How to keep your business going (and growing) during the school holidays
I’m guessing you’re here because you have school holidays coming up and the thought of them is making your brain pop?
It’s hard enough running your business when your little (and not so little) ones are at school all day, but come the school holidays, it reaches a new level of tricky.
Your ‘normal’ routine goes out of the window. Your quiet house turns into a playground. Mess appears from nowhere. The fridge empties within hours of being filled. You seem to spend your life shouting, picking up plates and shopping for snacks. That’s before you factor in the days out or weeks away.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Children aren’t children very long and the holidays are your chance to spend precious time with them (even if they spend most of it on the X-Box) so you probably don’t want or need your ‘normal’ routine. You want to get out and about with them. Also, YOU need a rest.
So this blog isn’t about you pretending the holidays aren’t happening and finding ways to magic the kids away.
Nope, this is about finding a new normal for the holidays. One that lets you spend time with your children and have a rest, while doing bits and pieces here and there that will keep your marketing in front of customers and your business ticking over (and even growing).
The further ahead you can plan and prepare, the easier your school holiday business situation will be. Even a few hours spent getting things set up will free up your time and make you feel like a business superstar as you head off on your days out with the kids.
Even if you’re not a natural ‘planner’ there are some quick and easy things you can do to ensure your marketing keeps the business in front of potential customers the whole holiday.
But before we get into that, I have something to tell you.
Your customers are probably in the same boat as you. If they are parents, then they will also have the kids around for a few weeks. If they work, they will be struggling for childcare. Grandparents will become holiday sitters. They’ll be scouring the internet for kids’ clubs and activities. They’ll be spending a lot of money to keep the kids entertained. They’ll probably be feeling guilty they can’t spend as much time as they would like with their little ones. They will also be facing the perpetually empty fridge challenge. They will probably be going away as a family for a week or two. They might also need to find a new normal for the holidays.
So, your first challenge is to figure out what your CUSTOMERS’ holiday normal is and more importantly, how you can help them?
- Think about what their life looks like during the holidays
- Think about the challenges they face
- How will their priorities change?
- What will they be spending money on that they don’t usually?
- What will grab their attention at this time of year?
- What’s different for them?
- Where do you fit and how can you help them?
HINT: This might mean that you create special products and services JUST for this market. Things you only promote or roll out during long school holidays. Things like workshops, kits or ‘experiences’ (just to get your brain whirring).
* ACTION: Grab a notebook and scribble some ideas down
We’re not trying to do this for every single customer, we’re trying to see if our ‘typical’ best- fit customer (our Super Customer) needs different things during the holidays.
It’s important you do this because there is no point trying to sell the same old things to people whose needs have temporarily changed. You don’t have the time or energy, particularly during school holidays, to do marketing that’s doomed to fail. You want to make sure that any marketing you can do during this time has the best chance of turning into sales.
Now, when you think about your customers it might be that they are completely unaffected by school holidays, in which case great, but YOU still need to keep your business going even if nothing changes for them.
PLANNING AHEAD IN THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS
Planning ahead can really make your life easier during school holidays. From planning and scheduling your marketing, to managing customer expectations and coming up with marketing activities you can build into your ‘holiday normal’ routine, a little bit of planning can save you hours of stress and hassle later AND mean you get a steady stream of enquiries or orders to tackle when you’re back at work.
Try to start preparing and planning for the school holidays a couple of weeks in advance if you can. If you can’t because you only found time to read this during the holidays, that’s fine too.
There are still loads of things you can do to make your life easier and keep your business going and growing and one of the biggies is social media. Even if your customers are in ‘holiday normal’ mode, off work with the kids or away on trips they will likely still be on social media, in fact they might be on there more.They could be looking for things to entertain the kids, or planning days out, or just browsing for fun while the kids are off playing. They could be planning ahead, thinking about ‘back to school’ or doing that ‘holiday dreaming thing’ where they decide they are going to make much-needed changes in their life, so it’s really important that you’re there on social media where they are looking.
WHAT ARE YOUR BIG MARKETING JOBS?
One thing you can do well in advance is work out what your BIG jobs are and plan them in. That might be writing newsletters, building up stock, finding holiday help, pre-empting client needs so you can get THEIR work done in advance – what are the big jobs in YOUR business that really need to keep happening while you’re in school holiday ‘normal’ mode?
For me, it’s about blogs, newsletters, podcasts and social media – the marketing. I don’t need to create any classes or programmes over the school holidays: they can wait until I have peace and quiet and thinking time. What does need to happen though, is brand visibility. I can’t disappear from social media for 6-8 weeks because I’d then have to go from a standing start after the holidays and try to build up momentum and engagement after weeks of being invisible.
That’s going to take ages.
Social media likes regular engagement – whether it’s FB, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter, they are all basically the same. Regular, engaging posts mean the social media algorithms see your business as an ‘engaging’ one, so they will continue to show more of your posts to more of your followers. As soon as you stop posting, you’ll drop down the list and other businesses will take your place. I don’t want that to happen, so I make sure I have good quality, engaging posts scheduled at regular intervals on my main social media accounts.
