Tick Tock. The holiday marketing countdown clock is ticking!

Hear that? It’s the sound of large and small businesses starting to hum with holiday marketing plans. For many small businesses, the months leading up to the holidays are the “make or break” season for their year-end business goals.

Okay, maybe you’re sitting on a beach sifting sand through your toes, snow and mistletoe are the furthest thing from your mind. But, major brands have started to jingle their holiday bells. Hallmark Channel is in the midst of their annual Countdown to Christmas celebration. QVC opened up their 2015 campaign, celebrating a month long preview of holiday products with their Christmas in July(R) on-air and online promotions.

Why should you start planning now? Your competitors probably are! With advance planning and a well-thought out holiday marketing strategy you can position your business to ring in the holiday season with a minimum of stress and sleigh full of success.

2015 Projections

Holidays are a big deal online and on mobile devices and the number of businesses using social media to market during the holidays continues to grow. Here are some data-drive trends from 2014 to look out for during this holiday season.

Fifteen percent of consumers have already started shopping for the holiday season and 5% more will start before Labor Day  July Google consumer survey

 

68% of in-store purchasers said they visited the store’s website on their phone while in the store, compared to just 55% in 2013.  Foresee.com

 

On Thanksgiving, mobile traffic exceeded half of all online traffic at 52.1%, an increase of 22.4% over 2013.  © 2015 Forrester Research, Inc.

How should Marketers take advantage of these predictions and sync their holiday marketing strategy with their customers?

Start Early. Reach out to your customers, market your social channels, and stand out with e-mail messaging.

  1. Reach Out To Your Customers

Start with a thorough review of your holiday campaign from last year to determine what should be repeated, tweaked or avoided.

“Christmas In July” launches the holiday season for many big brands. Promote a special one-day event with a “buy now get later” offer. Is a new product or service on your product horizon? Consider offering a sneak preview with a special coupon or gift certificate promotion.

Have a monthly email newsletter? Start your holiday messaging in July, or even August. Reach out to subscribers with a short holiday tease. Ask customers to make a “wish list,” preview holiday products, or order your holiday catalog. Pre-holiday email promotions work well for any business. If you’re in a service industry, promote upcoming holiday specials like holiday room reservations and parties.

  1. Market Your Social Media Channels

With built-in followers on social media, use your social channels to promote upcoming holiday specials.

Facebook

92 percent of the marketers surveyed say they will allocate the majority of their social media holiday budgets to Facebook. When should you start and what are some tips for effectively using Facebook to market your business?

  • Start your Facebook campaign early. Brands start pitching holiday promotions as early as September, followed by a heavy spike in mid-October. Mid-November sees campaigns take a dip in participation, but activity spikes again from the end of November through December.
  • Space out and build your holiday campaign to align with your best post days and times.
  • Offer exclusive holiday discounts or insider sales for your followers.
  • Announce upcoming specials and offers; add eye-catching images along with your status.
  • Ask your customers to post a review and analyze their engagement and interaction to your product or service.
  • Stay in tune with large brands with a local storefront presence. When and what type of marketing are they doing on social media, make adjustments to your holiday schedule if appropriate.

Twitter

  • Host tweet chats for target market areas. Use a tag to invite your local followers to tweet parties and discuss gift ideas with your target audience.
  • Tweet using a unique hashtag like #holidaydeals, #holidaysavings, #blackfriday, #cybermonday. Use geographic tags popular to your area to target your local customers.
  • Tweet special incentives or one day offers leading up to the holidays.
  • Tweet with images like your store’s holiday decor, products, or customers and employees enjoying an in-store event; draw attention to your brand’s story. Post to Instagram.
  • Create a holiday greeting or product video on YouTube or Vine and upload to your business account.

Pinterest

  • Set up trending holiday boards with featured products; don’t forget to add prices.
  • Pinterest has new contest guidelines. If you host a holiday contest, make sure that your contest rules are clearly posted on your board or profile and that you follow the updated Pinterest Brand Guidelines. Pinterest wants people to pin based on inspiration and creativity.
  1. Start Early.  Stand Out With E-Mail!

According to Oracle blog, a market leader in email and cross-channel marketing analysis, the first mention of Christmas in holiday messages is July. Retailers send the majority of their Christmas-themed emails after Dec. 2.

  • Draft compelling content for your email newsletters; strategically create subject lines with captivating “calls to action” so your email stands out amidst the deluge of the competitions. Personalize the subject line with the subscriber’s name.
  • Start getting holiday graphics ready.
  • Create a mailing schedule. Get your holiday emails going early with a slow buildup.
  • Review your email list from last year and curate your contact lists for this season.
  • Begin sending holiday messages in September. Add banners and boxes to your non-holiday email messages.

Summary 

The holiday season brings new opportunities and avenues for businesses to engage with their audience across multiple platforms. Companies that consider starting early will be well positioned for a successful holiday marketing season.

The holiday countdown clock is ticking. It’s time to wrap up your planning and start implementing your holiday marketing strategy. Have you started reaching out to your customers with soft holiday advertising? What are some of your holiday marketing tips?