Holiday brand promotions get earlier and earlier every year. I’ve experienced this throughout my career in the PR and marketing world because, in this profession, it’s my job to stay on top of trends and work closely with the media [those who help people decide “the right time”]. As a small business owner and/or entrepreneur, staying on top of trends is your responsibility too. Why? Because consumer trends influence buying habits. So, while it may seem a tad early for holiday ads, it’s definitely not too early for brand managers and business owners like you to start prepping for the holidays.
Now, grab a pen and paper. Let’s jot down answers to each of these holiday planning questions so you can get ahead of the game this season and grab the interest of your customers before the competition does.
First, let’s start with the facts. Did you know that 32% of consumers start their holiday shopping in October and 25% of consumers won’t stop their shopping until New Year’s Eve?! AND that a good chunk of those consumers look to social media for gift ideas? AND many of them do so via mobile? Yeah. It couldn’t be more real.
While these stats may reflect the vast majority of consumers throughout the United States, you better bet your bottom dollar that they still affect businesses far and wide, big and small. Your target market is part of this statistic. How well do you know your audience? Where and when are they most likely to make a purchase? What generation are they a part of and where do they find their gift ideas [for example: if millennials are your target, consider that 50% of them use Facebook for gift ideas or, if GenZ, that that same amount uses Instagram]? The FIRST step in planning for any campaign, whether for holidays or not, is to know your audience.
Q 1: WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO REACH?
Next on the list is nailing down a timeline for prep and execution of your messaging. Doing so will help you determine in-advance just how much content is required for you to create, schedule and share in order to maintain momentum for the long-haul. The US holiday season is typically thought of as occurring from November through Christmas. However, the reality is that consumers shop for gifts from early October through early January. This graphic [via PR Daily] provides a clear representation of just how this timing pans out.
With that, let’s head to a few more questions, shall we? Based on this knowledge, let’s figure out what time frame you’re working with specifically for your business. Will it encompass the above? Or will you cull it down? Does this messaging include just internal communications – like customer emails and social media posts OR does it also include external messaging like press pitching to long lead-time media outlets [magazines] who work months in advance to collect content for their holiday issues? At the end of the day, what you decide to promote and when is up to you and what your schedule allows. Just bear in mind that the competition certainly heats up during the holidays [especially in small towns] and, if there were ever a time to expand your reach, it’s now.
Q2: WHEN WILL YOUR HOLIDAY MESSAGING START AND END?
Okay, so you’ve nailed down your audience and your timeline. Now, what the heck will you share within those months? This is the most critical part of any holiday campaign. I’ve seen brands trap themselves in a corner by not offering enough AND by offering WAY too much. If you’re a brand with a few products, your strategy may be a bit different than if you’re a brand with several hundred.
Know exactly what your business has capacity for and then consider options that uniquely influence customer experience.
This includes ideas beyond putting a Christmas spin on your fonts and graphics and offering a small discount here and there. What can you offer your audience that they can’t get ANY OTHER time of year? Consider these options:
- Free shipping
- A limited-time/sale offer
- The ability to buy online and pick up in-store
- A free gift with purchase
- Reliable customer service
- A discount on a future purchase
- Complimentary gift wrapping
Get the idea? When you offer an option that makes a user’s experience easy and unique, they will remember you and they will return. In this way, you set a framework for years to come and even for other smaller trendy consumer “holidays” like Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday. Positive influence creates brand loyalty.
Q3: WHAT UNIQUE OFFER WILL YOU PROVIDE THAT IGNITES INTEREST SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS TIME OF YEAR?
It’s high-time for abandoned carts and returns. Once you start going full-speed ahead with your holiday campaigns, you want to ensure that not just your promotional messaging is right but that the overall process for your customers is the most stress-free that it can be. Get personal! In addition to your messaging, you will want to consider strategies for those who are ready to purchase and those who are hesitant to purchase. Perhaps you will have an abandoned cart email or two at the ready, as well as targeted ads for those cautious shoppers? Did you know that abandoned cart messages are opened two times more than other messages? And that sending as many as THREE of those types of emails is 44% more effective than sending just one [stats via PRDaily]? The rate at which people search and where they’re searching should be kept in mind as you move forward with your holiday campaign process.
Q4: WHAT KIND OF CUSTOMER SERVICE ARE YOU ABLE TO PROVIDE?
Finally, the ability to execute any campaign at-length comes down to stamina. Perhaps you have a team or perhaps you don’t. For solopreneurs especially, I know it’s just Y-O-U but, don’t let that scare you away. That’s why I’m writing this post! Planning this far in-advance will help you progress your business no matter the size of your company. Just because you’re smaller does not mean that you should hold back. It is daunting to consider what goes into months worth of holiday planning BUT brands engage because it’s a time of year when consumers are most willing to pursue a purchase in order to fulfill a need. While the season of giving is growing, you should consider expanding your promotions in a way that aids them in finding just what they need, in-advance, on a budget and with ease.
So, in light of this, Q5 isn’t actually a question at all – it’s a tip, and it’s the best tip I can give:
DON’T GIVE UP.
Holiday biz planning is intense but it is worthwhile. I know this from experience with working with brands big and small throughout my career and, from each of those experiences, all I can say is that starting early never hurts but starting late always does. Don’t think that holiday planning is just about your ability to jump on another trend. It is an opportunity that not only excites current customers but that brings new ones and sets the tone for the year ahead. Go into 2018 with momentum so you can keep business growing beyond the holiday season!
Need help nailing down a holiday strategy? Or, want a professional to do it all for you? CONTACT ME.
I will help you set-up a stress-free strategy based on your goals, budget, and the needs of your business so you can end 2017 with a bang and rock the heck out of your New Year!