people express client or employee appreciation throughout the year, December remains, by far, the top month for sending gifts. Many of the larger companies make their decisions and place holiday orders in early September. The majority however seem to prefer waiting until the last minute.
Ah, the challenges of meeting client needs
…when you don’t know what they are ahead of time! The last minute rush might be easily managed by a large, well-known mail order company with a warehouse full of long-term shelf life products.
But for companies that are smaller, or that micro-produce, last minute orders make it difficult to schedule production and fulfillment. How do you know what kind of packaging to have on hand, and in what quantities? What will be popular this year? And it’s always different from last year!
Beautiful velvet foil: a story
A few years ago, I got a sample of a beautiful velvet and foil box I thought would make perfect holiday packaging. I conducted a bit of market research and everyone who saw it, loved it. This would be THE package of the season. I ordered 600 of them and three years later, I still have about 550 of them sitting in my garage!
What I’ve finally learned: ratios and top sellers
You can base your projections on what you did last year, and add in the percent increase you expect (or want) for this year.
Look at what’s done well for you throughout the year and figure that the sales ratios will remain about the same for the holidays too.
If cookies make up 70% and tea is 10% of sales, then you can guess that these numbers will likely hold true for November and December too – unless you have a special “holiday-time only” offering, which of course changes things. Then choose a few items, at different price points, and promote them as your top sellers.
Preparing customers for the holidays, gently
Even though most companies don’t even want to think about the holidays so early, it’s still important to put the idea in front of them in August and September. Educate them about their options. Give them reasons why it’s in their best interest to act sooner rather than later (because it’s easier for you does not so much matter to them!).
Think about what incentives you can use to encourage them to order earlier. I’m not a big fan of discounting, but I do like giving bonuses – order by September 30th and get an extra $30 worth of product, for example. Or order in the next three weeks and get this fabulous umbrella!
Then stay on top of potential clients and follow up, follow up, follow up.
As I mentioned earlier, most business people wait until the last minute. If you’re not in their awareness, they tend to do a Google search on November 27th and order from whatever mail order company pops up in the top of the list.
For businesses that have strong holiday demand, the last quarter of the year is always a great adventure (Image Adventure Lives On by Bredgur, Creative Commons). You can prepare as best as possible, and then make sure you’re flexible to handle whatever unforeseen opportunities crop up.
Oh, and make sure you schedule a massage, a vacation, or some downtime to start December 26th.
- Lori Saitz and her series on small business observations at Women Grow Business;
Guest contributor Lori Saitz is founder of Zen Rabbit Baking Company. She helps people show appreciation for and give recognition to others. The main (delicious!) tool her team uses to help accomplish this important feat is through The Gratitude Cookie(tm). A thin, crunchy cross between a butter and a sugar cookie, The Gratitude Cookie is so named because if you’re eating the cookies, you’re encouraged to think about something you are grateful for as you munch on each one.Google+