All I need to do is find a few minutes each day to go on there and react to or reply to comments, so my followers can see I’m there engaging with them.
So, my big jobs are all about marketing. What are yours?
And how can you plan, schedule, automate or outsource as many of them as possible so your business runs as smoothly as it can with the minimum of stress, hassle and involvement from you while you’re in ‘holiday normal’ mode?
* ACTION: Grab a notebook and work out what you can do in advance to give yourself a break over the holidays?
There is a lovely additional benefit to this. You see, if you can do this during the holidays – set up systems, automate your marketing, bring in help – you can do it any time.
What you’re doing is making your business more efficient and making you more productive and those are two elements of a successful business, so the work you do now will build brilliant foundations going forwards.
WHAT CAN YOU MANAGE TO DO DURING THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS?
Next, I want you to work out what you can easily manage to do during the holidays. Assuming you’re not away for the whole time, do you have any time free during the day or at certain points in the week to do a little bit of the ‘day-to-day’ work? And what would that look like for you?
- You might not be able to make much stock but you might be ok packaging and sending it out…
- You might not be able to do many treatments but you can sell vouchers and take bookings…
- You might not be able to do much client work but you might be able to schedule it in for a few weeks’ time…
- You might not be able to do much marketing but you might be able to create bits of marketing material to use later (I have some ideas for you)…
- What could you realistically manage, especially if your BIG jobs were already taken care of?
There are loads of little jobs you can do while you’re out and about that will help keep your business going during the holidays, AND will also make your life easier going forwards.
The great thing about this is that you get a new job title. For the duration of the holidays you can become Work From Anywhere Girl.
You can even treat yourself to a cape if you like because you’re going to take on some Super Powers. You’re going to learn how to use slivers of time while you’re out and about and turn them into amazing business building tools and assets.
10-MINUTE MARKETING JOBS
10 minute jobs aren’t just for the school holidays. I’m a big believer that 80% of marketing (and many other things) you do in your business can be broken down into smaller and smaller tasks that you can tackle in around 10 minutes, from building a website to writing a blog, managing social media to setting up sales funnels! You can use this for client work too.
Breaking jobs down into their smallest possible tasks is brilliant for your business.
It stops you getting overwhelmed and means you can be much more productive.
Fitting 10-minute jobs into the little gaps in your day is much easier than finding hours or days to tackle something that’s been on your to-do list forever, so you get more done.
I love it and my 10-minute job list is something I write as I have my morning cuppa, then it goes in my jeans pocket to be pulled out every time I get a few minutes. It means I never have that ‘brain blank’ moment when I actually get time to tackle some work – I just pick a task from the list and do it.
10-minute jobs could be business or personal – if they need doing and they can be broken down into tiny tasks then get them on there.
10-minute tasks might include:
- Check comments, messages and emails
- Record quick videos
- Instagram stories
- Make memes
- Take photos
- Scope out blog ideas
- Making a phone call
- Planning what you’ll say in a phone call
- Planning an email
- Writing an email
- Answering an email
- Coming up with ideas for blogs or newsletters
- Scoping out a blog or newsletter
- Writing an introduction to a blog or newsletter
- Writing a paragraph of a blog or newsletter
You see where this is going?
Even if your job seems big, like ‘revamp my website’ it’s actually a collection of tiny tasks that you can fit into your day. Revamping a website consists of looking at what you have, seeing what changes need to be made and making the changes so it might look like this:
- Look at website home page and make a list of changes needed
- Look at website contact us page…
- Look at product number 1 page…
So, you’re tackling a page or two at a time and making a list of things you would like to change.
When it comes to actually making the changes, it might involve some bigger jobs like writing wording, finding images, doing photography, getting testimonials but again, all of these can be broken down into tiny tasks.
Writing some wording for a page or writing a product description can be done in stages.
- Plan out what you want to say or achieve – just scribbles or bullet points
- Write the first paragraph
- Write the second paragraph and so on
Getting testimonials can be broken down into tiny tasks
- Work out what sort of testimonials would be good to have
- Make a list of who to approach
- Write a basic email that you can tailor for each person
- Send one email when you get time
- Add one testimonial at a time to your site
Doing photography for your site can be broken down into tiny tasks
- Work out which photos you would like to have
- Do some research online to get ideas for setting up the photo, lighting, location, props
- Work out where you could take photos and what you are missing
- Work out what times are best for lighting and if you need to buy a light or two
- Do research online on lights
- Look for props you have in your house
- Make a list of props you would like to have
- Ask on FB to see if anyone can lend you props
- Do ONE photo set at a time
- Leave your little photo area set up if you can, then tackle the next photo
- Do one or two at a time, as and when you can
- Add one photo set to your website
Do you see the pattern here?
If you tried to tackle a job like ‘revamp my website’ or ‘get testimonials’ or ‘do new photography’ then each of those feel very big and overwhelming, something you would definitely need a day or two for.
If you break them down into tiny tasks, you’ll find you can fit them in and around your day which is exactly what you need in the school holidays. If you can get into this really useful habit, you’ll find your business is much easier to manage going forwards once the holidays are over. Win win!
