Small business owners often shrug off the concept of strategic planning as something only needed by big businesses with employees to delegate the workload to. But if you wait until Thanksgiving to plan your Black Friday sale, you might want to think again. Major retailers already had their Christmas items out on the retail floor by late September. Why? It isn’t a ploy to diminish Halloween celebrations, it’s crucial strategic planning. How much does the average consumer spend on Halloween items compared to Christmas items? Mind you, that’s excluding the trick-or-treater candy you know you really bought for yourself. The National Retail Federation’s data shows Americans who celebrate Halloween only spend about $87 on average per person per year. For Christmas items, that number balloons up to over $1,000! By lengthening the shopping window and being the first to the floor with Christmas items, retailers are securing their piece of that holiday fruit cake bounty.
I have a fondness for vintage illustrated fairy tale books and I think many people are familiar with this story by Aesop: The Ant & the Grasshopper. The moral of this story is there is a time for work and a time for play and those who know the difference are the ones who survive and THRIVE. Small business owners need to focus their energy on being ants with strategic planning throughout the year. If you plan to have a Black Friday sale, you can’t start setting it up on Thanksgiving. Marketing efforts require forethought along with time and money. For that matter, all business operational efforts take time (and time is money) and deserve strategic planning for the best results.
So let’s say you do want to plan ahead for an event like Black Friday. What does the strategic planning for a Black Friday sale look like?
First, you’ll want to identify your vision. This often includes goal setting. Why do you want to have a Black Friday sale? Do you want new customers? Do you need repeat sales? Is there a product you have that hasn’t been selling lately?
The second step in strategic planning for a Black Friday sale is going to require a look back at your financials. If you goal is to sell 20 units of product, look at your ROI (return on investment) for this product. How much can you discount it and still have a budget to advertise while making your financial goals? Know your personal financial floor. A large part of strategic planning is about making good decisions through knowledge.
Remember: Knowledge + Action = Results.
Now take your goal and create an action plan outline (for help with creating an action plan for your small business growth, click here). As you create your action plan, gather information. Some steps in your action plan you may already know, like a step to create an email blast to tell people about your sale. But to refine your strategic plan, you might want to know when the best day and time will be to send that email. All businesses have different customers and this formula will change based on the unique interests of your customers. Spend some time gathering information for your plan and don’t assume you know the answers. You may plan to send an email only to realize you don’t have a very large email database. Does this mean you spend more time on getting more email addresses or will you look to a different marketing strategy, like mailing a post card or some form of guerrilla marketing?
(Psst, if you don’t know what guerrilla marketing is, you should contact me. I’m fascinated by it and have collected a lot of ideas I we can use to develop a strategic plan for you. I even have a workshop dedicated to this very topic.)
The fourth step will be setting up those outlined steps in your action plan. You may need to craft the email and get it scheduled in advance. Or maybe you need to sit down and add email addresses to your database from business cards you’ve collected while out networking. Putting your strategic plan into action one piece at a time ahead of time will mean you’re ready for the big event when Black Friday comes. This also means you might be able to go out and shop a little at other Black Friday events while you know your campaign is being sent automatically. Be sure to set up your smartphone to receive alerts from customers if you won’t be patiently waiting to receive orders at your work computer.
Strategic Planning takes time.
As you may have already guessed, strategic planning for a small business takes time. And time is a finite thing, which means you can’t get more of it when you run out. Begin planning a big event or promotion at least two months in advance. My recommendation is to put appointments with yourself on your calendar for your strategic planning, then honor those appointments and don’t use them for anything else.