One of my clients sells personalized christmas wrapping paper online for consumers and businesses. While they do see sales year round, the holidays are by far their largest revenue generating time of the year.
That being said, holiday marketing can be extremely stressful for business models (like retail) that make the bulk of their yearly revenue during the holidays. This statement is even more relevant when talking about small businesses – where a small holiday marketing error or oversight could lead down the path bankruptcy. Luckily there are some tried and true methods to incorporate into your holiday marketing strategies that remain relevant year after year. Here are five tips that every online (or offline) business can utilize to capitalize on the holiday marketing cycle.
1) SEO and CRO are the acronyms for success
The first thing you should do to optimize holiday sales is rev up your SEO or search engine optimization campaign – both on and offsite. It often takes months to achieve desired rankings for specific keywords, so start early. Take keyword data (search volume, performance, conversions, etc) from the previous year and begin to create a plan to optimize your site for those optimal search terms by the time the next holiday season rolls around. Some things to do: update your page titles, meta tags, product decriptions, and anything else to reflect changes in search volume and to capitalize on optimal keywords. Start building links with varied anchor text that match these terms (don’t focus solely on exact match or the search engines might slap you down). Make sure links are working properly and pages are operational and speedy on all browsers and devices. Simplify the buying process by making it easier for customers to “add to wish list” or “share” products – or even take advantage of extra payment options or “bill me later”. If you have extra time, bookmark your products on sites like Kaboodle and Wists. Set up Google Alerts for holiday terms (and competition) you wish to target so that you can 1) know where to look when building links 2) contribute early in the comments section and see which forums might be worth participating in 3) keep an eye on competition. Lastly make sure all product feeds are optimized and current (and submitted to all of the free shopping sites).
*Extra tip – While not technically marketing, make sure you update your “about us” & “faq” pages to help improve conversion rates. Tell a story if you can but you at least need to give your business some relatabilty and personality – especially during the holiday season!
2) Get some press right now
Try to make a PR plan months in advance. Narrow down television & radio shows, blogs, and magazines that you could pitch your products to. Then compile contact information and create a specific pitch for products you wish to promote. Just make sure you spend a good deal of time on your pitch and that each one is tailor-made to the outlet you are pitching to. The media loves a good story, so make sure yours is well crafted and stands out. If appropriate you can even add a holiday targeted media kit to your site. Are your products generic and not very exciting? Sponsor local events, create promotions to help charities, and use other philanthropic gestures to not only create goodwill, but earn some press. Here’s an actionable tip – search for gift buying guides that are related to the products you offer, then track down the author who wrote them (either on social media sites or by directly contacting the site the guide was featured on) and suggest your product for this year’s edition. Another simple way to get good press for the holidays is to give something away. For example, we contact bloggers and offer product reviews and giveaways in the months leading up to the holiday season. If your products are inexpensive enough you can even create and avertise a review program with specific directions and qualifications. This helps to scale and speed this process up. Reviews and giveaways are great for earning new social media fans, backlinks, and generating buzz about your products.
*Extra tip – Make sure all customer service reps are aware of discounts, giveaways, contest rules and PR placements. Then they know if there’s going to be a spike in phone calls or emails and they have time to figure out how to cope and craft the perfect responses.
3) Market to your current customers
Send holiday emails to your past customers – and not just in December (ie Christmas in July works great). Though the frequency should definitely increase the closer the holidays get. Offer a discount or chance to win something with every email to encourage sharing. However don’t forget to add some interesting, useful, or unique content once in a while, or you could find yourself with a quickly shrinking database of emails and decreasing open rates. Nobody likes to be bombarded with special offers 24/7. You could feature contests, giveaways or holiday tips with your promotions to keep the content fresh and interesting. Spend time on the subject line to help differentiate your communications from all other holiday emails that your list will undoubtedly be receiving. Make sure you segment your database and run a test with every email you send – which not only helps you improve your messages this year, but also for years to come.
*Extra tip – Do not forget to send a happy holidays contact to your customers. Anything from a simple (yet genuinely written) email to a printed holiday card or promotional gift will be well appreciated. Showing appreciation is key to customer retention and businesses often overlook this tiny but meaningful gesture. Plus consumers love “after-holiday” sales and you will have gained some brownie points by showing them some love.
4) Holiday content marketing is crucial
Create holiday specific content (articles, guest blog posts, videos, and other link bait) well ahead of time and put together a list of the best sites to submit to. This creates awareness and earns relevant links to your site from the right demographic. Aside from boosting conversion rates, videos are a great way to capitalize on the ever changing SERPs which have been favoring video results at a continually increasing rate. Searches and interest for this type of content tends to spike after Thanksgiving and having a well prepared content marketing plan ahead of time can help you take advantage of this opportunity. Create on-site holiday content as well. Adding holiday decorations to your home page, altering your navigation to make it easier to shop for others (gift ideas), or something *as stupid as* adding a countdown to Christmas can all positively affect conversion rates during the holiday season.
*Extra tip – Keep affiliates informed of all holiday promotions (and even interesting content in some cases) – make sure to send holiday bonuses to the best affiliates. Because just like real people, affiliates need love too.
5) Definitely pay for your clicks
Since all of this previously mentioned exposure is “free” (more importantly not guaranteed) you should also create campaigns in Google Adwords and Microsoft Adcenter geared towards the holidays. This guarantees you at least some traffic/sales & also helps to perfect your marketing message based on the performance of different ads & landing pages (which can then be applied to future holiday emails and website landing pages). Take advantage of late shoppers by creating an ad group based on something like “free 2nd day shipping” or “free rush service”. Already running a holiday campaign? Then try setting up a remarketing campaign as well. Remarketing is important during the holidays because it allows you to stay relevant to your past visitors who often shop around (consumers research early and purchase late). It also allows you to narrow down your marketing message to a specific product or category that you know your visitor was interested in. This can help increase your chances of conversions and help you stand out from the all of the other holiday advertisements that are bombarding your potential customers. Running a holiday PPC campaign of course ties back into your keyword research for the next year – so everything goes full circle!
*Extra tip – Keep an extra close eye on PPC budgets during the holidays. Search volume almost always tends to increase dramatically around the holidays and having an under or overfunded budget is a recipe for disaster.
Got any unique holiday marketing ideas or tips of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments.