Time flies and the holidays will be here before you know it, along with a steady stream of customers looking for the perfect gifts. If you own a small business, now is the perfect time to start your 4th quarter planning.
It’s a make-or-break time of year for many businesses, and for a good reason. Holiday spending typically accounts for a huge chunk of annual retail sales; if you don't plan ahead, you could miss out.
Do you really need to start planning for the 4th quarter now? Like right now?
The answer is a resounding yes!
By starting early, your customers can reap the benefits of your hard work, and you'll be able to avoid last-minute scrambling. This planning also helps you stay organized, so you can make the most of the holiday season and have time to enjoy life.
So start creating your 4th-quarter business plan now.
A business plan is a written document detailing your business goals and your plan for achieving them. It can be used to secure funding from investors, attract top talent, and help you stay focused as your business grows.
But you can also make a less formal business plan to guide your decision-making on a day-to-day basis. That's the kind of plan we'll focus on for the rest of the article.
Before the 4th quarter arrives, you need to have a written plan for how your company is going to capture sales and take advantage of the holiday rush. As you're putting this plan together, consider these questions:
There’s a lot to think about as you're putting together your 4th-quarter business plan. But don't worry — we've got you covered with plenty of business tips to help you prepare. Let’s look at what you need to do.
First things first. You can't accurately plan for the future without looking at what's happened in the past. So pull up your sales data from previous years and look at it closely.
Focus on your overall sales for the year, as well as your 4th-quarter sales specifically. Then look at which products were your best sellers. These numbers give you a good idea of what to stock up on this year.
Here are a few other items to review in your data:
While past data can't guarantee future events, this information helps you fine-tune your 4th-quarter business plan to make sure it's as effective as possible. It’ll also help you to find areas where you can improve.
Now that you have the data and know what to expect, it's time to set some goals. What would a successful 4th quarter look like to you?
Think about what you want to achieve, and then break those goals into smaller, more manageable pieces. For example, if your goal is to increase sales by 20% over the last year, how are you going to make that happen?
You could try several different things, including:
There isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to help you meet your goals. So take time to brainstorm several different options so you can pick out what’s going to work best for your business.
If you do this for every goal on your list, you’ll soon have an action plan to help make your 4th quarter the best one.
No one wants to be caught short-handed during the busy holiday season. And if you wait until the last minute to order inventory, you could face stock shortages and unhappy customers.
To avoid that, look at your previous sales data and create an inventory plan with this year's goals in mind. That way, you'll have enough products on hand to meet customer demand without overspending on inventory that could sit unused after the holiday rush is over.
If you're selling physical products, it's also a good time to start thinking about your packaging and shipping needs. Can your current packaging handle an increase in volume? Are your shipping rates set up in a way that lets you profit from increased sales?
Make any changes or adjustments to your inventory and packaging plans now, so you're ready to go when 4th-quarter sales start rolling in.
Unless you're running a sole proprietorship, you aren't going to reach your 4th-quarter business goals on your own. You'll need your team to make it happen.
Start by setting clear goals for everyone to work towards. Then explain what you expect from each team member and how their roles contribute to the business’s success.
Consider any additional training your team might need to prepare for the 4th-quarter rush. For example, if you're launching new products, do they know how to sell them? If you're running promotions, do they understand the details and how to execute them properly?
It's also the time to think about staffing needs in general. Should you hire seasonal employees to help with the increased workload and customer service requests? Do you have a plan to cover employees who need extra time off?
While data can help you make some of these decisions, sitting down with your team and getting their input can also be helpful. After all, they're the ones whose hard work makes your 4th-quarter business goals come true, so give them a voice in the planning process.
Your products aren't going to sell themselves. So if you want to increase your 4th-quarter sales, you need a solid marketing plan.
Now is the time to decide which marketing channels you're going to use and what kind of messages you want to send to your target audience. Are you going to:
Your marketing plan should also include a budget. How much are you able to spend on marketing and advertising? Knowing this upfront helps you make smart decisions about where to allocate your resources so you don't find yourself deeply in debt come January.
While making plans, decide how you’ll measure the success of your marketing efforts. This could be anything from sales numbers to website traffic or social media engagement, so pick what makes sense for you.
By setting up some key metrics now, you'll be able to track your progress and see what's working (and what isn't) as you move through the 4th quarter.
There’s a lot to do to prepare your business for the 4th quarter. But by starting now, you'll have a much better chance of achieving your sales goals and growing your business.
So what are you waiting for? Get started on your 4th-quarter planning today!