It’s the end of the year which means it’s likely the busiest and most demanding time for you as a small business owner.
Whether you own a brick-and-mortar retail or ecommerce business, a restaurant, or a café, the fourth quarter of the year tends to be when companies bring in a high percentage of their annual sales.
Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the dozens of other holidays that fill the months of October to December, there is a lot of opportunity for you to increase sales, and bring in additional profit to help you reach your goals before the end of the year.
Shoppers have already started their holiday shopping, and studies show consumers’ desire to kick off their shopping continues to trend earlier and earlier.
With shipping delays leftover from the pandemic era continuing to impact orders, and rising prices, many people are trying to get ahead to save money, and to avoid an empty tree and disappointed kids.
Increased demand for goods however, also means that competition is high to get consumer attention online.
That’s why it’s so important to create a strategic plan to reach your audience, and to ensure you’re prepared for increased traffic.
Plan for success by reviewing data and setting goals
Data is key to creating a plan for success.
Think about last year or the previous years’ campaigns. What went well? What didn’t go as planned? If you have any hard data (site traffic, sales, or clicks), or customer feedback to review, do so!
If you’re a new business with little to no data to look back on, consider doing some market research to give you an idea of what you can expect to see.
Look at customer demographics and spending habits, get inspiration from competitors, and build a plan based on what you aspire to see.
From here, you can set concrete goals and a plan to reach them. Setting goals for your campaign is essential to know if it was successful or not.
- Is your focus on sales? What number would you like to hit?
- Do you want to grow your email list? By how much?
- Are you looking to grow your engagement on social media? By what percentage? Which metrics specifically?
Once you’ve determined what your campaign focus is, you can work backwards to create a plan of action.
- What tactics will you use to market your campaign? On your website, how about a new holiday landing page? Will you be showing up on social media? Which platforms specifically? If you’re going to increase your email marketing, what content will make-up your email?
- Will you have partnerships with other businesses to expand your reach and help each other out? What do the logistics of those collaborations look like? How can you ensure both businesses are benefiting?
- Will you also support any social causes or charities? Think about your ideal client here to determine what would appeal to them, as well as what your values are as a company, to create a give-back strategy that makes sense.
- What’s your budget? How will you divide these funds up?
- What is your timeline? Remember, you likely need to start earlier than you think to compete with the increased competition!
- Are there products or services you want to focus on promoting? Do you want to introduce something new or tweak one of your offers for the holidays?
- Will you be hosting a contest or giveaway? How will that look and how long will it be? X Days of Christmas might be a great place to start!
Once you’ve honed in on these strategic details, you can begin executing the tactical elements of your campaign.
That might look like updating your website, optimizing your social media channels, drafting and scheduling your emails, setting up ads and/ or batching content.
Below, we’ve outlined in detail these elements so you don’t miss anything!
Remember, you don’t need to do all of these. Consider what’s realistic for your business at this current stage.
Take into account your schedule, budget, and your ideal customer habits in order to create an intentional, effective plan that doesn’t overwhelm you or your audience.
Update and Prepare your Website
The first thing you’re going to want to do is prepare your website for increased traffic. Especially if your website is where you’re going to be taking orders or making sales, it’s essential that everything is working properly.
Check your website speed. Can you optimize this by reducing image sizes or doing back-end updates?
If you’re offering deals or discounts for the holiday season, are they set-up? Are your promotion codes working? Do you have an appealing sales page to promote the offer(s)?
Audit your site, keeping an eye out for broken links, or missing information that would help consumers make their purchase decision. I have seen far too many websites with links to social channels not working, or not there at all! Ensure that all of your pages and product information is correct, along with shipping information and prices.
Having an FAQ section on your website is always a great idea, to avoid unanswered consumer questions, or unnecessary emails or phone calls from confused customers. Clarity is key for consumers, so make it as easy as possible for them to make a decision one way or another.
Website updates might also look like making sure your return and privacy policies are comprehensive and up-to-date. While ideally no one will need these, it’s best to prepare for the worst so things go smoothly throughout the already busy season.
Many businesses tend to change their hours during the holiday season. If that’s something you’re doing, be sure to edit your business hours on your website, Google My Business, and your social media channels.
Finally, confirm that all of your contact information is current.
Customers and potential customers want a smooth experience from start to finish, and if any of these pieces are missing or incorrect, people are likely to go elsewhere to complete their shopping.
