September 15, 2023
The very lovely Emma Jackson Photography asked me to write a blog post about all things business, and I knew immediately what I wanted to share. My year so far has been about 50% Christmas focused and some people think that's wild! Even some retail pals think it's a bit, well, out there. Read on for why you should be doing it too and one of my top tips.
On 6th January I wrote and scheduled the three emails I knew I was definitely going to send this Christmas. The first was an out of office/we’ve left the studio/Merry Christmas to all kind of thing. The second was a “last orders today” email, and the third was “one week to go until last orders”. It’s what my business mentor, Jenny Pace, calls low hanging fruit and it’s a brilliant strategy when you have a deadline event like Christmas. Working backwards somehow makes it easier.
But why in January?
If you’re a small maker with a retail gift-based business, it’s likely that Q4 is where you do most of your selling, most of your marketing and most of your making. Depending on the year, Betsy Benn has ranged between 32-45% of our whole year’s turnover in those last three months, so it makes sense to spend between a third and half of my time across the year planning for the best possible festive trading season.
The absolute best thing about Christmas for maker sellers is its predictability. As we will doubtless have all moaned when a customer places an order on the 22nd and wants it to arrive the next day “Why leave it so late, they know Christmas is on the SAME DAY every year”. Well, us makers know it’s coming too, so we have this amazing opportunity to plan.
And while we say it’s about Q4, October is definitely a slow burn, with sales not really picking up pace until after the late half term, possibly not even until after Halloween or Bonfire night, so you can compress Q4 down into about sixty full days of trading.
Sixty days, where your customers are actively looking for the beautiful solutions you have for them.
Sixty days, when you don’t really want to be trying to write product descriptions and emails and creating reels all the time.
Sixty days when you really just want to be saying “here are my beautiful wares, thank you for your custom” or variations on a theme.
Sixty days when you don’t want to be working all the hours god sends in your business, leaving you exhausted or ill, and unable to enjoy your own Christmas.
That’s assuming that you COULD even throw all your waking hours into your business for that time and don’t have, oh, a family, a spouse, pets, and friends that are all important to you and need your time and love. You also have to look after your own physical and emotional health so you can keep trading in January, and be ready for Valentines Day and Mother’s Day etc
And you might also need to make the odd meal so you don’t starve.
But break those sixty days down between January and September and you’re looking at just under seven days per month. A month to write seven days’ worth of Christmassy social media content, a month to film seven reels (if you want to do a reel a day which I think is a bit excessive), a month to write one newsletter (if you want to send one a week) – you can see where I’m going with this.
Which is why we started in January!
It’s not just content that needs to be written, it’s everything of course. Identifying gaps in your product range, sourcing supplies, creating new products, working out costings, photographing products, listing them on your eCommerce sites, outsourcing jobs you can’t do, adding temps to your team – the business list is kinda endless and we haven’t even got to the family list or the self-care list. And maintaining focus on something that seems so far away and has so much in it, well, it’s hard!
I was already pining for some kind of accountability group around Christmas prep. For a start, I didn’t want to be the only odd sock (or stocking) in the laundry basket, working on Christmas in isolation. I wanted other odd socks to join me! But there is also nothing like a supportive community to bounce ideas around with, share highs and lows with, or just sit and have a coffee with. I’ve been asked so many times over the past 13 years what advice I would give to anyone starting their own business and it’s always the same. Find someone else starting their own business and hang out with them. No-one understands your journey quite like someone else on the same path.
All that’s to say, when Jenny Pace asked if I’d like to run a Christmas accountability group within her Better Business Collective while she was on maternity leave, I jumped at it! We agreed I’d also open it up to the informal notonthehighstreet facebook group I’m a part of, as not every business in the Collective has such a big Christmas focus and I wanted there to be more than three of us on the monthly zooms I was planning! As it turned out, I wasn’t the only odd sock at all. There were lots of us who wanted to get a handle on planning in this way, so many in fact that we had to limit the numbers we could have on the live calls, with the rest of the group accessing the recordings after the event.
And of course, it was joyous! We covered A LOT of topics. One of my favourites was May’s monthly zoom where we looked at dealing with the stress, resting and refueling during peak trade. It’s an emotive topic and everyone had memories of times they’d not been able to manage the stress, but also tips on how they look after themselves now and the sharing was just so beautiful. As is often the way when you’re creating a presentation, the flow of information can feel one way, but when others receive it the pathways open up and it flows right back to you!
There were some incredibly practical sessions too, and I’m going to share this one with you so you can get a heap of social content out of one piece of writing.
Take your current best seller, or a good selling item you want to promote, and write out the answers to these questions;
Put in as much detail as you can, and then go back and make sure you have as many key terms in this long form copy as possible. Anytime you have written ”it’s”, please change that to a key search term if you can.
What you have just written is a blog post. You can either keep the questions in, or add some sentences between your answers to create a flow. Here’s an example of where I did this for our travel memory print.
Now you can take some extracts from this blog post and turn them into a newsletter or two. You might want to highlight the inspiration story. Or pull out why xxx is such a good gift for xxx.
And in the same week social posts might look like this:
Day 1 – This week we’re throwing a spotlight on one of our favourites… Here’s the creation story.
Day 2 – These are some features/benefits. This is how you could gift this product. It’s really popular with xxx kind of person.
Day 3 – Here’s a BTS of us making this product. Here’s why we still love it.
Day 4 – An anecdote about a standout order for this product.
Day 5 – Customer X bought this for xxx, here’s what they said about it. This kind of feedback makes us feel…..
Day 6 – seeing photos of our product out in the wild makes us feel …. It inspired the creation of this spin off. The features of which are xxx
Day 7 – we’ve loved deep diving on this product, if you want to read more about it head to the blog post here.
A reel of this product being made or packaged or unwrapped would be a lovely addition. Or if you can show footage of anything that inspired it, that would also be lovely.
I chose to publish the blog post I wrote like this back in February because the product I was writing about is not just a Christmas product. But every other piece of connected content is already created and will be published in November to push Christmas sales. And obviously, you can take this formula for three or four products and vary it slightly!
But it’s not January anymore!
If you’re feeling inspired to get some Christmas content written but have a mild panic setting in that it’s not January anymore – panic not. The brilliant Jenny is running her spectacular Christmas Marketing In A Day workshop on Friday 22nd September. It’s everything you need to supercharge your Christmas content plans.
Even if you can’t be there in person, the whole thing will be recorded so you can catch up whenever you like.
A final thought.
We all get that voice in our heads that asks if marketing sometimes is, well, a bit much. Maybe we question the value of the things we’ve made. Or compassion in this time of economic uncertainty makes us feel like quietening our voices.
But please know this.
Our ideal customers want to give meaningful gifts to their loved ones. From about late October the colder darker nights will do something to everyone’s inner core and make them want to bring colour, light and joy into their homes. With Christmas, Diwali, and Hannukah all falling in Q4, love, actually, will be all around. And they don’t want to pour money into the hands of Jeff Bezos and crew any more than you do. Your customers are actively looking for you, so show them what you have and let them decide if they want to make a purchase.
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April 17, 2023