Creating a Digital Marketing Plan for the Holidays

What’s that, you say?

It’s only September?

Marketers, let’s take the “only” out of there – it’s putting your holiday campaigns at risk. The bare truth of the matter is this: if you haven’t started planning your holiday marketing campaigns yet, you are officially behind schedule.

Stores started putting out back-to-school gear in July and Halloween supplies in August. Before you know it, the aisles (and the internet) will be filled with holiday decor. Meanwhile, those of you who haven’t started preparing yet are left to scramble to get noticed at the last minute.

You can avoid all of this scrambling and haste by starting to prepare right now. You need to have your digital marketing campaigns up as soon as possible so that you can end out the year strong, pleasing shareholders and consumers alike.

So, how exactly can you do that? Let’s walk through the basics of creating a digital marketing plan for the holidays. Better late than never!

 

Map Out the Dates

It helps to have a clear idea of what holidays you are going to target and the dates. The dates aren’t just the actual holiday dates, but the days and weeks leading up to them – the time where the real magic happens.

You might offer specials that focus on being “thankful” before Thanksgiving. This is a wise idea, but the majority of your marketing plan for the holidays will be focused on the days immediately after. Knowing which dates have the most impact for your audience is critical and essential to your success.

Which holidays you target will depend on your business. That said, these dates are the most common you need to be aware of:

  • Thanksgiving – November 22
  • Black Friday – November 23rd
  • Small Business Saturday – November 24th
  • Cyber Monday – November 26th
  • All December Holiday Dates
  • New Year – January 1st

Those are just the most popular post-Thanksgiving shopping days. You can alter the rest of the month of November and December based on your preferences.

Don’t feel limited to a specific set of holidays, either. Often, businesses love running 12 Days of Christmas campaigns that span a two-week period to keep people paying attention for longer periods. Others prefer to stick to general holiday campaigns or may incorporate aspects of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other holidays, while still others diversify with “less official” dates. The decision depends on how your target audience will respond.

 

It’s Not Just About Sales

While your holiday marketing plan will obviously have sales goals, you’ll want to make sure you are focused on the long-term effects it may have. For example, what are your lead generation goals? How many new email sign-ups do you want to obtain before the holidays? Strategize to determine how you can meet these goals with your efforts.

Don’t forget to capitalize on the “premium VIP” phenomenon. Entice your audience with campaigns that ensure they are the first to know about holiday specials and deals or the first to know when your new holiday shopping app launches. This makes your audience feel special, building loyalty and long-term relationships.

Does your organization support a specific charity or cause? Your holiday marketing campaigns can (and should) align with those goals as well. Portions of your sales may be donated to your cause of choice, or you may give someone who supports your cause a special discount as a thank-you.

 

Define Your Goals

Goals don’t always have to be sales. What are your actual goals for your business? Would you like to simply increase your brand awareness, or is your desired outcome to increase website traffic over time? Perhaps you’re hoping to have more people create links back to your website or mention you on social media instead. These are all admirable, worthy goals – you just need to be aware of them fully before you start to meet them.

Knowing what type of engagement you’d really like to get will help you to build the right type of campaign. No matter what, all of your goals need to be attainable, measurable, and time-bound. Be realistic about what you try to target. You don’t need to become as famous as Google as of end of year, but bringing on 10,000 new Facebook “likes” is totally possible.

 

Come Up With an “Offer”

Even if you aren’t a B2B or retail business, you can still create a holiday-centered offer that benefits your audience. Discounts on your ebooks, white papers, templates, and online courses are great offers. Discounted or free (limited time) consultations are also enticing.

Ultimately, holiday offers need to be balanced between providing the customer with something of value and achieving your business goals. Focus on what you have to offer that will help your audience jumpstart their goals and take them into the next year.

 

Do the Research

An important component of your 2018 campaign will be the research you do in terms of the results of your 2017 and previous campaigns. Here’s a few questions to help guide you in the right direction:

  • What did last year’s campaigns look like?
  • Did you reach your goals?
  • What were your successes?
  • What were your failures?
  • What would you change?

Next, further define with these additional questions:

  • Did you give yourself enough time to plan, create, and implement your campaign?
  • Are there metrics you didn’t track last year that you need to track this year?
  • Did your audience respond glowingly or negatively to your campaign?
  • What kind of responses did you receive (e.g., comments)?

Don’t forget to spend some time looking at your audience. Has it changed over the past year? If so, you may need to readjust your targets to reflect the newer audience. It isn’t helpful to target the same audience you went after last year if they are no longer interested.

 

Voice is Important and Ever-Changing

Next, let’s spend a minute talking about voice. Year after year, the way we approach marketing changes – including the “voice” we use. Social trends and even politics can make certain approaches inappropriate, preferred, or even completely unacceptable in just a few short months. We’ve seen this before with holiday PR disaster flops like this one, where AT&T posted an opportunistic image of the twin towers in New York on 9/11 in 2013.

Ultimately, you need to have a clear idea of what motivates your audience, what social channels they use most often, and what really excites them in order to really nail down this “voice.” The biggest mistake you can make is assuming that your long-term audience doesn’t change over time. Voice is all about meeting people where they are and relating to them, even as they evolve or change over time, and that requires thoughtfulness and deep demographics.

 

Update Your Social Media Profiles

A strong campaign depends on the message getting out to consumers. Update your social media profiles to match your current theme, but make sure you have the tools in place for a smooth transition. Build an eye-catching landing page specifically for your offer. Or, build different versions of your landing page so you can better track the responses from different platforms with solid A/B testing.

 

Don’t Neglect Your Blog During the Holidays

Have a plan in place for regular blog updates that support your goals, too. Plan a series of blogs that support your long-term goals while also taking part in the spirit of the holidays. Don’t be afraid to be spirited, a little bit lighthearted, or even heartwarming; just keep it professional at the same time. Think “costume day” at the office, not “Jim’s Christmas drinking party after work.”

Just make sure you are including the appropriate call-to-action at the end of each blog post, whether that’s a link to your landing page or to an email sign-up form. Tell them what you want them to do, whether it’s to sign up for the newsletter or “Purchase Today to get 50% OFF!”

 

Automate Where You Can

Listen, manual marketing efforts can be frustrating. Especially in the middle of Black Friday madness or Christmas holiday shopping, when it feels like you have a tenacious hold on your business in the first place. You’re already worried about letting go of even a single variable, causing a domino effect when everything just spins out of control.

That said, you can and should automate what you can, when you can. Send email campaigns through programs like MailChimp, Constant Contact, Aweber, or your favorite newsletter provider and lighten the load. This approach also lets you design and schedule releases so you can “set it and forget it,” focusing on adjustments and improvements along the way rather than little technicalities.

Launching giveaways or contests? Heyo, Gleam.io, and other platforms are great for tracking entries. Hootsuite, Buffer, and a myriad of other tools will also make it easier to schedule social posts and get the ball rolling in the social sphere. Airtable and Asana make it easier to plan your campaigns and keep everyone on your team on the same page as to what is needed.

The holidays are a fun and exciting time for any business. All it takes to create a strong marketing campaign is a little bit of planning, and that’s the stage you should be well into right now. Gather your team, start brainstorming, and get to work. The momentum you build during the holiday season will carry you well into the new year!

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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