The holidays are usually full of festive music, great food and bright lights. But for small business owners and marketers, it's a busy time with dreams of gift guides, holiday displays and an abundance of sales. But when should you start your marketing? It is a tricky decision for many business owners.
Starting too early could turn shoppers off, but if you start too late, you could lose customers to the competition. But you can strike a balance, and there are some rules to make your marketing successful for the holiday season.
Start holiday marketing early
While some people can't wait for the holiday season to start, others get annoyed with early holiday marketing and try to hold on to warm weather for as long as possible. But most business owners and marketers agree there is a "right" time.
"To stay top of mind and gain an early share in holiday budgets, marketers should be prepared to launch holiday marketing efforts by Nov. 1, if not sooner," said Jenn Horner, senior relationship marketing strategist at DEG.
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Laura Walstrom, marketing manager of Nikita Hair, recommends starting at the end of October, but she said not every business should start holiday marketing at the same time. "Choosing when to begin your advertising is entirely dependent on your business, your consumers and what you are selling. Trust what you already know."
You should take into account the length of your sales cycle and if you plan to use Black Friday or Cyber Monday to push sales. That will help you customize a plan that works for your business.
Plan all year long
While your holiday marketing efforts only last a couple months out of the year, you should be planning for it all year long.
"Ideally, you start planning your holiday marketing efforts in January, right after the end of the last season," Horner said. "By doing this, you're able to remember clearly everything that worked and didn't work the previous season and identify solutions to make the next holiday season smoother and more successful."
Once you decide what worked and what didn't, create a marketing calendar and plan tests for the rest of the year. "Spend the next five months testing everything you wish you had known during the holiday season so you can be armed with more data in July," said Horner.
Walstrom agrees, saying early planning gives you the chance to craft a well-laid plan and develop custom content that features different ad copy and graphics for you to test out. "This allows you to optimize on what resonates with your audience, making your campaign more effective."
Holiday marketing tips
Now that you know when to start your holiday marketing, use these tips to maximize your efforts.
- Test offers and sales. "Use the time leading up to Thanksgiving week to do final testing on offers so that you can be ready with the best offers for your customers," said Horner.
- Spend money to make money. "This is the one time of the year when you shouldn't be afraid to spend," said Walstrom. "For many businesses, marketing budgets tend to ramp up. Plan your budget well ahead of time, and make sure you utilize the dollars you have set aside."
- Don't forget about customer acquisition. "This is the season when your channels will be getting a lot more traffic than usual," Horner said. "Boosting your email acquisition efforts during this time can lead to some great growth."
- Make custom graphics. "Holidays are about cultivating a certain feeling – familiarity, warmth, generosity, cheer, celebration, and these are just a few … Make your ads personal to you and your business," Walstrom said. "At Nikita Hair, we have found that we get a much stronger response on social media when we feature 'real' content."
- Take risks. "Don't be afraid to take creative risks," Walstrom said. "Competition this time of year is fierce, and you want to stand out."
For more holiday marketing tips, check out the Business News Daily marketing guide.