You’re not the only one thinking the holidays arrive earlier and earlier each year.
Pumpkin spice lattes have become an unofficial marker of seasonal marketing shifts, and according to this Market Watch chart, the launch dates of the coveted fall-flavored beverage have crept from early September to mid-August over the past few years.
What does this mean for you as a small business owner?
The answer is not to fuel up on a perfectly-crafted, sugary and caffeinated drink while checking items off of your shopping list - although you totally can.
It also doesn’t mean you're behind if you haven't launched a seasonal marketing campaign yet. After all, plenty of people don't get into the holiday spirit until (or after) Thanksgiving.
Now that Q4 is in full swing, here are some ways you can get in front of your customers and prospects while they're decking the halls.
Plan a holiday campaign
If you’re thinking that holiday sales are only for retailers and ecommerce businesses, you’re wrong. Service-based businesses can also stay in front of prospects and customers in the last two months of the year. Here are just a few ways to craft a holiday campaign as a non-retail business:
Offer gift cards for services
Who wouldn’t want a massage or a cleaning service as a gift? You can even offer a discount. For example, the buyer could pay $40 for a $50 gift card.
Donate a portion of your sales to charity
Giving back is what the holidays are all about. Give to a charity that matches your brand and initiatives—your customers and community will appreciate it. You may even receive some free PR for doing so.
Send an end of the year card
The holidays are a great time to drop a note to your list of leads and customers—not just to wish them well during the holiday season, but also to remind them of what you’ve been up to and keep them in the loop about any promotions you have going.
Any business can host a holiday campaign; you just need to gather email addresses and other contact information from your prospects and customers.
If you don't have that information on hand, here are a few short- and long-term ways to get it:
- Add a prominent information capture form on your website
- Launch a customer loyalty program
- Encourage customers to follow your social media accounts
The more engaged contacts you have on your list, the more successful your campaign will be.
Start by deciding on your holiday promotion and start date. Then decide on what you're going to do.
These are some ideas to get you started:
Will you be offering a limited time, seasonal discount?
Are you going to introduce a brand new product or service for the holidays?
Would you like to host your own virtual holiday event or participate in someone else's?
Create a holiday marketing plan
Once you’ve decided on your campaign type, create a holiday marketing plan that includes the following items:
- An advertising budget (and stick to it!)
- Promotion channels of your choice: social media, email, mailing addresses, online and local advertising.
- Goals for your campaign—revenue, number of sales, new leads, etc.
- Plans to use emotional, seasonal terms and imagery within advertising and in your physical location if applicable. Do the same on your website and social media profiles.
- A method to track your efforts and success so you can make adjustments for next year.
Other Ways to be Ready
Keep staffing in mind while planning your marketing budget. Establish vacation policies with your current employees early and hire and train seasonal employees if necessary. Celebrate your staff and their efforts when the rush is over in January.
When promoting your hot holiday items, instill some urgency by letting your contact list know that supplies are limited. Just make sure you don’t run out of your most popular items!
Offering free shipping can be a great promotional strategy in your marketing plan, however, make sure the cut off dates for delivery by the holidays are very clear.
If you sell a physical product, you'll need a plan for how you'll process exchanges or returns. Having a return policy stated on your website is not only a great way to instill confidence in online shoppers; it's also the key to cutting down on post-holiday customer support inquiries.
Need some inspiration? Loop Returns, an ecommerce returns platform, has created a useful roundup of return policy pages to help you put your own together.
The holidays are a great time to re-engage past prospects and customers and to gain a new following.
You don’t have to be a retailer or ecommerce company to participate in the festivities; any business can benefit from a holiday promotional campaign.
With a little preparation and a great marketing plan, you can end 2021 with a bang!
Jamie Lowary is the Channel Relations Manager for PATLive. PATLive is a 24/7 live answering service that answers calls for thousands of businesses nationwide. To stay tuned with more customer service focused content follow @JamieNLowary on Twitter.
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