The holiday season is an exciting time for businesses. Most see it as a time to make quick and easy money.
What many fail to realize is all of the preparation that goes into making the holiday season a success both for a business and its customers.
Formulating a business marketing plan will not only result in an increase in profit, but your employees will also recognize your strong leadership and appreciate your flexibility during the stressful holiday season.
Related Article: How to Create an Amazing Direct Mail Piece to Generate Holiday Sales
Not Having a Marketing Plan for the Holiday Season
I have bad news for you, by the time you start reading this you should already be half way into your marking plan for the holiday season. This is all about knowing your clients and when they are most likely to make purchases.
You should already have been drip marketing your clients for the past couple of months because we all know that most sale cycles take anywhere from 6-18 months. If you quickly throw together a not-so-well-thought-out marketing plan, it could do more damage than good for your company’s reputation.
Thankfully, you still have time to make an impact by offering incentives, exclusive discounts, a special giveaway, or a complimentary service to help ease the stress of the holiday season.
Drastically Discounting Prices Early in the Holiday Season
According to USA today deals and discounts are what will drive people to buy. Twenty percent off is now the “new full price,” especially around the major shopping days.
That being said, the closer you get to the holidays, the customer's pain point is that they need to buy the perfect gift and fast, so the right gift will be purchased, even if it's at a higher price. If discounting is done too early (or late), it will drastically reduce the business’ overall profit. Remember that sales are vanity and profit is sanity!
Trying to Compete With Big Box Stores
As an independent retailer, it is nearly impossible to compete on price or reach with the bigger stores. Instead, emphasize buying local and how it helps keep the community economically strong. Do joint promotions with other local business owners and emphasize local value over price.
Being Left Short-Staffed
Now is the time for a smaller business to shine. It may be the first time that a customer enters that retail establishment all year. Ensure that customer service is at its best by hiring additional experienced staff to handle the increased traffic.
Ignoring Employee Needs for Time Off
All employees have their personal needs for time off this time of year. Post a schedule early to ensure that they get the time they need and the business is not left short-staffed. Happy employees will make happier customers.
Not Being “Findable” on the Web or by Mobile Applications
This is the time of year that customers are shopping, and one of the ever increasing ways to bring customers in is to be searchable. Retailers need to ensure their brand is memorable. You must be listed in Google Places, Yelp and Yahoo Local so they can be found. Don’t hesitate to get involved in the conversations about shopping and gift giving that are happening over social media.
Making Returns Difficult
No retailer wants to see their products come back to them. But, the first purchase this time of year can be the beginning of a relationship with a customer. Do not treat it as a one transaction deal. Make the return easy and use it as an opportunity to stay connected to the customer in the future.
Depending on November and December as a “Make or Break” Time of Year
Retailers need to be actively growing and marketing their business throughout the year. Do not depend on the holiday season to make this year profitable. Always have a cash reserve in case December falls flat as a result of poor economic news or bad weather.
Forgetting About January
After the holiday season is a perfect time of year to follow up with all the new customers you acquired in December and build a relationship with them for the future. Don’t wait until the next holiday season to contact them!
Related Article: Earlier Every Year: Get Ready for the Holiday Shopping Season Now
The holiday season is a great time for hackers to steal information from holiday shoppers. The other thing hackers might do is post links to other not so nice websites by placing links on yours, causing Google to block or remove your site. Keep a close eye on backlinks and comments. With the high volume of transactions that might happen over the period, you could be less likely to notice extra transactions or wrong totals. If you have a brick and mortar store, you also need to be on the lookout for in-store thieves.
According to an article in the Huffington Post, "half of Holiday Shoppers will avoid shops that have been hacked." Be on high alert for DoS attacks, and also make sure that your site has up to date security on all transactions by making sure you have SSL certification.
Back up your information! Everything from your phone to your laptop to your companies’ servers should always have regular backups. You should even think about a service where you store information in the cloud. As someone who works online, I have a backup service that works between my phone, my laptop, and the cloud so I always have access to important documents. This system also saved me a lot of time when I had to reinstall my laptop four times in three days. I was still able to work because I was able to access important documents from any computer.
Although you might be out of the office, your customers do not need to know this. There are some websites that shut down and have an out of office/happy holiday's page up on their site. A lot of people use the holidays as a time to catch up on things that they have been holding off on. Nothing is more likely to turn a potential customer away than a “closed” website.
Use Seasonal Marketing Campaigns Effectively
In addition to traditional marketing, internet marketing can also be used to complement the efforts during the upcoming holiday season. SEO marketing tips can be implemented early enough to take advantage of the increase in sales that they are likely to bring in. Given below are four suggestions in this direction:
- Change the written content early enough in the website to suit the holiday moods. This would help the search engines to start crawling through the website pages sufficiently early.
- Change your existing advertisement to a PPC model for holiday-related queries can help to increase the size of the target audience.
- Add features such as free shipping, in-store pickup, etc., early enough can ensure that you will have business from those customers who want their favorite products on time and those who do sufficient research before purchase during the Christmas holiday season.
- Ensure attractive images related to the products and customer reviews for the products on sale are in place. The alt-text facility can be well exploited to display themed images (with popular keywords). This will render the website more SEO friendly and will work to the business owner’s advantage during the Christmas gift season.
Related Article: The Ultimate Holiday How-to for Social Media Promotion
Make Time for Yourself
Last but not the least, it is important for the business owner to maintain his/her sanity during the busy Christmas Holiday season. The business owner needs to attend only the most important events related to the business to be fit enough to meet the rush in activities during the Christmas season as well as into the New Year.