Is Your Business Ready for the Holidays?

Edmiston Group Holiday MarketingThe 4th quarter and upcoming holidays are a busy time for small business and can mean the difference between a red or black bottom line. According to the Prosper Spending Score, the overall outlook for holiday gift spending in 2014 is up more than 8% from last year. Why are consumers feeling so jolly this year? There are 3 main factors are poised to drive consumer spending in 2014.

  1. Higher Holiday Hiring… higher consumer spending is driving retailers to anticipate a jolly holiday season.
  2. Your Wallet Isn’t Haunted Anymore…The International Council of Shopping Centers is out with its bellwether 2014 Halloween Consumer Spending Survey, and it shows that 74% of households are planning on buying Halloween-related goods, to the tune of $11.3 billion this year.
  3. Defrosting the Economy...Since the end of the Great Recession, the economy has added 8.2 million jobs, and the unemployment rate has fallen from 10% to 5.9%.

Here are five things to keep in mind as you prepare for the holiday season:

1. Plan for the “BIG” shopping days and staff accordingly.

Aside from the usual rush around traditional holidays, don’t forget the big shopping days that kick off the season:

  • Black Friday – November 29th
  • Small Business Saturday – November 30th
  • Cyber Monday – December 1st

Last year, consumers spent $5.7 billion at independent retailers on Small Business Saturday. With the right plan, you can take advantage of this popular day and start your holiday season off on the right foot. It’s not too soon to begin preparation for your promotional plan leading up to the big days. Get the word out early and make sure you give potential customers a reason to act.

2. Determine the social media and digital marketing channels that matter.

With so much going on during the holiday season, it’s important to have a strategy for getting the word out about everything you have going on. Use a calendar to lay out your plan and a prescheduling tool to schedule social media and digital marketing programs to include:

Email: Email allows you to create a series of timely messages to announce your holiday plans, remind people about important dates and deadlines, and thank people for shopping small during the holiday season. Set aside some time and draft these messages now. They will be ready to launch when the appropriate time comes. Use the analytics of your email campaign to prepare targeted offers to select groups.

Social: Social media allows you to tell your story in different ways, across a variety of channels. You can create a posting schedule before the season arrives, and use these different platforms to connect with customers and keep them engaged throughout the season. Put in special offers and coupons.

Mobile: Mobile is expected to influence 50 percent of offline purchases this holiday season. When planning your holiday promotion, make sure to think about the different devices your customers are using when creating your offers.

Take action: Think about the different channels you have available. When it comes to your email marketing, you can save time by using holiday templates and scheduling your email announcements and reminders in advance. On social, you can easily tweak your strategy to include shareable holiday content, and even give your pages a holiday makeover.

3. Figure out how people are finding your business

The ways in which customers find your business have changed a lot in recent years. While word-of-mouth referrals will likely still be your biggest driver of new business, there are also new platforms like social and search that help you reach new customers every day. Did you know that 84 percent of shoppers will use some digital tools — including smartphones, tablets, and desktop — when planning their holiday shopping.

They’ll ask for recommendations on social media. They’ll search for your business on a search engine like Google or Bing. And they’ll use listing platforms and mobile apps like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and YellowPages to read reviews and get details about your business. Making it easy for them to find the right information will offer a huge advantage when it comes to bringing new customers through your doors.

Take action: Perform a search for your business and see what information shows up. If you have a brick and mortar store, you should notice details like hours, location, and service area show up right away. You should also see your website, social channels, and any listings sites with information about your business. Preparing a standard business listing in a word document will save time and effort in putting your business out to new channels. It’s time efficient to copy and paste, as well as effective to ensure standard messaging. Make sure all the information a potential customer would need to find and visit your business is accurate and up-to-date.

4. Create a holiday offer

If you want to get people into your store this season, you need to make sure you have a compelling offer to get them to act. The type of offer you create will depend on the audience you’re trying to reach and the type of results you’re hoping to achieve.

Here’s a look at the different types of offers you can create:

Offer a coupon: With Constant Contact, you can easily add a coupon to an email that customers can print out or redeem from their mobile device.

Run a local deal: With a local deal, you can create a great offer, like a $25 for $50 voucher, which customers and potential customers can purchase and redeem at a later date. This is a great way to generate new revenue during the holiday season, and can help bring new customers into your store.

Host an event: Hosting a holiday event is the perfect way to thank employees and customers for their continued support throughout the whole year. It’s also a great opportunity to bring customers into your store and provide a memorable holiday experience.

Add value: If discounts and sales aren’t the right fit for your business, there are a number of other ways you can add value during the holiday season.

Take action: Think about an offer that got people excited in the past. Even if it wasn’t during the holidays, chances are there certain details about the offer that stood out and could be used to your advantage.

5. Create a plan to stay connected

If your hard work pays off, you’ll have plenty of new and existing customers visiting your store or shopping online throughout the holiday season. During this time be sure to Build Your List. After the holidays, you’ll also need a way to bring these people back, so that you can extend your success throughout the whole year. Be sure to ask new customers to join your email list while they’re in your store during the holiday season. Something as simple as a paper sign-up sheet can go a long way in getting people to stay connected. There are also mobile apps, and tools like Constant Contact’s Text-to-Join feature which allow people to sign up right from their mobile device.

Take action: Think about all the places people will be interacting with your business this holiday season. Making it easy for people to sign up in all of these different places — including in-store, at events, or on your website or Facebook Page — will allow you to grow your audience and drive results after the holidays are over.

Get started! October is the perfect time to start planning your holiday marketing. Set a goal to scratch one of these actionable items off your to-do list each week heading into the holiday season. Need help? The Edmiston Group can help you put your holiday marketing plan together.

About the author: Autumn Edmiston is the CEO and owner of the Edmiston Group. The Edmiston Group is a multifaceted Pittsburgh based marketing consulting firm providing senior level marketing management services to businesses and non-profit organizations on a short or long term basis. Core areas of service are business development, marketing, strategic planning and public relations. The Edmiston Group has consistently delivered and implemented real-world, proven business marketing ideas and strategies for business growth.

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