The web is bristling with Q4 prep checklists in every shape size and flavor listing best practice after best practice. The one conclusion that one must take away from any of them is that there is no such thing as over prepared.
My job is to see through the clutter and conjecture, creating a clear path forward utilizing skills and processes that create solid results. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. I have no issues putting in the time and research early to ensure a smoother process when under pressure.
Analyze All Options
If you are a direct competitor of one of my clients, chances are I know your strengths and weaknesses better than you do. I try to create options and plans to anticipate anything that may occur. You have to fail as you go forward to create the momentum to succeed. It is the nature of the business
There is no box in my thought process as the lack of constraint makes anything possible. I challenge you to step outside of your box, your comfort zone and consider the items below. These items, that no one else seems to be emphasizing, can create a positive outcome this year and put you in a much better position by this time next year!
Make a list of potential extremes, good and bad scenarios, completed over the course of several days. Then put the list away and let some of those thoughts simmer for a few days. Revisit it with your key players. Review it point by point asking what can/would/should we do to handle and overcome the negative while expanding on the positive.
Once complete, consider this the foundation of a backup plan. If any of the situations arise, you can face them head-on with a plan.
The following is a real-life example of how a planning allowed us to cash in and not crash and burn. In Oct. 2008, we had an item that cost us 85 cents & sold for 24.95, Amazon put it on the front page of the home improvement section as a top 10 gift. It started raining orders. We received one order every 5.5 minutes on Dec 7th alone.
Line Up Additional Support Early On
As a four-person team with six other busy stores and one accountant, things could have gotten uncontrollable fast, except for one thing. We had a battle plan as I liked to call it then. This was their first year doing more than 30k on Amazon, and we had just broken one mil by the first of Sept. I knew what to expect but they were in for the ride of their lives.
- We lined up extra pt help if needed
- Had a second shipping terminal set and ready
- January's replenishment orders were available in November if we needed them
- Even had ordered extra office supplies to get us through, knowing we would use them anyway.
- I had been developing that team since January, and they worked together perfectly.
- Everyone was cross-trained, including the accountant so we could all focus on an area if necessary.
We had our bumps. My kids, then 9 and 11, got schooled in eCommerce. We received a shipment of 200 keyboards with white keys, that were ordered black, We set up a production line and switched every letter out, not fun. We even had to send the owner to China to get product and hand carry it back while waiting for the January order to arrive early. We pulled it off and ended the year just under 2 mill in sales. It would not have been the same outcome if we had not challenged each other ahead of time to consider all angles. The bottom line though, all the planning in the world means nothing if you cannot execute
Prepare For What May Or May Not Happen
What is the difference between a follower and a leader? A follower has someone else to rely on for setting the course; no worries, do as you always do or are directed to do. It's been said that great calamity creates great leaders. I don't agree. When the gates of hell opened, and everyone is freaking out, the leader steps it up, calm, cool and collected and leads the way with confidence. People desire the direction at that point and can be pulled together with a little motivation.
For me, my mind is always going far down the line asking what if or how can I affect change now and benefit later. I try to impress upon my clients the importance of creating what-if scenarios in their minds long before they get to that point. If you always have a backup plan, at the very least, in your mind, putting it into action becomes much easier.
Planning, Strategy & Execution
Expect to be too busy to remember details of Q4, remembering things as more of a blur than a detailed picture. Consider this step future proofing Q4. Get a notebook and note the things you're doing including dates to prepare and the changes made along the way. Note Amazon policy changes, listing upgrades, optimization changes, PPC details, ranking movement, even things you noticed the competition doing... the more detailed you make it, the greater the benefits.
During the lull of Xmas week, review your notes, how it went including what you did great and what needs work. Lay out your business plan for 2018, including dated goals to have accomplished at certain times. This plan of action is a step in the right direction to ensure you do not make the same mistakes twice.
The majority of sellers do close to or more than half of their sales during Q4. Focus all actions throughout the year with a common goal of affecting Q4 strategies? Looking back, the big picture, the results of your actions, will be clear. You will see things you didn't notice when you were in the thick of it. Rest assured your future self will appreciate any and all your efforts. Q4 planning begins on January 1
There is a lot to do, get moving now if you haven't started as it is almost too late. This season will be harder, Amazon is facing outside forces competing for the traffic more than ever before. Those sellers that still think the there is no way to make money except Amazon missed the train a few years ago. Expand your horizons now, or the next person may and run you over.
I learned some of what I feel are the most important business lessons as a kid. Be prepared, a Boy Scout motto, still something that I live and breathe every day. There are many different ways to accomplish many of the tasks ahead; One person's success is another's failure. Step it up now to ensure your success. You have other people, families, the families of your employees, that are counting on you to make this a success. Set your goals now. Turn your goals into your reality. Be stubborn in your goals but be flexible in your methods and you will find success comes easier with a bit less stress!
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