We know what you’re thinking – didn’t summer just start? It really is hard to believe that in a few short months the holiday season will be upon us. Raking leaves, carving pumpkins, hanging winter holiday decorations, and building snowmen; the holidays are an exciting and busy time for all.
For marketers – even more so.
The major fall and winter holidays are still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about your company’s holiday marketing strategy. So while consumers might not be in holiday shopping mode just yet, it’s important that when they are, you’re ready too.
From setting a budget to identifying which marketing mediums you’ll use to spread the word, there’s a lot that goes into any marketing strategy. But holiday marketing requires significantly more time, planning, and funding than any other time of year, so it’s not something that anyone should take lightly.
With an organized approach and by avoiding procrastination as much as possible, you’ll be able to develop a holiday marketing strategy that is not only memorable to consumers, but will generate ROI for your business.
Getting in the Holiday Spirit Early
For one reason or another, it seems like people start shopping for the holidays earlier and earlier every year. In some cases, the best deals are found even before Black Friday. This early bird trend provides major opportunities for businesses to stand out from their competitors. Since most brands don’t heavily promote their holiday marketing until after Halloween, this gives others a chance to take advantage of a less saturated market.
In 2014, about one-fourth of consumers began their holiday shopping before Halloween, yet only half of marketers had launched a holiday campaign by that time. Starting to think about Thanksgiving weekend deals when you just finished handing out Halloween candy might seem a bit soon, but in reality, it’s a smart business decision.
From a marketing standpoint, you shouldn’t just be on pace with whatever holiday consumers are focusing on, you should be ahead of it. When shoppers are thinking about Halloween, plant the seed that Black Friday is just a few weeks away and you’ll have great deals to take advantage of.
From a consumer perspective, it makes financial sense to start holiday shopping early. It allows you to spread out your expenses over the course of a couple months, rather than just a couple weeks (or days). It’s important to play off this behavior, offering a variety of timely specials and discounts, while also getting shoppers thinking about your brand before anyone else.
You’ll Reap the Benefits
Aside from the financial reward of getting your holiday promotions in front of customers earlier, there are several other benefits to starting your planning well in advance. For one, it will take some stress off your plate so that when the holidays do arrive, you can focus on other important tasks – like ensuring inventory is meeting demand and attending to any customer services questions or issues.
It also gives you time to take a look back at last year’s holiday campaigns to evaluate what worked well and what didn’t go as planned. Then you can incorporate the successful elements of previous campaigns into this year’s strategy and make sure to steer clear of what didn’t work.
In terms of your marketing budget, you’ll also benefit from getting started early. Spacing out your expenses will be less taxing to your bottom line and may even allow you to do more because you don’t have several marketing costs at once.
On the other hand, you might end up spending less than initially anticipated if you plan your marketing well in advance, especially if you need to hire an agency or design company. In many cases, a company will offer incentives to clients that start planning their holiday marketing early because it gives them plenty of time to get everything done. So not only will shoppers want to take advantage of earlier sales, you’ll likely be more financially stable and organized in the process.
Where to Get Started with Holiday Marketing
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of planning holiday marketing early for both consumers and businesses, let’s think about putting a concrete plan in place. Where do you begin?
Like most marketing campaigns, the first thing you need to do is establish a specific goal for the campaign. What do you want to accomplish through these efforts? Once you know what you want to achieve, you need to think about your budget, who you’ll be targeting, and which marketing channels you’ll utilize to get the word out.
One of the most important pieces of a successful holiday marketing strategy is social media. Shoppers flock to social media during the holiday season more than any other time to look for sales, learn about the latest trends, and ask questions or share feedback with a company they purchased from. It’s important that you’re there to answer questions and address any issues quickly in order to establish a positive online reputation.
In addition to an established social media strategy, content marketing through blogging, email, and website content are other valuable ways to acknowledge common customer questions and build rapport. Demonstrating your knowledge and expertise about a particular subject will allow you to build trust with your target audience and make them more likely to come to you for a needed product or service.
By starting early, it also gives you an opportunity to plan out and test any advertising materials weeks ahead of the holiday it’s promoting. Wouldn’t it be helpful to launch an advertising campaign surrounding upcoming Cyber Monday deals towards the beginning of November to see how your audience reacts to it? Then, if needed, you still have plenty of time to make changes and re-launch the ads.
Research shows that 74% of retailers bring in over 20% of their annual sales during the holiday season alone, so there’s no question that holiday marketing is crucial to a company’s success. So end this year on a positive note and set yourself up for a strong 2017 by starting your planning now!