It’s already November and there are probably a lot of things running through your mind: turkey, sales, holidays, cranberries, and maybe even coming up with a holiday marketing plan for your business. Does it seem too early to be thinking of “12 Days of Christmas” emails or “25% off” sales for the holidays? Think again! According to a study Epsilon recently conducted, consumers are looking to purchase early in the season, especially large items. But, most businesses plan their email and social marketing to drive sales during the after-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Houston, we definitely have a problem!

To avoid missing this early shopping window, we have some tips to help your business capitalize on this opportunity and front-load your sales for the busy season.

1. Start planting holiday seeds now – Even in the first week of November you can get your recipients and followers ready for the upcoming holidays. Should your emails and posts be all holiday-related? Not necessarily, but you can start including holiday-specific information, special offers or even a slightly more jolly website. Remind your customers that the holidays are coming, that you have specials planned and they should stay tuned for more goodies along the way. You may also want to consider having a pre-holiday sale to catch the early bird shoppers and self-gift buyers.

Bath & Body Works created an email for their fall products, but also mentioned holiday was coming up.

2. Create an email plan – Sure, you (and everyone else) will be sending out emails and special sales for Cyber Monday, or events during December, but what else are you planning? As previously mentioned, now is the time to get your recipients thinking about holiday shopping. If your business offers a service, remind customers that you’ll be there, even during the holidays. If you’re a winery and can host events, mention that you’re open and available for holiday parties. For a service-oriented business, like plumbing, send an email that includes your emergency contact info ahead of time – there’s nothing worse than a plumbing mishap gone wrong during a holiday party. Sending holiday related emails now will set you apart from all the other emails that’ll hit inboxes in just a few weeks.

3. Get active on social media – According to a study by Mr. Youth, 66% of social media users who purchased on Black Friday/Cyber Monday did so as a direct result of interacting with brands (and family) on social media. This holiday season, use the network you’ve built on social media to boost your sales and spread the word about your business. Now’s the time to post holiday info, but don’t go overboard – your posts need to be balanced. Share interesting and relevant information, but limit the offer-related posts to around 25%. Keep posts fun, interesting and shareable!

Need content ideas? Post how-tos for your products or services, holiday season survival tips, stories about your organization’s success, pictures or video to display your its fun side… Your social networks will spread the word when you provide content they enjoy. Your emails also make for great content on your social networks.

Have you considered using Pinterest as part of your holiday marketing mix? Tagging pictures with a dollar amount instantly adds a price banner and the pin is automatically added to a gifts category. This makes gift guide creation super-easy and shareable!

Don't forget Pinterest!

4. Create your nice (or naughty) list – This is something you should also get a headstart on. Create email lists based on your recipients’ interests, purchase history, or email engagement (recently clicked or opened). Also create lists based on age, gender, price range or items in a gift guide. Once you have your lists set up, create specific emails and social media posts targeting the interests of the people on your lists.

Most importantly, keep in mind the email and social rules/best practices that you follow all year – they don’t change just because the air is frosty. Give things/content of value to your recipients and followers, and they will stick with you through the holidays and well into 2013!

Want even more information? Watch our recorded webinar, Email and Social for the Holidays.

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