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The holidays are right around the corner. And the holiday season tends to be an extremely busy time, both personally and professionally, for just about everyone—including small business owners. So, let’s be honest. On a scale of one to ten, how ready and organized are you for the upcoming holiday rush?
Whether you’re feeling like a confident nine, an apprehensive five or a panicked two, now is the time to start getting ready for the holidays. That could mean researching holiday marketing trends in your industry, fleshing out your holiday marketing strategy or locking in the holiday promotions you’re going to share with your customers.
And while preparing for the holidays is always important, it’s particularly important to get ahead of your holiday marketing plan in 2021, when continued COVID-19-related issues could present certain challenges for small businesses.
But even as we navigate these challenging times, people will still be celebrating and exchanging gifts—and getting your holiday marketing ideas and strategy in place will help you get the most out of this period of increased consumer spending.
Not sure where to start? Not to worry…we’ve got you covered. We’ve created a month-by-month holiday checklist, starting in October, full of holiday marketing tips. You’ll learn how to get your strategy in place, and we’ll make sure you’re prepared to tackle the upcoming holiday rush, make meaningful connections with customers and drive sales.
October holiday marketing tips
October might be the month of apple cider, pumpkin patches and sweater weather—but it’s also an opportunity to get a head start on your holiday marketing. Here are a few October marketing tasks to check off your holiday to-do list (and set you up for success in the coming months):
- Devise a detailed holiday plan. Doing a little prep and planning ahead of time will ensure that you’re ready for the holidays—and allow you to feel more festive (instead of frenzied) when the holiday season hits.
- Create a holiday budget. You might be tempted to spend more on your business during the holiday season, but you don’t want to spend more than you can afford. Make a budget, keep it realistic and stick to it.
- Get inspired. Do a little research and see what other businesses do during the holidays to promote their businesses. Spend some time perusing their social media (including Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram) to see if there’s anything that might also connect with your customers—then use those ideas as inspiration as you put together your holiday marketing plan.
- Do some market research. What are your customers looking for this holiday season? How will you meet those demands? Now is the time to do your research—so you’re prepared to deliver once the festive season is in full swing.
- Prepare your inventory. It may seem like you have a lot of time between now and the peak of the holiday season, but the truth is, the holiday rush will be upon you sooner than you think. Get your high-season inventory ordered or organized.
- Order your advertising materials. Now is the time to get marketing materials for any sales or holiday promotions you’re planning for the upcoming season. Whether you’re on the market for banners, postcards, flyers, posters or foam boards to spread the holiday cheer, start stockpiling the supplies you need now to carry you through the rest of the season.
- Get what you need for holiday packaging. The holiday season is all about presents—and how those presents are presented can play a major role in how they’re received. Decide how you want to package mail orders and wrap in-store purchases—and how you’re going to infuse your packaging with a solid dose of holiday cheer. (For example, you might consider including a holiday-themed sticker single with every order or wrapping your box with customized shipping tape.)
- Plan your Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales. Consumers LOVE holiday sales—but if you want your sales to be effective, you need a clear plan. What sales are you running? When does each sale launch? How will you advertise your major sales of the season? Get your plan in place and start drafting promotional emails now; that way, so you’ll be ready to hit ‘send’ when the time comes.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be two of the biggest sales days of the year—but you don’t have to wait until the end of November to run a promotion! If you want to entice new customers, try offering daily deals and subscriber-only flash sales.
November holiday marketing tips
November is home to two key shopping holidays: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Since these two major sales days fall later in the month, you have time to run a few mini promotions in early November to attract proactive customers—and prime them for the more significant shopping extravaganzas. This is also a great time to decorate your storefront—both digital and real-life!
- Decorate your storefront. If you have a brick and mortar, it’s time to deck the halls…or, in this case, deck your storefront. Outside, decorate with festive window art, banners and decals. Inside, get shoppers in the holiday spirit by playing your favorite seasonal tunes and lighting some fall and winter-scented candles to set the mood. If your store is on the smaller side and you’re concerned about capacity (and your ability to enforce social distancing), think about ways to get people shopping without the crowds—like hosting virtual or limited-capacity events or scheduling personal shopping appointments.
