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Holiday Marketing Essentials: 4 Ways Smart Businesses Get Results

Josh Dickson
Josh Dickson

Stand out, amass sales and earn customer loyalty using these savvy strategies.

The holidays are here and have announced their arrival with a historic flurry of retail activity.

Already this year, retail sales have soared to record heights for Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In fact, on Cyber Monday 2017, there was a reported $6.59 billion in total online sales, which shattered the previous year's record by more than $3 billion, according to Adobe Analytics. Amazon accounted for an estimated 36 percent of that total alone.

U.S. total retail sales for the holidays were up nearly 5 percent in 2016 when compared to the previous year. eMarketer reports that in 2017, that number is expected to increase again by at least 2 percent overall and as much as 16 percent for ecommerce. Based on the early numbers from Cyber Monday, those numbers appear to be fairly conservative.

With this surge in overall sales, big brands are swinging for the fences with massive advertising campaigns and extreme sales promotions across a wide variety of traditional and digital platforms.

Smaller business owners and marketers may feel that it's impossible to make much headway for their brand in the face of these big-budget advertising campaigns from Fortune 500 companies.

But don't give up yet. There are still many holiday marketing opportunities and ideas that small businesses can leverage for great success.

All too often, small business owners and marketers react to the crazy landscape of holiday season marketing with a shotgun approach. They will try to be everywhere at once, like their big brand competitors, stretching their marketing budget and time so thin that there are few positive results.

Instead, small business owners have to hyperfocused when implementing their holiday marketing plans in order to be successful.

Here are four practical ways smart small businesses get great results from their holiday marketing efforts.

1. Maximize your ad budget with an intelligent PPC campaign.

A detailed, optimized and targeted pay-per-click (PPC) campaign is the best way to gain new customers during the holiday season. For smaller businesses, the key to a successful PPC campaign is making sure the campaign is as specific as possible. Not sure what a PPC campaign is or how to use it for your general business marketing? Read about PPC advertising here.

To do this, you should focus on getting these five key things right:

  1. Focus on your best-performing network.
  2. Use all ad features correctly and fully.
  3. Focus PPCs for only your top one or two holiday products or services.
  4. Target your audience as specifically as possible.
  5. Perfect your remarketing campaign.

First of all, you need to isolate your top-performing network or medium. For ecommerce companies, this is oftentimes Google AdWords as it provides access to the widest audience and specific keyword targeting. For businesses with a strong social media presence that converts, it may be a social media network like Facebook or Pinterest. Every business performs differently on different PPC networks. 

Whichever network your business does best on is the one you should focus on for your holiday season marketing. Every network will get more competitive during the holiday season, so you shouldn't waste ad spend on ones that don't usually perform well anyways.

Second, whether you choose Facebook, Google, Amazon, a referral network, or some other paid advertising spot, make sure to refer to best practices in setting up advertisements for that medium. 

Third, you should focus your increased holiday ad spend to only a few of your top holiday products. This will ensure, again, that you're not wasting ad budget on under-performing items in a more competitive landscape. Your hero products or services should be the focus of your PPC campaign during the holiday season.

Fourth, no matter which network you advertise your campaign on, there is likely some level of audience-targeting tools at your disposal. Use these to be as specific as possible with your audience. You want the audience that sees the advertisements to look just like your best customers. 

Finally and most importantly, make sure you have a finely tuned remarketing campaign for individuals who visit your website during the holiday season.

Most customers take many interactions with a brand to convert, so getting them to your site the first time only gets you halfway there. Remarketing will allow you to readvertise to these people who have already shown interest in your product or brand and spend significantly less money per click.

2. Get positive brand recognition by partnering with a local charity.

The holidays are a hectic time for business owners and marketers, which is why it's incredibly important to prioritize working with charity during the holiday season. Chances are many of your competitors won't do much for charity because of their busy schedules, and even if they do, many won't prioritize it correctly. That means that if you do it right, then customers will take notice. 

There are many ways to partner and get involved. The best ways to do this from a business perspective involve using your business's facilities as a hub for your employees and customers to help out. Things like coat or food drives, Angel Trees, or gift drives are great ways to drive foot traffic and build positive brand awareness while helping out those in need during the holiday season.

Make sure to let your local newspapers and publications know what you're doing so you can have the biggest impact for the charity you are working with and so customers know the good you're doing in the community.

3. Capitalize on urgency by creating limited-time products and sales.

Urgency is one of the greatest motivators to drive conversions during the holiday season. With an obvious high demand for goods and services, as evidenced by the stampeding crowds at doorbuster sales and out of stock items online, it's only natural to think that most holiday items are likely to have limited inventory. That's why it's essential to include limited-time products and sales in your holiday marketing plans.

Ideally, if your product offering lends itself to it, create a unique, seasonal product or product line. Try to be as clever and localized as possible with these holiday products in order to hopefully drive word-of-mouth and social media buzz. Craft breweries tend to do this very well, by brewing small-batch seasonal specialties that are often on tap for a limited time during the holidays.

For ecommerce businesses, try to integrate things like countdown clocks on products that are on sale or information about how many items are left in inventory. These types of urgency drivers have shown to have a huge influence on purchasing decisions according to an A/B test by Behave. When a countdown clock was placed next to an item, the item had up to 9 percent more sales when compared to the standard product page for the same item.

Urgency is a powerful holiday marketing tool.

4. Wrap things up with an amazing customer experience.

Finally, the last way that smart businesses get holiday marketing right is by creating timely, seasonal and personal packaging for their products. Holiday-themed packaging connects with customers and enhances their perception of a company. 

There are many creative ways that you can use holiday-themed packaging and messaging on your products. From simple things like including "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" on your invoices to completely redesigning your product's packaging for a holiday theme, every personal touch counts.

For ecommerce stores, make sure you offer a "this is a gift" option at checkout so that potential gifts aren't ruined by being seen before they're wrapped.

A fun, cost-effective way to make your shipping boxes and product packaging more seasonally appropriate is by using custom printed labels and stickers on your products. You can arrange a variety of designs as a collage on your boxes or keep a static holiday messaging on each box.

However you decorate your packaging for the season, just make sure that you do something to make it more festive. Your customers will notice and will grow their love for your brand because of it.

Remember, don't try to do too much.

The holiday season is hectic enough for anybody, but especially for business owners and marketers. Remember that by doing too much with your holiday marketing this year, you will probably end up watering your advertising down, wearing yourself out and being lost in the noise of the holidays. Stay hyperfocused, be smart with your marketing initiatives, and most of all, take time to breathe and enjoy the beauty of the holiday season. 

Image Credit: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock
Josh Dickson
Josh Dickson Member
I'm based in beautiful, sunny Clearwater, Florida. I have been in the field of digital marketing for over 5 years and the print industry for just over 3 years. I'm passionate about creating marketing strategies that are smart, measurable and deliver bottom-line results for my clients. I have experience in many digital marketing fields including general web design and basic HTML/CSS development, conversion copywriting, UX optimization, usability testing, automated email marketing, PPC campaigns, social media marketing, SEO and link building strategies and more. Basically, if it involves getting people to a website, tracking activity on a website and getting people to convert on a website, then I'm your guy. More recently I've put my graphics knowledge to work managing the pre-press division of's digital custom label printing. Now I'm a product packaging obsessed paper nerd. And I'm okay with that. We deliver stunning custom printed labels and shrink sleeves to clients at affordable short(ish) run quantities. Outside of work, I enjoy kayaking around the Tampa Bay region, playing disc golf, and hanging out with my beautiful wife and daughter.