how to thrive during the busy season

The holiday season can be the most lucrative time for small businesses. Or it can be a period of slow sales and low productivity. Both scenarios offer both challenges and opportunities. Let’s look at some practical strategies to make the most of the holiday season as a small business owner.

In this article:

busy holiday season

busy holiday season

Strategic Inventory and Service Management

Preparation is key to managing the holiday season rush. Understanding your market’s demand and stocking up can make or break your holiday success. As one consultant put it, “We see some of our clients in one weekend – like over Black Friday, Cyber Monday – make more money that weekend than they do for the entire year. It’s a huge opportunity.”

To be ready:

  • Utilize sales data to predict popular products and stock up early.
  • Service-oriented businesses should consider temporary staffing solutions to handle extra workloads.
  • Restaurants might benefit from streamlined, festive-themed menus to manage kitchen workloads efficiently.
  • Liquor stores should stock up on popular holiday beverages and place gift items in prominent places.

Leveraging Digital Marketing

With consumers increasingly turning to online shopping, especially during the holidays, a strong digital presence is vital. Tailoring your online content and promotions to a holiday theme can significantly boost engagement and sales.

  • Optimize your website and social media with holiday keywords.
  • Create engaging, festive-themed content and email marketing campaigns.
  • Offer exclusive online promotions and flash sales.

You might also try targeting festivity locations with special campaigns. For example, geofencing a popular holiday market and running ads that offer a free appetizer, along with directions to your nearby restaurant.

Enhancing Customer Experience

Customer loyalty is often won or lost during the holiday season. Outstanding service during this busy time leaves a lasting impression.

  • Train your staff to handle holiday-specific customer service scenarios.
  • Implement flexible return policies for the holiday shopping period.
  • Personalize the customer experience to stand out from competitors.

For example, hotels are often extra full over the holidays as people travel to visit family or take vacations. But extreme weather, missed flights, and holiday stress can put guests on edge. Ensure your staff is trained and equipped ahead of time so that they can diffuse any tension that arises and provide a memorable experience for guests—increasing the chances that they will be return customers!

Employee Well-being

The holiday season’s demands can be taxing on the team. Keeping your team motivated and stress-free is crucial for maintaining productivity and service quality. Andrew Filev, CEO of Wrike, puts it this way: “It’s important for managers to have compassion and empathy and to acknowledge that the holidays are an emotional season, both with positive energy and also people missing their families.”

  • Encourage a balance between work responsibilities and personal time.
  • Organize festive activities, like a company holiday party, to keep the team spirit high.
  • Provide resources for stress management and mental health support.
  • Offer additional time off.
  • Provide holiday or year-end bonuses.

Addressing a Holiday Sales Slump

Most of the above strategies are directed at businesses and industries that experience a surge in sales during the holidays. But for those that experience a slump in demand, it’s even more crucial to have a strategy in place that can help navigate the slow season. Some options to consider include:

  • Diversifying Offerings: Consider introducing new products or services that align with holiday trends. This can attract new customers and provide an alternative revenue stream.
  • Promotional Pricing: In any environment, you can increase sales by lowering your pricing. Since it’s unlikely that you’ll want to continue with lower pricing after the off-season, make sure you note that this is a seasonal, time-limited offer. For example, a dentist office might offer free whitening with a cleaning, or a pediatrician might advertise a small gift for each patient.
  • Brand Growth: Most small businesses are primarily focused on selling products and services. But long term growth is always closely connected to your brand. Use your down time to reach out to existing customers to encourage reviews, or to refresh your website and marketing materials so that you’re using best practices.
  • Building Partnerships: Collaborate with other businesses to create joint marketing campaigns or bundle products and services. This approach can help you reach a wider audience and share marketing costs. And keep in mind—partnerships don’t have to be in related industries. A CPA firm might host an event with a local animal shelter as a way to raise awareness for adopting pets, while at the same time generating leads for their services.
  • Cost Management: Keep a close eye on expenses. Optimize your inventory, reduce unnecessary spending, and focus on cost-effective marketing strategies.
  • Planning for Future Growth: Utilize this time for strategic planning. Analyze market trends, gather customer feedback, and lay the groundwork for future expansions or pivots (and if you need financing for these projects, you know where to turn).


Whether you’re on a growth trajectory or holding your breath and hoping that the slump won’t be too long, implementing the strategies laid out above can help you make the most of the holiday season.

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