It’s never too early to start preparing for the holidays. Online and traditional brick-and-mortar businesses earn a hugely disproportionate amount of their annual sales during the holidays. There’s no type of product or service that you can’t leverage for holiday promotions.
Holiday marketing is extremely competitive, however. You need to do everything possible to stand apart from your competition, so people choose your holiday offerings, which requires lots of strategic planning. Here are five tips to help make this your most successful holiday season ever.
1. Plan for a Two-Month Holiday Season
Traditionally, the season runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Recently, however, it’s gotten quite a bit longer. In fact, the period from Halloween to the end of the year has morphed into one long holiday season as far as shopping is concerned.
As everyone knows, the biggest shopping day of the year is Black Friday (although Amazon has recently challenged this with its own Prime Day). Black Friday is gradually turning into something even bigger: “Black November.” Businesses are moving from pre-selling customers for Black Friday to offering special promotions throughout the month.
Halloween, which conveniently lands on the very last day of October, also provides a connecting link to the major holiday season. Arguably, the first few weeks of the New Year are also an extension of the holidays as people look for extra good deals.
The upshot of these trends is that the season now effectively takes up at least two full months, or one-sixth of the year, making it more important than ever to plan your strategy well in advance.
2. Have Enough Inventory and Personnel
When planning for the holidays, make sure you have sufficient resources in place. If you deal in physical products, do your best to anticipate how much inventory you’ll need. You surely don’t want to run out of stock on popular items.
On the other hand, don’t go overboard and order too much. You don’t want to get stuck with unsold merchandise you’ll have to mark down sharply at the end of the year. If you sell on Amazon, keep in mind that it charges for unsold inventory in its FBA. Base your calculations on past performance as well as industry trends.
The holidays are also a time when you have to think about hiring extra help and setting up work schedules. Some people go away this time of year and may not be available. If it’s appropriate for your business, you might hire seasonal workers or, for digital tasks, virtual assistants.
3. Divide the Holiday Season Into Segments
It’s better to segment the holiday season into distinct periods rather than treat it as one undifferentiated two-month affair. Creating separate campaigns for specific holidays and events gives you a chance to target various customers as well as reach the same customers at different times. You can run distinct campaigns for:
- Halloween — Even if there’s no obvious tie-in between your business and scary movies, trick-or-treating, and parties, you can always run a “scary” sale.
- Thanksgiving — For companies that sell food-related products, Thanksgiving itself is a good chance to increase sales. For everyone else, it’s a good time to connect with your customers and express your appreciation for them. You can do this with blog posts, social media messages, or paid ads.
- Black Friday — This one is obvious and includes every type of business.
- Cyber Monday — The Monday after Thanksgiving is a new shopping tradition for online sellers. Keep in mind, though, that lots of people shop online on Black Friday as well, so it’s Black-Cyber Weekend.
- Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza – While these holidays are when people exchange gifts, once you get close to the actual dates, your focus should be more spreading good will rather than selling, unless you sell products that people consume on these days.
- Winter — Apart from the festive and religious holidays, December marks the beginning of winter (or summer in the southern hemisphere). For certain items, such as winter clothes or sports, there are obvious promotional tactics, but any business can tie the season into their content.
- New Year’s — This includes New Year’s Eve celebrations as well as looking ahead to the new year itself. New Year’s resolutions provide a variety of marketing opportunities, such as students about to begin a new semester at school Some people take winter holidays, others buy new cars; both give you a chance to bridge the holiday season into the coming year with your marketing.
These are just some examples of how you can emphasize special holidays and segments of the season.
4. Offer Shoppers Simple and Convenient Solutions
The holidays can be a joyous time, but many people also find them stressful. One reason for this is the hectic rush to find the right gifts and the best deals while staying within a budget. If you want to increase your holiday profits, think of ways to make holiday shopping easier and less stressful for people.
For example, gift certificates provide a convenient solution that doesn’t require the buyer to choose a particular item. Bundling products together for a good price gives people a chance to get several gifts with one purchase. Give customers as many options for shopping as possible, whether from your website, mobile devices, by phone or in person.
5. Uplift and Engage With Your Customers
Even as people buy gifts and spend more than usual during this season, holiday burnout is also common. As the holidays get ever more commercial, there’s a certain backlash as some people scale back their spending and try to focus on the original spirit of the holidays. As a business, this presents you with a paradox. You are, after all, trying to sell products and make as much money as possible. You can, however, maintain a balance by also using this time to connect with people authentically.
Don’t make all of your holiday content about products and sales. Tell anecdotes and display photos and videos of yourself, your family, your employees, even pets. Invite your customers and followers to submit their holiday photos on your social media pages. Another idea is to raise money for a worthy cause and donate a portion of your profits.
The holidays are a good time to share helpful and uplifting content, even if it’s not directly related to what you sell. By positively engaging with your audience, you’re also indirectly marketing. While it’s always nice to make fast sales, you should also be thinking about building long-term relationships with customers.
Merge Your Holiday Marketing Into Your Year-Round Marketing
While the holiday season is often the most profitable time of year for businesses, you shouldn’t put all of your hopes into it. Even as the season gets more drawn out, it’s still only a small fraction of the year. That said, many of the marketing tactics covered above help you build your business year round. For example, it’s always helpful to connect with your customers genuinely, offer them convenient solutions, and target campaigns based on holidays (including smaller holidays throughout the year) and seasons. You can take many of these holiday marketing tips and merge them into your marketing all year long.