Optimize and Prepare Your Social Media Channels
In a similar way, you want to ensure all of your social media channels are set-up for success.
To plan for increased traffic, you may want to have autoresponders set-up on your Facebook Messenger and/ or Instagram account which answer common questions like what your hours are, where you’re located, or if you have an online store.
This automation will make it easier to manage your inbox so you don’t constantly have to be online. When setting these up, direct visitors to your website, so they are further introduced to your company, and can explore your offerings.
However, also know that there are some inquiries and questions that auto-responders won’t be sufficient at answering. Set-up a schedule for yourself or your team so that you’re still checking in regularly for messages that require a personalized or more in-depth answer. Create a plan to respond to these quickly so you don’t miss out on potential sales!
If you have an ecommerce website, make sure your website products, Facebook Catalog, and Pinterest pins are up to date, and that all the links are working. Then use “shoppable” posts or pins on social media to make the most of your sales!
Update your hours, bio, and links for the holiday season across all of your platforms to ensure a seamless user experience.
Utilize the content from your website product and FAQ pages to highlight your holiday offers, and answer any questions consumers might have. Consider pinning your main offer in a post on your Instagram and Facebook profiles, or making Instagram highlights with FAQs, holiday information and offers, and updated hours.
What is your organic social media strategy?
Once you’ve optimized what’s already on your social profiles, create a plan for new holiday content.
Remember that followers don’t see every post you put out, and even when they do it takes numerous interactions with your brand before consumers make a decision to buy.
In fact, studies show that only 10% of your audience (on Instagram specifically) sees your posts.
So, how can you “beat the algorithm”?
Primarily, this means that you’ll need to start posting more often, especially if you’re offering limited time promotions or time-sensitive events. Publishing more posts (and varying up the days and times at which you post) will increase your visibility and allow you to reach more potential buyers.
You’ll also likely want to prioritize video content across all platforms. Utilize Reels (short-form, video content on Instagram and Facebook), and make your videos engaging, informative, and entertaining!
Almost all platforms are prioritizing video because that’s what consumers are looking for and interacting with, so if you want to increase your chances of reaching potential consumers, you need to shift your content too.
Think about your consumers when planning content. What would they find valuable? What are they struggling with? What would support them in making a decision on whether or not your product or service is for them?
Another great organic strategy for social media is to host a giveaway or contest. In order to enter, have viewers like your post (to boost engagement), share it to their stories (to increase reach), and tag a friend in the comments (a subtle form of word-of-mouth marketing). Each of these actions encourage users to interact with the post, letting the social media platform know that this post should be pushed out even more.
Make sure you follow regulations from the platform on the proper way to host a contest so you don’t violate any rules or risk your post being taken down. Generally that means including a disclaimer that your post is not sponsored or endorsed by the platform you’re posting on, as well as a statement outlining any age restrictions, and how winners will be reached, and when.
Finally, make sure the prize you’re giving out is aligned with your long-term goals. All of your marketing actions should be methodical and strategic.
One important note on contests: be careful of scammers! Scammers have started targeting online contents, which use the words “win”, so you will have to keep an eye on them.
Once you’ve planned out your content calendar, get started on batching and scheduling content so you don’t miss anything and aren’t stressed about last-minute posting.
Will you implement a paid marketing strategy?
Unfortunately, the cost of ads increases quite a bit during the holidays due to increased competition for viewer eyes and consumer dollars.
If you have never advertised before on a platform, just know it will be a little more difficult during the fourth quarter.
Does that mean it’s not worth it or that you shouldn’t run any ads? Of course not! If done strategically with clear goals, good images or video, clear messaging, and a call-to-action, ads can still be effective for you and your business.
Take into account your budget, and look into the cost of ads for your industry to determine if testing out some paid advertising this season makes sense for you.
If you do decide to run ads, consider focusing on retargeting your warm leads. That includes website and social media platform visitors; people who have already interacted with your brand are more likely to be interested in what you have to offer.
Another strategy I like to recommend is targeting a “lookalike” audience through Facebook. These are people that don’t follow you, but are likely to be close to your ideal customer because they share similar characteristics to your existing customers. This is a custom audience I recommend you create and save so you can continue to target them in the future.
Note that with recent privacy changes, the extent to which you can target consumers has changed, but there are still opportunities for growth through ads.
You can also try running paid ads to increase video views on your video posts. For example, create videos showing your products with some holiday music, and minimal overlay text about the product and how to purchase. From there, boost those posts to increase engagement! Remember that clear call-to-action, directing consumers to purchase.
