Year after year, we see business owners struggling with the same elements during the eleventh hour because they failed to work on them ahead of time. So, if you want to get a jump on the competition, here are the things you need to be doing now to get your business to be ready for the holiday shopping season:
Create a Promotional Calendar
Write out a plan for what you’ll discount and when. Remember, you don’t have to stick to the simple “X% off” or “Spend $X, save $X” style promotions. You can also do free gifts, quantity discounts, charity tie-ins, expedited shipping, timed discounts, etc. – the sky’s the limit!
The more elaborate your promotions will be, or the more you’ll have, the more you’ll need to work out the logistics ahead of time. If you’ll have overlapping promotions, determine if/how you’ll allow them to be used in simultaneously. Create promo codes corresponding to each promotion using expiration dates to turn them off when the promotion is over. Ensure that you also exclude any offerings that you don’t want the promos to be applied to so that you don’t have to worry about them being used improperly.
When determining which promotions you’ll run, also identify which of your audiences you’ll serve the promotions to, and how you’ll do so. Detail every aspect of how it will be communicated and what kinds of content you’ll need to execute your plan.
A sample excerpt from a promotional calendar might look something like this:
Nov 24 – Black Friday Sale (promo code:BLACKFRI)
40% off all orders to contiguous US (excludes gift cards)
Not combinable with any other discount, purchases will count towards loyalty rewards points
Hint at discount reveal on Nov 22 at 3:00pm – include image in homepage slideshow, post on social media, announce on blog
Send promotional email to “loyal customers” (6+ purchases in last 12 months) at 12:05am
Send promotional email to “new customers” (first purchase in last 6 months) at 7:00am
Send promotional email to remaining customer base (a purchase in last 36 months) at 8:00am
Announce on social media (Facebook, Twitter) at 9:00am
Update homepage slideshow to reflect discount announcement at 9:01am
Send promotional email to leads (no purchases in last 36 months) at 3:00pm
Send second “reminder” email to above lists at 9:00pm letting them know that the offer is almost over
Send third “surprise” email to any contacts that have engaged with earlier emails (opened, or clicked-through to the site) to extend the offer for an extra 12 hours
Write Holiday Content
As you’ll see from the promotional calendar example above, you’re going to need a lot of specialty content this holiday season – everything from marketing emails to blog posts to on-page web content. Writing content well before you need it gives you time to refine the language, edit it for errors, ensure important details are included, make it compelling, and spin it off into additional content. Hiring a professional content marketer is a great way to get quality content written that will comply with your brand standards and drive conversions.
While writing content, identify areas where you’ll need images and other visual content and rich media. Insert this into the written content and test it for usability to avoid load and play errors during the holiday rush. (More on this below.)
Use a project management tool to track what needs to be created at a macro-level as well as which sub-tasks need to be completed at a micro-level and who’s responsible for each deliverable. A PM tool will help you keep your sanity as you work to churn out the content that you’ll need this holiday season.
Set Up Online Ads
Another area where you’ll need content is for your online advertisements. If you plan on running PPC ads during the holidays, you can prepare them ahead of time and leave them paused until October or November. Take the time now while you’re less busy to choose keywords, create multiple versions of ads to test, implement ad extensions, and select the correct settings. Then, when it’s time to launch, all you’ll need to do is click of a button to get your ads up and running.
Always follow PPC best practices, and ensure that your account is structured to allow optimal flexibility during the holidays. For example, creating ad groups around each of your most popular products (or those that you think will be best sellers during the holidays) gives you the option to pause one product as a time as inventory runs out. This will save you money because you won’t be advertising products that you no longer have in stock.
Generate Holiday Designs
Even if you’re not planning on entirely overhauling your site for the holidays, you’ll still need to have holiday-related design work done. Everything from your email marketing to your social media posts will need engaging and compelling visual content. Ensure that all your visual content shares a similar theme to strengthen your brand image and create a consistent experience for shoppers across all touchpoints. Working on these designs ahead of time will free up availability for your in-house design team or third-party designer during the holiday season in case any last-minute projects come up or changes need to be made to your planned content.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and son and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!