Marketing for the Holidays

Kelly “Rags” Ragland is owner and operator of Rags to Stitches Productions, a holistic advertising-specialty company providing a range of services from web design and development to customized apparel.

It may seem too early to be talking about the holidays, but as you’re sourcing products for that busy time of year, it’s just as good a time to put together a marketing plan. A well-planned approach to online efforts can be critical to year-end success.

Over the past several years we have learned that, regardless of the state of the economy, online shopping remained stable at a minimum during the holidays, if not showing a slight increase.

Looking into past statistics, we can reflect on Internet consumer behavior and create a holiday marketing plan to suit that behavior. By checking in with ComScore and the 2009 holiday season, we can clearly see a trend of which we should be aware. Consumers are discovering the benefit of shopping from the comfort of their own home rather than tangling with the crowds and traffic. Younger generations are arriving online year after year as experienced Internet users. Time itself is becoming much more important to people in general and online shopping gives them a distinct advantage in terms of knocking out their gift list quickly and easily.

Armed with that information, plan out a holiday marketing plan that will have the best chance at reaching online consumers during the shopping season using all of your current promotional tools, and possibly considering others you may not be using. 

Save the date

Use a general calendar to start and modify to suit your business and marketing plan. That might look something like this:

Nov. 1-5: Decide on realistic shipping expectations and timelines and post them to your websites and social networking sites. Review your customer-service process and make sure you’re prepared for smooth operations and production.

Nov. 10: Outline and prepare your holiday email campaign and holiday gift guide. Double-check your distribution list and make sure there aren’t any duplicate email addresses. As usual, be sure to include a call to action and incentive to visit your website along with incentive to share your marketing message with friends and family. 

Nov. 12: Put the holiday decorations up on your website, add holiday announcements and promotions and launch any new products you may have available.

Nov. 14: If you are using any Pay-Per-Click Advertising services, this is a good time to launch your holiday PPC campaign. If not, consider trying one this year.

Nov. 17: Send your first holiday email campaign.

Nov. 24: Send your holiday gift guide, email newsletter and increase bids on any PPC campaigns considering the next day will be Thanksgiving, Black Friday is two days away, and Cyber Monday falls right after the weekend.

Dec. 8: Send a second newsletter reminding recipients about the holiday shopping timeline and shipping deadlines (last-day-to-order dates).

Dec. ?: Depending on your own timelines, the week before Christmas is the time to send your “Last Day To Order” email.

Dec. 22: Lower bids on any PPC campaigns you are running.

Dec. 26: Send beginning/end of the year sale newsletter.

Every day throughout the holiday marketing calendar, be sure to update your status with clever, attention grabbing updates within your social networking. By using a tool such as HootSuite you can even create updates and Tweets set on timers to run automatically with whimsical blurbs in the holiday spirit as well as updates directing people to your website. By spending an hour or so at the beginning of November plugging in those short announcements, you can save time for the holiday rush without the need to check in on them daily. Best of luck with your holiday promotions for 2010.