- Deck out your website. Your digital real estate is just as important as your brick and mortar location. So, if you have a website, make sure to decorate your digital storefront as well—whether that’s creating a curated gift shop page, adding a mistletoe-inspired banner to your homepage or changing your color scheme to incorporate more holiday-friendly hues.
Are you rolling out any special protocols to keep your customers safe during the peak holiday shopping season? Let them know ahead of time with an e-newsletter, postcard or social post.
- Order thank you cards or gifts with your logo on them. The holidays are the perfect time to say “thank you” to your customers and employees, whether with a handwritten note or branded merch. Not only is expressing gratitude a great way to get into the holiday spirit, it can also help to strengthen your relationships for the upcoming year.
- Order your holiday cards in advance. Holiday cards are a great way to connect with your customers, employees and vendors. Make sure to order them ahead of time and order more than you need (chances are, there will be more people that warrant a holiday card than you think!). And if you order too many holiday cards? Not to worry! Just tuck them into mail orders or shopping bags for a festive finish.
- Start planning your holiday marketing ideas. A lot of consumers shop for holiday gifts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday—so you’ll want to get your holiday marketing plan in place before those sales go live.
- Launch your Black Friday sale. Black Friday is one of the most important shopping days of the year. Make sure your messaging is clear and your customers know exactly what sales and promotions to expect. If you’re concerned about too many shoppers crowding your store at once, you might consider using a time-slot or appointment system to manage traffic flow.
- Participate in Small Business Saturday. This year, Small Business Saturday is Saturday, November 27. If you want to capitalize on shoppers that are eager to spend their money on small businesses, consider rolling out a promotion that runs through this weekend.
- Launch your Cyber Monday sale. Black Friday and Small Business Saturday can both be huge shopping days. But for consumers that prefer to shop from home? It’s all about Cyber Monday. Take advantage of this digital shopping holiday and promote exclusive deals (like early shopping access!) for email subscribers and social followers.
- Hang posters and banners. The sales don’t end after Black Friday and Cyber Monday—so use posters and banners to announce upcoming sales, attract potential customers and get your existing customers excited for the holiday and Christmas promotions to come.
December holiday marketing tips
December is the home stretch of the holiday season. And while you’ll want to continue marketing to your audience and making sure they continue to shop straight through the New Year, as the holiday shopping season winds down, take the opportunity to wind down with it. December offers a great opportunity to reflect on your successes in 2021, look ahead to the coming year and start thinking about how you’re going to have an even more successful year in 2022.
- Record and analyze the results from your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. If you want to continue to improve your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales each year, you need to look at what worked—and, just as importantly, what didn’t work. Go through your sales data and make note of which sales and promotions dominated and which fell flat, and then use those insights to inform your strategy for next year’s holiday season.
- Review shopper frequency. You want to make sure you have enough staff in 2022 to keep up with shopper demand—but you also don’t want to overstaff and have too many employees in the store at any given time. So, look at your shopper traffic patterns. Were you quiet in the morning with long (socially distanced!) lines in the afternoon? Understanding your in-store foot traffic 2021 will help you organize effective staff schedules for 2022. (And, if things change and store traffic increases in 2022, you can always reevaluate and staff accordingly.)
- Consider a refresh. The new year offers new opportunities—and if you’ve been thinking about overhauling your branding (whether that’s redesigning your logo or updating your website), now is a great time to do it.
- Reflect on what to improve for next year. It doesn’t matter how successful you are; there’s always room for improvement. Did you order a high quantity of an item you thought would fly off the shelves—but then it didn’t sell like expected? Did you run out of key items (like branded bags and packaging) halfway through the holiday rush, leaving you scrambling come December? Now is the time to look at where you struggled, learn from it and develop a plan to improve in 2022.
- Prepare to hit the ground running in January. You want to start 2022 on the right foot—and that means taking the steps necessary to set yourself up for success in the new year. Whether it’s stocking up on inventory or creating a calendar with key dates (like staff holidays and seasonal promotions), getting your ducks in a row now will help ensure that you’re ready to roll when the holiday season is over and 2022 is officially upon us.
The holiday season offers great opportunities to connect with your customers and drive sales—as long as you have the right holiday marketing strategy. And now that you know exactly how to tackle your holiday marketing tasks each month, you have everything you need to have a fantastic 2022 holiday shopping season. So what are you waiting for? Get out there, get festive and get the (snow) ball rolling with your holiday marketing!