Small businesses have a lot of competition from the big box stores during the holiday season. So a successful season means getting customers ready early, even when they may be reluctant to do so.
You may not have a huge advertising or marketing budget, (none of our clients do!) but you can take advantage of the power of social media and email marketing.
Here are eight tips from Ryan Pinkham of Constant Contact. They won’t all apply to your business, but cherry-pick those that may work.
1. Develop a schedule to help build holiday momentum
You can’t build momentum around your business unless you have a plan for how you’re going to do it.
One way to start is by creating a schedule. The schedule should map out the weeks and months leading up to and through the holiday season, with specific goals for each of the big days. The exact holidays you plan to target may vary, based on your business and your customer base, but all businesses should be aware of the four biggest shopping and giving days of the holiday season:
2. Pay attention to what your fans, followers, and readers really want
If you want your business to be part of your customers’ holiday plans this season, you’re going to need to deliver content they care about.
Of course, you should always to that, but it’s especially important during the holidays, when your customers are not only busy but are also bombarded by other businesses fighting for their attention.
Consider using a survey in the fall, before the holiday craze has started. You can send your survey to all of your email subscribers or post it on your Facebook Page. Ask your fans what they are most interested in receiving from your business this holiday season.
Use that customer feedback to improve the content you’re sending out, and to better target your messages by segmenting your email contact list. When segmenting your list, you should also look at other information that’s available to you, such as: open and clickthrough rates, purchasing behaviors, and the preferences people chose when signing up for your newsletter.
3. Be a resource, not just a sales pitch
One of the main reasons people are typically reluctant to shift their focus to the holidays is they are not always eager to start thinking about the work that goes into them. While the holidays are—without a doubt—a time for celebration and giving thanks, they are also a time of great stress for a lot of your customers.
Don’t add to that stress by overwhelming them with ”salesly” content and aggressive promotion; instead, provide them with something they can actually use this holiday season. It can be something as simple as decorating ideas, tips for throwing a dinner party, or even a special coupon for subscribers only.
You can also post tips on Facebook or share articles on Twitter. If your business uses Pinterest, consider creating boards to give your followers inspiration leading up to the holiday season.
This pretty setting is now on my Pinterest page!
4. Don’t try to do too much, too soon
One of the biggest questions we get from small businesses (at all times of the year) is how often should they post on social media or send emails to their subscribers. This is an especially important question when we’re talking about how to get your customers ready for the holiday season.
The fact is, most of your customers aren’t going to be ready to start thinking about the holidays until it starts feeling like summer is officially over. Don’t overwhelm them by flooding their inbox and newsfeed with holiday promotions.
When creating your schedule, pay attention to how much holiday content you’re planning to post. Make sure you’re giving your customers the chance to ease into it, rather than trying to force them to get in the spirit. It can be helpful to think in terms of percentages. For example: 30% holiday content in October, 50% holiday content in November, and 75% holiday content in December.
Tip: Talking about Black Friday or Small Business Saturday rather than specific holidays in October, is a great way to start getting your customers ready without scaring them with holiday buzzwords.
Ipswich Ale did a great job at getting their fans ready for fall without over-whelming them. They posted this picture of their fall seasonal beer on their blog.
5. Give them what they signed up for: exclusive content
Your customers didn’t become fans, followers, or readers of your email just because they love your products or services. For many of them, it was to receive exclusive content and special promotions from your business.
Telling your readers and fans about upcoming holiday promotions or giving them a sneak peek at new seasonal products is the best way to build holiday excitement and give them the exclusive content they want.
6. Make the holidays an event
You don’t have to wait for the big shopping days, or even the official day of the holiday, to give your customers a reason to celebrate this season. In fact, planning an event earlier in the season—before your customers’ schedules get filled with work parties and family gatherings—is a great way to get your customers in the holiday state-of-mind.
It’s also a great opportunity to help make a difference this holiday season, by partnering with a local nonprofit and doing some fundraising for a cause that’s important to you as a business owner.
You can also use your event as a way of collecting valuable email contacts before the holiday season by using online event registration.
Tip: Find out how to host a holiday event.
7. Remember what works during the other seasons
It’s important to remember that not everything changes during the holiday season. The best practices and strategies you use in your email marketing and social media throughout the year will not only still be effective in November and December, but they will help you engage your customers in October, and get them ready for the holiday push.
Use rich media, like photos and videos, to start building excitement. Think about the types of things we’ve already talked about: providing exclusive content, being a resource, not being too promotional. Photos are a great way to accomplish all of these things. Post pictures from past holidays or give a sneak peek at new products, and then ask your fans to comment, like, or share.
If you haven’t used videos in the past, or even if you have, think about shooting a short video every couple of weeks or once a month leading into the holiday season. Something as simple as a video on your smartphone can give you the chance to tell your fans what you’re working on for the fall and what you have coming up for the holidays.
8. Be authentic
One of the biggest reasons people choose to shop with small businesses, throughout the year and during the holiday season, is the personal connection they’re able to provide.
While your bigger competitors will have to rely on fictional stories—and inauthentic holiday moments to connect with customers in the months leading up to the holidays—you have the ability to offer the real thing and can use your own experiences to make that special connection.
Do you have personal experiences your customers will enjoy or stories from past holiday promotions that will get them excited for what you have planned this year? Use them to create a personal connection your customers will love and to generate buzz around this year’s big season.
Do you need help with your holiday marketing? Contact us – we can help you create a plan and also create your e-newsletters if you’re running out of time!
[email protected] or 301-514-1102. We are a Constant Contact Solutions Provider and utilize email marketing best practices.
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