Between end-of-year sales pushes, holidays, and budget finagling, the last quarter of the year can be hectic. Keeping your operation running smoothly while maximizing revenue takes strategy and organization.
That’s why it’s helpful to get a head start on Q4 to-dos now. A little preparation can go a long way toward limiting stress and opening up opportunities. Here are six ways to prepare for Q4:
1. Inspect your finances
It’s crucial to regularly review your finances throughout the year, but it’s especially important ahead of the last quarter. Your business’s financial health at the end of Q3 informs the sales, marketing, and operational decisions you’ll make during Q4.
Going over your profit and loss statements and cash flow forecasts gives you a better idea of what you need to do to reach your annual revenue goals—or adjust your budget and expectations.
Reach out to your business accountant for support with the following steps:
- Review your profit and loss statements to see if you’re on track with your revenue and profit goals.
- Update your sales forecasts and targets for the end of the year.
- Set aside cash for emergency inventory, holiday marketing campaigns, and employee bonuses.
- Look over your expenses to see where you can cut costs.
- Consider whether or not there are any major business purchases (like equipment or technology) you need to make before the end of the year to deduct come tax season.
- Research your business financing options in case you need extra capital on hand.
2. Audit your website
Auditing your business website now can help you draw in new customers and secure more sales during Q4, not to mention set you up for success in the new year. If it’s been a while since you’ve examined your website with a critical eye, here are some steps to take:
- Improve site functionality: Check that your navigation bar is easy to use, that your landing page loads quickly, and that there are no broken links or dead-end pages.
- Analyze the data: Review your website analytics to see where the majority of your website traffic is coming from, how many visitors you get per month, and how long visitors stay on certain pages. These numbers can give you valuable insight into what works well on your website and what doesn’t.
- Modernize your layout and look: Consider updating your images, fonts, and even colors for a fresher look. Another part of modernizing your website is making it mobile-friendly, so customers can read and explore it from the palm of their hand.
- Update important business information: Make sure your contact details and business hours are correct and easy to find on your website and on your business’s Google page, too. If you have an email newsletter, make sure the email sign-up is easy to spot.
- Double-check your on-page SEO: Take full advantage of SEO keywords in your website pages and URLs, as well as in title and description meta data.
- Add extra value: Refresh your outdated blog content, add a video to your landing page, or include your own holiday shopping guide.
3. Set sales targets and outline expectations with your employees
When you get on the same page with your employees before Q4 busy-ness begins, you lay the foundation for better communication and stronger work performances during a notoriously stressful time. Setting aside time to discuss goals and spell out work expectations can reduce confusion, boost employee confidence, and improve workplace morale.
It’s helpful to base sales targets on your business’s past performance during previous Q4s, but it’s also crucial to account for your employees’ individual skills and experience. Aim to set attainable, realistic goals that motivate people rather than intimidate them. Once you’ve clarified your larger business goals, here are a few key actions to take:
- Meet with employees to review goals: Go over the benchmarks you expect employees to hit and discuss practical strategies for reaching them. Keep in mind that your employees don’t have to be in sales positions to benefit from goal discussions; you can talk about customer service policies, operational tasks, and individual job duties, too.
- Implement incentive programs: Encourage employees to work hard—and reward their behavior—by offering incentives. Think: discounts on your business’s offerings, free meals, or gift cards.
- Hold one-on-one catch-ups: Meet with your employees individually to discuss their responsibilities during Q4, offer feedback, and ask how you can support them. It’s also a good opportunity to go over their schedules and answer any questions they have.
4. Plan a holiday campaign
You may have already started thinking about holiday marketing strategies, but if not, now’s the time. A strategic holiday campaign can bring you consistent business, helping you reach revenue goals and maintain cash flow.
Start by reviewing your marketing data from the past few quarters and years to see which campaigns and distribution channels have had the best ROI—and which cost more than they’re worth. Once you’re armed with insights, you can make a plan.
- Pick a campaign theme: Do you want to focus your campaign around a specific holiday (like Cyber Monday), season, or offering?
- Define your campaign goals: Clarify what you want to achieve, whether it’s increased website traffic, a certain number of sales, or a specific amount of new customers.
- Review your marketing budget: Figure out how much money you’ve allocated for marketing expenses during Q4. Your budget will inform what you’re able to do.
- Pinpoint your target customers: Consider what your target customers need from your business. What are their holiday shopping habits and pain points? Where do they spend their time online?
- Develop an offer: Come up with an enticing offer. Depending on your business model and products or services, you may want to offer a free ebook, a complimentary gift with purchase, or an exciting limited-time discount.
- Choose a distribution method: Emails are always a great option, as are social media ads, blog posts, and influencer marketing partnerships.
- Execute: Once you’ve nailed down a plan, you can get to work.
5. Coordinate thank yous and bonuses
It’s a good idea to acknowledge your team all year long, but Q4 is a particularly great time to recognize your employees’ dedication and talents. Getting the ball rolling now means less last-minute scrambling on your part. Plus, giving your employees a thoughtful gift or note of gratitude prior to the holiday season can lift their spirits during a busy time.
You may want to:
- Set aside money for end-of-year bonuses.
- Order and write thank you cards.
- Order employee gifts, like gift cards, holiday self-care packages, or swag bags filled with treats.
- Offer to match employee donations (up to a certain amount) to their nonprofit organization of choice.
- Start planning a workplace celebration.
Don’t forget to plan thank yous for your customers, clients, and vendors, too. Start by making a list of all the people you’d like to thank, then double-check their contact information. From there, get your mailers ready for the post office and place orders for any gifts you plan on sending.
6. Organize your business records and data
Carve out some time to clean up your business documents and data, so everything you need is organized and accessible come the holidays and new year. Tidying up your records doesn’t just facilitate decision-making—it can also prevent costly errors.
You may want to:
- Check customer or client information: Update your client profiles, delete inactive accounts, and segment your email subscribers.
- Update your digital folders: Review your folder names and categories, then either add folders, delete, or consolidate as necessary.
- Declutter your desktop: Remove unnecessary files from your laptop or monitor desktop, then organize your folders.
- File recent business receipts: Upload your business receipts and categorize them according to business expense.
- Save your data: Do a manual backup of your computer hard drives, and sync your files to the cloud.
Make the most of Q4
Before summer comes to a close, take care of some of your biggest Q4 tasks, like setting sales goals or tweaking your end-of-year budget. If applying for financing is one of those tasks, we can help.
At Funding Circle, our online loan application takes just a few minutes to fill out, and you can hear back in as little as a day. Learn more about our loan options or apply for a term loan today.