Over the past few days, I’ve been helping a smaller business hit the ground running after a delayed start to its Christmas season marketing. I hope some of the priorities I’ve established for them will help your business or one belonging to someone you know.
This blog post’s advice applies to any business with a seasonal rush (think summer holidays, Easter, or Back to School). So, for this time of year, not only traditional B2C ecommerce but also service businesses that look forward to the holiday season, such as hotels, restaurants, cake makers and caterers. You know if you have a seasonal rush and when it is.
Late for the holiday season? Ten essential steps you can take now
If you’re kicking off late, look at these ten absolute priorities and start implementing them right away!:
- Make sure you have a clear picture of who your holiday customers are and what drives their purchases—you may be pushed for time, but you can’t skimp on the fundamentals
- Think about how you’re going to turn your existing customers into seasonal purchasers as well as attract new customers—your existing customers know and (hopefully) trust you, but perhaps don’t think of you as somewhere to purchase this season. You need to engage with prospects quickly and effectively
- Check for products being promoted by manufacturers and distributors—benefit from someone else’s marketing spend, build on their awareness building, ride on this season’s trends
- Make sure you have sufficient stock of the products you’ll be promoting—don’t let low inventory strangle your profitability
- Create deals, offers and incentives—this season is tough, with many companies cutting prices to attract buyers
- Create flashes, banners and photos (can you get them from manufacturers and distributors?) for your website, social media and advertising—make sure your communications stand out and boost customer engagement. Make CTAs (calls to action) clear and simple
- Use your email list to sell to some of your warmest prospects—people on your list are previous buyers or those who want to hear from you, anyway. Don’t let them down by not telling them about your seasonal deals, products and events
- Focus on two (maximum three) social media channels (you can add more if you have the capacity later)—choose the best ones and do the job properly
- Define a realistic budget for paid media—click costs increase for seasonal advertising and, likewise, competition for paid social media positions increases
- Focus on two paid-for channels (Google Ads, YouTube or Facebook, for example)—advertising takes at least as much effort as social media. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
The full story. More opportunities
If your business has more capacity now, or your seasonal rush is coming sometime in 2024, you have more opportunities to hit the ball out of the park.
Do your groundwork
- Build your holiday marketing strategy—do it now! It’s almost too late. Use this email as a starting point and checklist
- Predict demand—and clearly define your objectives
- Understand your customers—they may have different leads and motivations over the holiday season. They often buy things they wouldn’t at any other time of the year
- Your strategy to attract new customers—do you need more advertising and social, for example? Do you need to work on your website assets?
- Analyse your competitors’ holiday marketing—and steal and improve their best ideas
- Plan—review your processes, from creating marketing assets to streamlining your returns. Make sure your shipping is fast and reliable
Create your holiday-themed marketing
- Check you have sufficient stock of big-selling items—look at your sales data from 2022 if you haven’t already; make sure you understand this year’s trends and which products have a marketing push behind them by the manufacturer or distributor
- Create holiday deals—make it easier for yourself by offering bundles that existing and new customers will love. And offer gift cards to drive repeat business
- Think about incentives—they needn’t be complicated, taking weeks to implement. People love free shipping or discounted special delivery options
- Find the less-obvious holiday sellers—and don’t leave them to languish until the new year. Can you build a story around a product that shows how it can ease the burden of Christmas or make an unusual gift?
- Check your website—while this time may not be the best to take on a full technical and content audit (book me in for the new year by having a chat now), take a look at your sales funnel and internal linking and ensure you have created the most frustration-free shopping experience you can; slow and clunky, and you’ll be losing customers. And do your checking on mobile because that’s how most of your customers will do their shopping
- Prepare holiday-themed content and assets—social media posts, images, videos, banners, blog posts, and emails should be ready before it gets really busy, believe me
- Feature last shipping dates—be clear about the last dates for shipping. A looming deadline may incentivise people to buy immediately, as well as potentially heading off disappointment. Consider showing a countdown on your site, advertising and emails
- Play the urgency of scarcity—take a leaf from Amazon’s and eBay’s books and highlight when stocks get low—the implication is ‘buy now, or miss out’. Check whether your platform already offers to show low stock onsite. It needn’t be a big coding undertaking
- Customer service—don’t forget to review and strengthen your customer service to handle the increased pressure during the coming weeks. You want happy, returning customers and a brand reputation boosted by their experiences.
Sell your goods or services
- Kick-off fast with early-bird discounts—spread the seasonal load and grab your share of early shoppers’ bank accounts. OK, you can’t do this a week before the big event, but Early-Bird Discounts are always a great opportunity to talk to your customers
- PPC/Paid Social—while your blog posts and seasonally-themed content may not be picked up by Google quickly enough to drive Organic traffic to your website, Pay Per Click and Paid Social get you immediate, tailored traffic
- Organic Social media—this is also the time to double down on your social media. Harness your holiday-themed assets and use scheduling tools to reduce the burden of keeping up the flow. Tell your customers about your deals and offers often (but don’t be boring! In fact, never be boring in any of your marketing 🙂 ). And engage to build a human face to your business
- Email marketing—plan and schedule your emails. Make the most of your email list to send offers and product information (show the benefits for the time of year). And try to make it as relevant and personalised as possible. Also, don’t forget the shipping date reminders!
Post-holiday planning (Planning for the new year)
- Be prepared for returns—more sales almost inevitably generate more returns
- Analyse and learn—there’s nothing to stop you from doing this as you go, but if you’ve done the above properly, you won’t have the time :-). Start it alongside your after-season sale, don’t leave it until November next year; analyse with the season fresh in your mind
- Put your Q1 strategy into action—now is not the time to rest on your laurels
- Build Organic traffic throughout the year—so there’s less pressure on your advertising and social media next year
- Grow your email list—it’ll be invaluable year-round.
Need to get going quickly? Need some help with Google Ads or other paid media? Let’s talk.
This blog post appeared first in David Rosam On Digital Marketing. You can get your copy of my newsletter here.
David Rosam has been working online for more than 25 years, after a career in direct marketing copywriting for the tech and financial services industries.
Today, he specialises in Content-Focused Search Engine Optimisation—from audits, through research and strategy to implementation.
He was probably the UK’s first SEO Copywriter.