If the holidays are a busy time for your small business, you know how important the next few months will be.
Consumers are expected to spend big this holiday season. If you want them to shop small, you need to plan ahead.
Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to set your business up for success.
Here are five things to keep in mind as you prepare for the holiday season:
1. Plan for the “big” shopping days
Aside from the usual rush around traditional holidays, don’t forget the big shopping days that kick off the season:
- Black Friday – November 27th
- Small Business Saturday – November 28th
- Cyber Monday – November 30th
In 2013, 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.
Take action: Circle these dates on your calendar right now. You can choose to participate in all three, or pick one and focus on making it an event for your business. After that, you can start to map out a 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 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.
It’s not enough to talk about your business in one place and hope a lot of people are going to see it. You need to leverage the right channels to get in front of potential customers in the right place, at the right time.
This will 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 you
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.
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.
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.
- 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 tduring he 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. We’ve created a holiday promotional plan to help you get started (see pages 5-6).
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.
But once the holidays end, 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.
Looking for more holiday marketing advice?
Make your business profitable all year long! Read our 5 Tactics to Create a Profitable Small Business.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2014 and has been updated for relevancy and accuracy.