Three Keys to Planning Ahead for Holiday Success

By Alli Ball
Oct. 2, 2019

Our guest blogger this week is Allison Ball, an expert Consultant for Food Entrepreneurs, focusing on retail operations and efficiencies, launching products, and increasing sales.

The fourth quarter can make or break food businesses, and it’s crucial to be prepared for holiday sales, knowing that it’s the season for spending! With a bit of planning ahead and putting a strategy in place, you can be well-prepared to capture seasonal sales and take advantage of your audience’s open wallets. If you haven’t done any holiday prep yet - don’t worry! Carve out some time in the next few weeks to map out your strategy, and you’ll be grateful that you did by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

I have three keys to planning ahead for holiday success that often get overlooked in the busy-ness of production, promotional strategy, and seasonal offerings:

Warm-up your audience

There’s no better way to get a whole bunch of “unsubscribes” from your mailing list than popping into their inboxes on Black Friday, asking them to make a purchase when they haven’t heard from you all year long.

If you haven’t been in touch with your subscribers leading up to holiday time, you can’t expect high sales from your email campaigns during the fourth quarter.

The same thing goes for your social media channels, and paid advertising. It’s very hard to get a cold audience (that is - an audience who is unfamiliar with your brand) to purchase from you and tends to be a waste of ad spend to ask someone who doesn’t know about you and your brand to buy something from you online.

So what do you do instead? You spend the next few weeks warming up your audience, preparing them to make a purchase from you during the holidays. Email them once a week through the remainder of 2019, adding value or entertainment in their inboxes. Post regularly on social media for the next few months, and start your paid ad spend NOW, turning a cold audience into a warm lead over the next month.

Take the time to develop a connection with your audience. Nurture that relationship so they know, like, and trust you by the time you ask them to purchase from you during the holiday time. This is key to planning ahead so your holiday campaigns are a success!


Say “yes” to the correct opportunities

The holidays are a notoriously busy time, with increased production needs, pop-ups every weekend, countless demos, promotional strategies, and seasonal offers… not to mention your own travel schedules, friends and family obligations, and celebrations from November into early January. Holiday periods can be exhausting, but they don’t have to be.

One of the best things that you can do for yourselves and your business is to ensure you’re putting your energy into the promotions, events, and opportunities that are the correct opportunities for your brand. When evaluating whether you should do something, run it through this filter:

  • Will this put me in front of my exact target audience? If no - move along. For example, if you’ve been asked to do a holiday pop up at your kid’s school, but your target audience is 24-year-old women who love to do yoga and go to outdoor concerts… it’s not the right fit for your brand. You’ll waste your time and resources at that event, and you’ll end up draining your energy. You won’t have high sales because your target audience isn’t even at that event, and you’ll be frustrated that you said yes in the first place.
  • Am I excited to do this event? If you aren’t FIRED UP to do this event when you’re planning it well before the holidays, you definitely won’t be excited to do it when you’re two weeks out from Christmas and your to-do list is growing by the day. Make sure that you’re enthusiastic about every event & opportunity that you book during the fourth quarter.

We’ve all heard that time and money are your two most precious resources, but it’s important to remember that money is renewable and time is not. I’d argue that protecting your time and ensuring you're putting it towards the correct opportunities during the fourth quarter holidays (and, frankly, year-round!) is one of the most important things that you can do as a business owner.


Track your efforts

If you don’t measure your results, how will you know what was a success and what wasn’t? How will you know what to repeat next year, and what to pass on? Set yourself up for future success by keeping running notes on your holiday successes and areas for improvement throughout the fourth quarter. This can be as simple as a Google document that you sit down and update each Friday, noting what worked well during the week, and what you should do differently next year.

When doing demos and events, note down the weather, the foot traffic, and the attendees. Note what product assortment you brought, snap a picture of your set-up, and jot down what sold well, and what attendees were asking for instead. Did you sell out of something? Make sure you write that down, as a sales report won’t indicate what you ran out of and at what time, and you don’t want to make that same mistake next year. Write down how your staffing felt, and if you needed more support. Your future self will thank you!

Measure the results of your marketing campaigns, noting what emails produced the best results. Track your social media engagement and your paid advertising. What holiday promotions did you run that lead to high sales? What photos captured the most attention? What do you absolutely what to replicate next year, and what wasn’t worth the effort?

Running a business can often feel like a bunch of trial and error - and… it is! The more you record and evaluate your progress, the more you can shift and adapt or replicate successes in your business.


The more effort and planning that you put in place before the holidays, the more confident you’ll be come Thanksgiving and December Holidays. These three keys to planning ahead for holiday success will help you see more sales and feel more prepared. For more detailed holiday strategies, check out my recent Food Biz Wiz™ podcast episode on setting up for holiday success, linked here, or join my Food Biz Wiz™ Facebook group, where you can connect with fellow food & CPG entrepreneurs, and me!