You’re not the only one thinking the holidays arrive earlier and earlier each year. Here in North Florida, it was 94 degrees the day the pumpkin spice latte was released. Business Insider plotted the launch dates of the coveted fall-flavored beverage over the years and 2018 delivered the earliest official launch date ever, bypassing the early release completely.
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 holiday shopping list. (Although you can do that too.) It also doesn’t mean you should start peppering your audience with holiday spirit before they’ve even bought their Halloween costumes. In fact, 71% of Americans said they were annoyed with retailers who put out holiday items before Halloween. What you should do is formulate a plan now to leverage the holidays and maximize those Q4 sales.
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 them with 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 and now that it’s October it’s time to start planning. If you haven’t done so already, start making it easier to gather email addresses and other contact information from your prospects and customers. You can do so by adding a prominent information capture on your website, having a customer loyalty program, or encouraging them to follow your social profiles. 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 (probably some time after Halloween). Will you be offering a limited time discount? Are you going to introduce a brand new product or service for the holidays? You could host an event or participate in a local holiday event. Or maybe you decide on a combination of promotions.
Create a marketing plan
Once you’ve decided on your campaign type, create a 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 utilize 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, but don’t run out of your most popular items! Order inventory early to incur potential cost savings.
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.
Holiday-themed packaging is a great way to spice up your product. However, you’ll need to order packaging early. Packhelp, a custom packaging company, created a guide of deadlines for ordering packaging prior to each holiday.
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. Don’t put your holiday decorations up quite yet, but do start thinking and planning ahead for a campaign that fits your business. With a little preparation and great marketing plan you can end 2018 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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