From St Patrick's Day to the summer solstice, and from National Hug Your Hound Day to Labor Day, small businesses can create holiday campaigns for almost any occasion. But getting the structure and timing of those campaigns just right makes the difference between success and customer indifference. These small business marketing tips can help.
What Goes into a Good Holiday Campaign?
First, identify exactly what you want to accomplish with your holiday campaign. For example, Nicole Skuba, founder and CEO of digital marketing agency BlueTreeDigital, says that if you're paying for advertising, the objectives of your campaign may revolve around connecting with potential customers. "Your goal will be to capture as much information about people as possible," she says. "At least capture their email addresses or capture them on Facebook so that you can continue to market to them."
Do you want to bring more people into your store? Are you hoping to sell a lot of a particular product? Or are you aiming to increase subscriptions to your email newsletters? A good strategy will help you put the right pieces in place to take you wherever you want to go.
No matter what you're hoping to accomplish, it's important to put enough horsepower behind your efforts. "You have to have some promotion behind it, some marketing, maybe some advertising in some cases," says Jim Belosic, overlord and CEO of custom campaign platform ShortStack.
That means using every avenue available to you. "If you have a cool online giveaway you're running on your social media channels, promote it in your emails, in your newsletters, and at your store, if you have one." Even if you've purchased advertising from Facebook, Google or another online platform, you should still promote it everywhere you can.
Marketing Campaign Timing: Get it Right
The timing of any holiday campaign depends on who you're trying to attract and what resources you have available. Belosic encourages small business operators to get as early a start as possible "to get a leg up on the competition." But if you aren't able to do that, don't dismay. You can still be successful if you're late into the fray.
"A lot of people, especially around the holidays, procrastinate when it comes to Christmas shopping," Belosic explains. "Offer them a last-minute deal or something." Most businesses will be launching a campaign somewhere in the middle, so Belosic suggests either jumping in early or jumping in late.
With lean resources defining many small businesses, getting an early start can help spread out the work. Skuba says she usually starts working on campaigns about three months before the holiday in question, "just so I can make sure we have all of the pieces of our campaign together."
There may be images—still photos or video—you need to create, text that needs writing, customer testimonials to gather and ad space to reserve. "If you're doing paid advertising, make sure the dates you want are available," Skuba cautions. You should also ensure there's a tracking mechanism in place before the campaign starts, so you can measure your success.
Avoid These Common Marketing Campaign Mistakes
However you structure your next holiday campaign, Skuba says it can be a big mistake to discount your products or services too much just to get people in the door. "If it's a crazy deal, you're going to attract discount shoppers," she explains. "Unless you can afford to keep that huge discount going, you're just giving stuff away."
Instead, pair sale prices and coupons with a strategy that ensures customers leave their contact information as part of the process. This lets you target them for future campaigns and turn them into repeat customers.
Developing campaigns that don't match your brand's image and messaging is another common misstep. "I see too many people create some sort of campaign, contest, or promotion, and they don't really have a strategy," Belosic says. Just because everyone else revs up a Saint Patrick's Day campaign, that doesn't mean you need to do one, too.
In addition, Belosic says it's important to offer incentives that your target audience can connect to your brand. "Give away something that's relevant to your audience," he says. If you're a restaurant, don't give away an iPad. "They don't want to win an iPad," Belosic says of a restaurant's customers. "They want to win dinner for two."
Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.
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