Holiday Sales Checklist Start doing these 10 things now to prepare for the year's biggest shopping season.

By Derek Gehl

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The winter holidays are by far the busiest shopping season of the year for businesses that sell mostly to North American, European and Australian customers. To make the most of this year's big shopping season, you need to start preparing now.

Here's my list of the top 10 things you should start doing now to make your holidays as full of cheer as possible--and by "cheer," I mean profit.

1. Split-test your sales copy. Test your sales copy to determine which format converts the highest percentage of your visitors to customers. A great tool for this is Google's Website Optimizer.

Test long copy vs. short copy, different types of headlines, and various calls to action. Make a note of the winners; this information will be important when you write your "holiday copy." (More about that in a moment.)

2. Use the best keywords for the season. Dig into your web logs to discover what your best SEO terms were for November and December last year. Which keywords drove the greatest number of buying visitors to your site?

Make a list--and then embed those keywords in your holiday copy.

3. Start writing your holiday copy. During November and December, your sales copy should speak to the needs of holiday shoppers.

They're looking for presents for their loved ones, so your copy should present your product as the "perfect gift" for that special someone. Would your product make a good gift for mom or dad, a teenager, or a child's elementary school teacher? Then describe it as such in your copy. And don't forget to use the keywords that yielded the best results last holiday season.

In the U.S., the weekend after Thanksgiving is usually the busiest shopping weekend of the year, and you want to be ready for it. Be prepared to "flip the switch" and put up your holiday sales copy as soon as Thanksgiving is over.

4. Make your bonus offers as strong as possible. Your bonuses are a key component of your sales pitch. Offer valuable bonuses to sweeten the deal and make it even more compelling for holiday shoppers to buy.

Consider making your bonuses "soft" products--such as e-books or online videos--or online coupons. They're easy to create and don't cost anything to ship, which means you won't have to change your order form.

5. Set up your holiday pay-per-click campaigns. A great way to drive even more holiday shoppers to your site is to write holiday-shopping-themed pay-per-click ads. This is another place where those holiday keywords from last year will come in handy.

Once again, if you sell in the U.S., you should be ready to activate your holiday pay-per-click ads by Thanksgiving weekend.

6. Confirm your shipping capabilities. What's the most important thing holiday shoppers want to know before they buy a gift? Whether it will arrive before Christmas.

Contact your postal and shipping services to find out what the "order by" dates are to guarantee delivery before Christmas to different parts of the world. Then prominently list these dates on your site, so people can be confident that the gift will be under the tree on Christmas morning.

7. Tune up your e-mail list. If you have built a healthy list of subscribers, e-mail should play a major role in your holiday promotions.

To make sure you get the most bang for your e-mail buck, do some testing to make sure you know how to send mass e-mails effectively and ensure that your deliverability is good. Also, be prepared to send more e-mails than usual. If you normally send one e-mail a month to your list, be prepared to send as many as four during the holiday shopping season--the end of November to the last possible shipping date.

8. Put "live contact" opportunities on your page. A great way to increase holiday sales is to include live contact opportunities on your sales pages. This can be a phone number or a live chat program--whatever allows people to ask you questions and get answers right away.

Remember, holiday shoppers are short on time. And when they're shopping online, they can go from store to store very easily. They're going to buy at the site that's most credible and does the best job of resolving any questions they might have about the product.

9. Dress up your site. What's Christmas without a little mistletoe? Add a few Yuletide decorations to your site so it reflects the mood of the holiday season.

To be inclusive, think about adding some graphic elements related to other seasonal holidays, such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

10. Start planning your January and February backend now. No, that's not a reference to what your rear end's going to look like once you've put away all that holiday food.

A great sales process doesn't end with a purchase. The people who have bought something from you once are most likely to buy from you again, so you want to make sure you stay in touch with them and present them with new offers in the future.

Ask yourself what the people who just bought or received your product would also want to buy. Focus on products or services that make a great match with your product. For example, people who just bought or received a new video game console are probably very interested in buying new video games.

Just remember, to present your backend offers to people, you need to have their e-mail addresses. And since many new owners of your product might have received it as a gift, they're probably not on your mailing list.

So make sure your product package includes an e-mail registration form for the end user. You may want to include an attractive offer for free valuable information--or a free downloadable product--in exchange for their e-mail address.

Once they're on your mailing list, you can develop a relationship with them and sell more products to them over time.

Get Started . Now
You have about a month to accomplish as many of these tasks as you can--so it's time to get started.

If you do things right, you can expect to get twice as many visitors as usual. And if you keep your conversion rate as high as it is now--or you're able to push it even higher--then you can expect at least twice as many sales during the holiday shopping period.

And that's a pretty good way to end the year, don't you think?

Derek Gehl is the CEO of the Internet Marketing Center, an internet marketing firm that has helped thousands of people learn to start and run their own online businesses. IMC hosts a new Search Marketing Lab Forum, where members have their strategy questions answered by search marketing specialists.

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