Christmas In July, Preparing Your Holiday Marketing

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It’s six months into the year and your marketing agency just gently reminded you that it’s time to start preparing for the upcoming holiday season. Your shoulders tense up, and your stomach drops – didn’t we just FINISH the last holiday season? We still have months before the next round of holiday shoppers descend on our stores!

Non-holiday related businesses see an average of 40% of their total sales come in during the last two months of the year. Although we don’t recommend holiday planning specifically for every type of business, the same concepts can be applied for any season in which you see most of your business. Accountants, for example, can use these same strategies for planning the months leading up to tax time in March and April, and tanning salons can plan for the months leading up to the beginning of summer.

Holiday planning (or planning for your specific busy season) should be a large part of your annual marketing plan, which we discuss in more detail in our article titled How to Build a Marketing Plan. If your annual marketing plan hasn’t sufficiently covered your holiday plan, don’t panic! Looking over your holiday plan five or six months in advance of the actual season gives you time to evaluate your business, identify your goals, create a holiday plan, make all media buys, and ensure all moving parts of the plan are in place well in advance of crunch time!

Holiday Plan Tips and Tricks

Every holiday plan will be different business to business and industry to industry, so we can’t spell out exactly what your plan will look like (although we’d be happy to consult with you one-on-one to go over your unique needs). We can, however, give you some overall tips and tricks to keep in mind as your holiday plan is coming together.

Start Early

Certain seasons, like the holiday season (November and December), the back to school season (August and September) and the beginning of summer season (April and May), are very busy with businesses marketing heavily against each other. With this amount of “signal versus noise”, it can be difficult to have your marketing message stand out, especially if you’re competing against big name brands with big name marketing budgets. To combat this, you should begin enacting holiday-related campaigns as early as September. That doesn’t mean every marketing campaign from September on should reference the upcoming holidays – instead, you should be building brand loyalty and reputation with your previous and potential customers. Customers are more likely to open an email from a brand they quickly recognize versus one they haven’t heard from in a while and may not remember.

Engage the Early Birds

Starting your holiday campaigns early gives you the perfect opportunity to engage early bird shoppers. These types of consumers respond favorably to time-sensitive sales, free shipping, two-for-one offers and giveaways. For this specific demographic, you’ll want to use your early campaigns to generate both a sense of urgency and a sense of “winning” by offering great deals well in advance of the holiday.

Incorporate Visuals

Avid holiday shoppers value their time, so a picture may indeed be worth a thousand words. Instead of expecting your customer to read a lengthy email or product description, consider engaging them with high-quality visual media, like professional photography or a video about your product or service. Video in an email leads to a 200-300% increase in click-through rates compared to non-visual content.

Consider Your Copy

Certain terms are more engaging to consumers around the holiday (such as “tricks” and “quick”). Your usual content copy strategy for marketing collateral may need to be adjusted specifically for your holiday campaigns to account for your customer’s mindset around the holiday season. According to research by Outbrain, headlines and links that contained certain keywords like “cocktails” and “shopping” see higher click-through rates than other terms.

Incorporate Gift Cards

Gift cards are incredibly popular with Millennials, which represent one third of the current U.S. population. Convenience, practicality, and the ability to use gift cards online have made gift cards top sellers during the last few holiday seasons. Do you offer gift cards or certificates for your products or services? How do you issue these, and how do consumers redeem them? Consider your process, and start reaching out to any third party companies that may need to be involved in printing cards, distribution, or redemption.

Make it Shareable

Create campaigns that encourage customers to get involved in the mix. This could be anything from a website that adds a funny filter to a user uploaded image, to a social media giveaway that invites people to send in photos of their pets dressed like Santa. The more outside of the box and fun the experience is, the more likely it will be shared.

Keep it Consistent

Your holiday plan should be visible and consistent across all of your marketing channels, from in-store displays to your social media to your radio advertisements. Make sure to train your in-store staff so that they understand the deals, online offers, and any restrictions that may apply.

Mobile Friendly

Smartphone and tablet usage continues to dominate web traffic and shopping habits, especially during the holiday season. In 2014, 52% of those who shopped online used smartphones or tablets (up from 41% the previous year). Make sure your email campaigns, digital advertisements, and, most importantly, your website and eCommerce solution are easy to use for mobile viewers.

Prepare Yourself

Will your website be able to handle a sudden influx of traffic as a result of a particularly successful email campaign? Do you have enough staff on hand to fulfill orders that come in and meet shipping deadlines? Start putting processes into place that allow you to scale as needed to meet the demands of the holiday season.

After the Rush

Holiday shopping continues past New Year’s Day, and so, too, should your holiday plan. Post-holiday consumers are usually shopping for themselves, indulging in purchases they normally wouldn’t during the course of the year. These types of consumers are looking for post-holiday deals, and are driven by deep discounts over retail prices. Use this as an opportunity to clear out inventory that is harder to move during other times of the year, or inventory that will be outdated by the next holiday season.

It may feel like the holiday season is too far out to start planning for, but with the amount of potential sales on the line, it’s worth the time and effort now to save headache, hassle, and budget down the line. If you’re not sure what a holiday plan should look like for your business, or have not seen significant returns on your previous plans, get in touch! Grid can help you evaluate your business goals, put together a holiday plan, execute your marketing campaigns, and set you up for continued success over the next holiday season.