You’ve probably heard that there are two times of the year when people typically stop to plan out the next few months.
The most common time for reflection and planning is at New Year’s, because you have the whole year looming large in front of you. The second most popular time is around Labor Day. The end of summer and start of the new school year here in the U.S. is a natural time for people to stop and take stock of their year and to think ahead about how to wrap up all those projects they had on their to-do list for this year.
This is especially smart for business owners, so you can make the most of the opportunities that emerge in the fourth quarter.
How are things going?
Before you plot or adjust your business strategy for October through December, it’s always a good idea to reflect on what has gone well so far this year.
What have you accomplished that you had planned to, such as attracting a certain number of social media followers, hitting a revenue target, hiring key employees, and/or rolling out new products or services? Pat yourself on the back for those successes.
Then take a look at what’s still on your annual plan that you haven’t completed. Have you not accomplished them because you haven’t initiated them, such as a marketing campaign, or are they not done because your plan didn’t succeed? What didn’t go as you had expected?
Knowing what’s working and what’s not is key to finishing the year strong. Keep doing what’s going well and try a new approach to what hasn’t worked. That might mean delegating tasks you haven’t gotten to, redesigning your approach to your goal, or replacing a task with something that has a better chance of achieving your ultimate objective, among other things.
Unless you’ve checked off every goal you set at the start of the year, now is not the time to introduce a slew of new goals, however. Focus is key. Don’t get distracted. Pull up the goals that you had determined were essential for your company’s success this year and brainstorm how best to reach them in the next 100 days left in the year.
Product-based businesses: gear up for the holiday season
Retailers and manufacturers that rely on Black Friday for a sales bump should already be prepared. Labor Day is frequently the deadline by which inventory needs to be ordered or raw materials procured and in-house. If you run a product-based business, your focus should be on marketing.
It’s time to attract more buyers to your business when they’re in prime buying mode for the holidays. Whether you sell home goods, wine and liquor, toys, or clothing, you need to start priming the pump, so to speak. Meaning, start promotional campaigns that will draw customers to your place of business or website. Give them reasons to come shop with you.
Service-based businesses also have an opportunity to boost sales during the last quarter. Furniture restoration companies do well this time of year as people try to spruce up their homes before holiday gatherings. Caterers may want to identify freelance helpers for holiday parties, and holiday lighting companies should be advertising hard to sign homeowners who want help this year brightening their homes and yards.
You don’t have to be like Home Depot and start featuring Christmas trees in your retail space, but you can remind customers and prospects that they should start planning now for their holiday activities. That way they can be sure they can get the products and services they want in November and December.
Strategize your marketing activities
If sales in the fourth quarter typically have a big impact on your business’s bottom line, you’ll want to ensure your marketing is sufficient to bring prospects in. What advertising, promotion, social media, events, and other activities do you have planned?
Given the results of your mini-assessment of the first ¾ of the year, do you need to invest more in marketing to finish the year strong? Are you in need of new tactics because your old ones aren’t working as well?
Or is your business busiest during the warmer months? If so, you may want to taper your promotions a bit for now and allocate more of your marketing money to be spent during the second quarter of next year.
One way to know when it makes the most sense to get in front of prospects is to look at sales reports from previous years. When did most of your sales come in? Then design an advertising and promotional program to make sure customers are thinking about you right before they have a need.
For example, if you sell a product that sells a massive amount around Mother’s Day, such as custom jewelry, you know that your prime time to promote likely begins in the spring and not so much in October. Plan your marketing to connect with prospects as they’re starting to think about Mother’s Day.
Order client appreciation gifts
Everyone enjoys receiving gifts and thank-you notes; your customers are no different.
Depending on what you sell, start thinking about and planning what you could give customers to show you value their business. It could be a little bonus at checkout, such as a small bottle of festive nail polish for each nail salon client or a free dessert at your restaurant. Lawncare customers could receive a small plant to brighten their homes or offices during the colder months. Executive and personal coaches could give out custom planners to their clients, or a code to download a free app that will enhance and support the coaching they’re receiving.
Presents don’t have to be expensive, but most customers appreciate a token of your thanks.
The key is to plan ahead and place any orders now so that you have your gifts in hand and ready to go by Thanksgiving. Or you can place orders with companies and have deliveries planned for later in the year, so you don’t have to think about it.
Break down what you need to do between now and December 31 by planning backward from the last day you’ll be open this year. Plot week by week what you need to accomplish to hit your sales target and complete those all-important tasks before the New Year. Creating a weekly to-do list will help you stay on top of all the hustle and bustle that usually accompanies this time of year and still help you achieve your annual goals.