Thursday, December 1, 2011

3 Tips on How To Survive Holiday ‘Small Business’ Stress (aka Why I Should Not be Blogging Until January)

It’s that time of the year. We’re all getting less sleep, more stress, and unfortunately reaching for that immediate sugar high of a good Ghiradelli chocolate fix too many times.

So, if you are overwhelmed and a little stressed, read on to get some tips on How to Survive Holiday Small Business Stress.

1. Don’t take on too much.

I know you want to start on the marketing band wagon and want to blog more, start a Facebook page, open a Twitter account, or even start a new website. Stop. Be realistic.

If you are really busy and finding yourself yelling at the dog more often, then Don't. Do. It. Starting something now will only get your full plate fuller. It will only add to your ‘oh, I didn’t get to that yet’ list. Why do it? You will end playing catch up with yourself. And really, who wants to make this business to be too much like work and not play?

Practical Hint 1:
Prioritize what is important for your business. If you are selling stuff online, having stuff in your online shop is the most important thing. So instead of tapping your fingers for an hour trying to come up with a clever blog, or struggling on how to use Twitter (does anyone really know?), start uploading pictures and list stuff you have laying around. I explained why this is the most important thing to can do to actively market your shop in my previous marketing post .

2. Do what you are supposed to be doing. 

I know getting more sales every hour is exciting and all. But really, do what you are supposed to be doing. Tweeting a hundred times a day is probably not garnering you extra points with your virtual followers. Changing tags and titles will get you more views and possibly some sales, but... what are you supposed to be doing? If you own an online shop selling goods, take care of your existing clients.

Get that present mailed for your client today. Send that e-mail you’re supposed to be responding to. Order those supplies you need to finish that project with. Getting your items mailed out with plenty of time to spare will not only make you feel like you’re ahead of the curve, but will probably get you some extra bonus points in the feedback department. Great feedback is always helpful when things start to slow down and a potential client is trying to decide to go with Shop B or yours.

Practical Hint 2:
If you really can’t get packages out when you said you will (like someone I know who forgot to change their announcement before a huge Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale) ... then by all means, communicate. Send a note to your clients and let them know exactly what is going. If you ran out of supplies for a custom order, let them know that as well. Most people are very understanding. Worse case, they cancel their order, you lose a sale, then you can console yourself with some spiked eggnog. Trust me, after a glass or two, you’ll forget all about the fail. Plus, if you are drowning in packages, you’ll feel better when you do get your other orders out in time.

3. Do make things easier on yourself.

I know we all have that Type A personality thing going on. Otherwise, you would not be reading a blog learning about how to do your small business better. You’d be on You Tube catching up on the latest viral video craze.

So, instead of hand stamping personal thank you notes for each and everyone of your clients, or wrapping each box with glossy wrapping paper which does not want to cooperate. Simplify! Use your printer. Write thank you notes on the receipts you mail out. Use a simple ribbon and some tissue to wrap your boxes. Use a web based mailing system. Do something less complicated.

Yes, make things simpler for yourself. I know packaging can be important, but getting your orders out in time and in good shape is probably more important than “pretty” at this point. If have not prepared ahead of time for complicated packaging, the time to start is not when you are too busy too cook dinner for your family, or even run to the grocery store to buy your dog some food.

Practical Hint 3:
If you have not already done so, stock up on business cards, care instructions cards, marketing postcards, mailing supplies et all. Actually, I have one word for you, outsource. Oh and when you're on that shipping page and they're asking you if you want the stuff sent priority service or even express mail? Click yes.

Trust me, now is not the time to question whether it is worth the savings. Now is the time to be wishing you had a time machine or a small flying aircraft so you can pick up the darn things yourself. But if UPS is willing to go to your house and drop off things at your doorstep within a day or 2 for $20? Then yes, it will be money well spent.

Moral of the Story or Lesson of the Day
Prioritize what’s important for your online shop. Have stuff to sell. Take care of your existing clients. Streamline and outsource where you can. When the dust settles, then, you can start all that other stuff which happily distracts you along the way.

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