For many small businesses, the holiday season accounts for a large percentage of annual sales, and the holiday train seems to pull out of the station earlier every year. Before Halloween has even passed, snowflakes, lights and all other manner of holiday-oriented decorations pop up in both stores and on e-commerce websites.

With a huge chunk of annual revenue at stake, and the fast-approaching deadline to promote, it’s time to start prepping for your holiday selling season now. Here’s how you should prepare:

Use What You Already Know

Think about what you did last holiday season. What worked? What didn’t? Apply what you learned from that experience to this year’s marketing strategy. You also know what’s worked this year thus far – product types, advertising, social media campaigns. Leverage what’s been working for you and apply it to your holiday marketing activities.

Determine Your Holiday Product Promotions

Which products will be your hot sellers? If you know, consider applying heavier discounts now on your least popular items to make room for those more popular later in the year. Once you zero in on those products, consider the following:

  • Make sure you have enough inventory of hot sellers. Forecast what you need based on last year’s holiday season or what the most popular items have been year-to-date.
  • Order early so you’re not left scrambling to fill your shelves.
  • What discounts or incentives (if any) will you offer for these products? Percentage off, free shipping, buy one, get one XX% off another item?

Plan Out Your Holiday Marketing Activities

Once you know which products you want to focus on, start thinking about how you want to spend your advertising dollars and where you want to expend your marketing efforts. What’s going to create the biggest bang for the buck? Here’s an example of how one retailer can promote their Black Friday sale (the day after Thanksgiving) which is Nov 28th of this year.

What’s effective about all these marketing activities is that each one can be prepped now. You could create your landing page, email and social posts and have them ready to launch in November. This work can be done up front and then edited, if needed, closer to launch date. You can get these marketing steps done in advance so you can focus on all of the other things you need to do to get ready for this heavy buying season.

Other marketing campaigns that may need a special holiday touch include:

  • Paid Search – If you’re doing paid search now, like Google AdWords, take a look at your keywords. Do they need to be updated to highlight a specific product, holiday name (e.g., “Black Friday Special”)  or other?
  • Marketing Collateral – Make sure you’re stocked up on your marketing collateral – business cards, brochures, flyers, etc.
  • Holiday Cards – Whether you send an email or an actual post card, customers always appreciate a note wishing holiday cheer. Send your holiday greetings early to stay top of mind when customers are getting geared up for their gift shopping.
  • Gift Suggestions – Help your customers out by offering gift suggestions or a holiday bundle for that hard-to-shop-for relative.
  • Coupons – As we learned earlier from Vouchercloud, “66 million digital coupons were redeemed industry-wide” last year – They work, and they’re popular. Drive users to your website or to your physical location on specific days with, “Good on Black Friday only,” or “Valid only Dec 26th through Jan 2nd” offers.

Get Your Website and/or Retail Location in the Holiday Spirit

For those who have retail locations, determine which seasonal touches you’re going to use to amp up the holiday vibe. If you need decorations, make sure you order or purchase them ahead of time. Get shoppers in the mood with some holiday music. Pick a Pandora station, Spotify playlist or a popular CD and pipe in that music to get customers in the holiday frame of mind.

For business owners who rely upon online sales, you can get in the holiday spirit, too. Update your logo to match the season. Check out how this company updated their logo for Thanksgiving:

If you don’t have a graphic designer to help you out with “holiday-izing” your logo, we can help.

One overarching strategy for your e-commerce website that’s especially important during the busy holiday season is to make your website mobile friendly. More and more shoppers are buying via smartphones or tablet devices. According to Nielsen’s Digital Consumer Report, “mobile shopping is gaining momentum among U.S. consumers, as more than four in five (87%) smartphone and tablet owners say they use these devices for shopping activities, up 8 percentage points from 2012.” Don’t miss out on sales because you don’t have a mobile optimized site.

Besides buying online, many mobile users (up to 55%) are using their smartphones  to read reviews and 23% are writing reviews after their purchases.  If you haven’t checked out your online reviews lately (on sites like Yelp), make sure to do so now. Get actively involved in responding to reviews – whether positive or negative. Shoppers will be more likely to visit you if you’re engaged and proactive in your business.

The holidays are a busy time for small business owners, both professionally and personally. By planning your marketing activities now, you’ll have more time to help your business be a success during the holiday season.

When do you prep for the holiday season? Have any other ideas to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Visit our Everything Holiday site for all your holiday email and social media needs.

Get your holiday marketing started now with VerticalResponse.

© 2014 – 2018, Kathy McGovern. All rights reserved.