xmasss.jpgWith Halloween just around the corner, and Christmas close behind it, there's no time to waste! Handmade sellers need to make sure they are ready for the Holiday season and have completed the "leg work" prior to the rush of buyers surfing Etsy, Artfire and 1000 Markets looking for unique Christmas gifts.

I've compiled a quick reference list to help you plan your marketing campaigns before and during the holidays. This reference will be in two parts. Today I will share with you the things you need to do before the holiday season starts, and tomorrow I'll share with you thethings you need to do during the holiday season. Feel free to add to my list in the comments below.

Let's get started!

Before the Holiday Season Starts:

1. Plan out what unique items you would like to offer during the holiday season. For example, if you run a soap or candle shop, you'll want to come up with "holiday" scented (and perhaps holiday shaped) line of products. If you've been through the holiday seasons before and your holiday line went over well last year, continue to make the products that sold well, but be sure to add something new. If a buyer already gave out your "Holly Berry" soap to their family members last year, they will be looking for something new to send them this year. Having a holiday line can be incorporated into basically every shop out there! Get creative and make something that you would be proud to give to your own family members! Give yourself lots of time to play around and prefect these products so you can be confident in listing them in your shop, and marketing them to the holiday buyers.

2. Make your presence known now! If you're scrambling to get the word out about your shop in November, you may have missed the boat! Plan to get the word out about your shop before the holiday rush starts so you can concentrate on stellar customer service (fast shipping, responding to questions, etc) and relisting items. If you're not sure where to start when it comes to getting the word out about your shop, check out these helpful articles and links:

Shout From the Rooftops! Promoting Your Business

How To Create An Online Ad With Your Photos

SoopSee- Improve Your SEO with a Site of Your Own

Wists101: Building a Social Shopping Network

Forums: Fun, free advertising

SpringWidgets, RSS Feeds And YOU!

Advertise Your Craft Business with Google and Others

Get Comfortable With Twitter

Inside Handmade - The "One Thing" segments are particularly helpful.

3. After creating your holiday line, take the time to take stellar photographs of your items. Remember that often times the only thing that will bring a buyer to your listing is the photo they see in the Artfire, Etsy or 1000 Markets search results, or on your blog/flickr, etc. If the picture for your listing doesn't stand out, you don't stand a chance of getting a buyer to investigate your item further, let-alone buy from you! If you haven't taken photography seriously in the past, now is the time to do so! For editing hits, see this article. I suggest that once list your item, go check out what it looks like in the search results. If it doesn't start out, or it doesn't seem up to par, put it on your to do list to re-photograph.

4. If you have a verified Artfire account, think about offering gift certificates. You will need to consider how you'll "package" these gift certificates. For example, will you send the purchaser of the gift certificate a coupon code via email, or will you send them an actual "hard copy"? Packaging almost outweighs the item when it comes to the gift giving season. Buyers want something unique to give to their loved ones, something they would enjoy unwrapping. Handing them a print off of your email reply isn't going to cut it. Get creative with this and tied your packaging into the theme you've picked for your holiday line. Be sure it's clear to your online visitors that you offer gift certificates.

5. Make sure buyers can easily feel like they "know you" and can trust you to deliver the unique handmade experience they are looking for when they shop handmade this year. One of the ways to do this is to make sure your artist bio or profile is updated and reflective of you as a seller. Often times artist bios and profile pages are quickly put together just to have anything but a blank page. Take time to make sure you're conveying yourself and your work, in a positive, trustworthy way. If you have a verified Artfire account, you can take advantage of the new Artist Bio pages that just released this week. Also be sure that all of your bio and profile pages are updated on all the different sites you use.

6. Set goals for this holiday season. If you've figured out your marketing tasks andprioritized them, it's time to figure out when you're going to accomplish them. Try setting realistic, tangible goals. An example could be to list one item every day in November.

This list should give you a good start to preparing your business for the holidays. There are many other things to help you prepare (like stocking up on shipping supplies), but I kept this list narrowed down because even these 6 tasks can take up a substantial amount of time to complete. If you can check off this list by the time Halloween is here, you'll be in good shape for the holiday season!

Image Credit: buttonwilloe.artfire.com

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