Another great custom audience in Facebook Ads Manager is your email list, which can offer a huge opportunity for increased sales if you’ve been intentionally building your email list.
Are ads necessary during this time of year? Definitely not, especially if they are going to diminish your resources or result in minimal return on your investment.
However, in combination with an effective and comprehensive organic social media strategy, it might be worth experimenting with ads to see how they work for you and your business.
Plan your email marketing
The last marketing tactic I want to emphasize is email marketing. Even in 2023, email marketing continues to be effective in allowing you to reach a targeted audience of current and potential clients.
Email is a very cost-effective marketing channel, allowing you to easily reach those who have expressed interest in your brand. Emails also allow you to include direct links to your website (which can support increased website traffic), and provide clear data (open rates are very informative) which you can use to tweak and optimize your campaign.
Your email marketing plan deserves your attention year-round to keep you at the forefront of your audience’s mind.
However, around the holidays specifically, you can boost your email campaigns (not by so much that it’s overwhelming for consumers though), to showcase your promotions.
Subscribers have expectations about how often they will hear from you, and so increasing your email frequency from twice a month to weekly (for example) is likely a good step, as long as you’re providing value in each email.
Note that if people unsubscribe it’s okay. That means they’re not your ideal audience anyway and will help you increase your open rates because those remaining are more likely to actually be interested in your company.
Regardless of the frequency you choose for your emails over the holidays, make sure to plan your campaigns.
Sit down with a calendar to figure out shipping deadlines for online sales and events or promotions that you’ll have, and mark the dates when you will send corresponding emails.
- If you are having Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, promotions should start the first week of November!
- If you are having a big in-store event, start promoting 6 weeks before the event so people have a chance to put in their calendars before they get too busy. This also allows you to create a buzz about the upcoming event.
- If you are having limited time sales or promotions online or in-store, make sure to send reminder emails the day before and/or a few hours before it ends so people don’t forget – whatever makes sense for your promotion.
- To encourage sales around Christmas, you may want to send a “Holiday Guide” email a few weeks in advance to showcase your products and offers. Experiment with the layout and how you group products to ensure it makes sense.
- Remind people that you offer gift cards, especially for those last-minute shoppers. Send these emails in December, leading directly up to Christmas. You can also offer a gift card bonus if they purchase them earlier, like a bonus $10 card, or $100 for $85!
As you’re creating this plan, pay attention to data from your email provider on open rates so you can select the best days and times to send emails.
If you don’t have that information yet, or don’t have enough data to make a decision, try sending your emails on Tuesdays or Thursdays, and avoid sending on Saturdays or Sundays as studies have shown these are the best and worst times to send, respectively.
You may find your unique audience is different based on your email provider data, which is why it’s important to build and analyze this data over time.
Emails are also a great place to share coupons for use in-store or discount codes for online shopping. For example, can you offer a 10% discount for first-time purchasers? Can you retarget those who have items in their cart or who have viewed specific product pages?
Make sure to include information about deadlines, shipping, (for example do you offer free shipping over a certain dollar amount?), and return policies so consumers have all the information they need to confidently make a purchase decision.
The holidays are also a great time to focus on building your email list for long-term success. If you have a brick-and-mortar store can you ask people at the cash register for their email? Can you add a simple pop-up on your website offering a discount or special promotion for those who join?
Get creative about the ways you can build your list over the holidays, so you can retarget consumers in the new year when sales tend to be lower.
Planning beyond the holidays with additional campaigns can also be helpful in selling items you need cleared, and allowing you to keep the momentum of the holidays going.
Post-holiday campaigns are also an opportunity to encourage your audience to buy if they didn’t get what they wanted for Christmas or have some gift money to spend.
Start drafting your emails early so you aren’t struggling to come up with content last minute!
Above all else, have a clear plan
I hope you have found this article and these tips useful to support you in your holiday marketing campaigns!
My goal is to help you prioritize the planning of these campaigns so you don’t become overwhelmed trying to get information out last minute, and so you don’t miss any sale or promotion opportunities.
Your customers want to buy from you, especially during the holiday season.
And, more and more people are opting to support their favourite small, local businesses, to make sure they succeed and are there for the community!
If that’s you, help your audience find you and what you offer so you can both support each other.
If you are looking for help with your online marketing make sure to book a call with me so we can talk about your marketing needs and to get ready for the new year!