* ACTION: Grab a notebook and see what you can break down into manageable tasks
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS DURING SCHOOL HOLIDAYS
School holidays often leave you time-poor and lacking in focus due to the whirlwind that is children!
Although I’ve given you loads of ideas of little things you can do before and during the school holidays to make your life easier and keep your business going (and growing) some things will still have to give. This is where managing expectations comes in – yours and those of your customers.
Your expectations of what you will realistically be able to do need to err on the side of caution. You might think you’ll just want to do as much work as possible during the hols because you’re busy, but once you start to relax and spend time with the kids you might realise you just want to do a whole lot more of that.
Assume that you won’t have a lot of time to do anything while the kids are off and that way, if you DO get more time than expected it’s a bonus.
If there are things like deliveries, see if you can draft in help?
School holidays mean there are usually students or older children (who are hopefully more responsible and desperate for a bit of spending money) who can help you with packing, post office runs and even managing the shop if you have one.
Remember this isn’t business as usual, it’s ‘holiday normal’ and that’s about making the best of what you have available.
Then there are the expectations of your customers and if you get this right, it will make your business run smoothly any time of year, but especially in the school holidays.
Now, here’s the thing. I know you love your business. I know you love selling things and making money. I know you love to make customers happy and maybe, just maybe you end up saying ‘yes’ to things when you should have said ‘no’ and that sometimes you have to deal with the consequences. That’s tricky any time but during the holidays it can be a right pain in the bottom.
Why not manage customer expectations well in advance and stick to your plans, so everyone knows where they stand and you’re not faced with ‘urgent’ anything?
Here are some things you can do a couple of weeks in advance to manage customer expectations.
- Let existing customers know your ‘holiday normal’ arrangements.
- Tell them how your response times will change and when they can expect to hear from you.
- Tell them what you will and won’t be able to offer.
- Ask them to put in any orders by a cut-off date and let them know you’re happy to book work in after the holidays so they get ‘first dibs’.
- Write a post for your social media where you give cut-off dates, response times and what they can do if they need help.
- Pin it to the top of your business Facebook page, business Twitter account and leave it as a prominent post on Insta (you can post the same holiday post every few days on Instagram if you have other posts scheduled).
- Put a ‘holiday arrangements’ message on your website and web shops and let people know when they can expect to hear from you.
- Write a list of frequently asked questions and pop them on your website then direct people there from social media.
- Set up an email autoresponder setting out your holiday arrangements and linking to your FAQ page on your website.
* ACTION: Grab a notebook and map out your Holiday Countdown Plan!
EASY, ENGAGING SOCIAL MEDIA DURING THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS
Remember what I said about not disappearing on social media for weeks at a time? This is where we’ll tackle that. The trick is to set up a bunch of engaging posts to go out on social media regularly during the school holidays. We’re going to drip, drip, drip lovely posts throughout the week that will keep you visible and remind your customers and fans why they love you.
There are a few ways to tackle this but one easy one is to have daily themes for your social media.
You might have:
Monday Motivation, Tuesday Tips, Wednesday Wisdom, Thursday Thoughts, Friday Fun, Saturday Sales Offers and Sunday Chat.
This combinations of daily themes means you have a mixture of promotional opportunities, engaging and fun posts.
You can use the Monday, Wednesday and Thursday posts to do little videos, behind-the-scenes stuff, tagging lovely customers or suppliers, polls, questions, all sorts of things.
You don’t have to TELL your fans the days, have a theme you can just plan out your weeks knowing that’s the structure you’ll follow.
You can use software like Hootsuite, Buffer or other schedulers to set it all up in advance. All you have to do is check in for a few minutes each day to ‘like’ any comments and respond.
* ACTION: Grab a notebook and write down some social media post ideas using your daily themes & install a scheduling tool if you don’t use one
BEING MARKETING MINDED DURING THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS
Finally, in this school holiday marketing plan, I want to talk to you about being marketing minded. If you can train your brain to do this, all your marketing will get easier and it’s so simple to do. The key thing you have to remember is ONE QUESTION which is:
HOW CAN I HELP OR ADD VALUE?
If you do this every day and add it to every social media post, email, message, product or service you, will find the energy around it shifts.
If you are always looking to add value, build relationships and be helpful your marketing will feel very different, your audience will notice and your business will grow.
Being marketing-minded is also about being aware and seizing opportunities.
- It’s about having your ‘work from anywhere’ bag with you.
- It’s about taking photos to use as meme backgrounds when you’re out and about
- It’s about making notes on your phone or in your notebook when an idea strikes you
- It’s about using ‘waiting’ time to learn
- It’s about taking every opportunity to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and seeing the world as they see it, then working out how you can help them.
Marketing isn’t just a list of tasks, it’s a habit and mindset. The sooner you can get into the marketing habit and develop a marketing mindset, the faster your business will grow.
TELL ME YOUR BEST TIPS FOR MANAGING YOUR BUSINESS IN THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW!
Claire Mitchell is a best-selling author of the Awesome Marketing Planner and founder of The Girls Mean Business, a mum and business owner. She has been featured in Marie-Claire, The Guardian, Closer Magazine, Essentials, The Huffington Post and on the BBC.