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Holiday Season Marketing

Identify your holiday marketing budget and begin planning now!

It's been a long hot summer and fall is here but it's time to think about the Holidays if you haven't already done so.
For many small businesses, the holiday season is an opportunity to bring in significant sales and revenues. But many businesses don't start preparing for holiday season marketing until it is too late, and they end up missing out on opportunities. For optimum success, if you have not done so already you should identify your holiday marketing budget and begin planning now.
1. Develop Special Promotions 
Whether you want to focus on promotions in-store, online or through social media, you need to develop them early so you know what needs to be done to make them happen. You need time for design, to secure ad placement, and for printing or making your own video for your social media sites or websites.
2. Create Email Marketing Lists
Gather current customer email addresses from your existing email marketing list and update your opt-in messages on your website, Facebook page, in-store, and so on to promote upcoming holiday discount offers. For example, "Sign up now so you don't miss big holiday savings offers."
Encourage existing customers on your email marketing list to share the link to your opt-in form as well as holiday promotional email messages by including in your messages "email to a friend" and social media share buttons, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
3. Turn Products and Services into Gifts
Brainstorm how you can repackage your existing products and services as gifts. Of course, gift cards are popular purchases during the holidays, but clever marketing can create more ways for customers to give your products and services as gifts without actually purchasing an item that the recipient might not like or giving only a boring gift card.
For example, instead of simply offering a gift card to customers, a restaurant could offer a "Romantic Evening" package with a special menu, table, souvenir champagne glasses (with the restaurant's name imprinted on them), and tickets to a show or a a local Bed and Breakfast. A "Family Night Out" package could coincide with a "kids eat free" night and include kid-friendly foods and souvenirs. These packages provide more unique gifts than a gift card. However, they do require more planning to create an enticing package that is cost effective. Further, you need time to promote the package with ads and time to create materials such as a special gift voucher and an envelope or box for the goodies to go in.  
4. Plan and Organize Events
If you plan to hold in-store or local events to promote your business during the holiday season, then you need to start planning and promoting them weeks in advance. Even if you hold only an in-store event such as opening an hour early for "preferred customers" on your email list or staying open late one night for a special "Holiday Celebration Sale," you still need to promote that event in advance or the turnout will be disappointing. Don't forget to contact local charities prior to the holiday season to identify events your business could sponsor for a goodwill boost and some indirect promotion.
5. Partner with Local Businesses
The holiday season is a perfect time to partner with other local businesses that offer complementary products and services to yours. You can offer joint promotions or co-host events. For example, a restaurant could partner with a local movie theater to offer movie tickets with special reserved seating. Both businesses would promote the offer and both businesses would benefit from it. Many businesses partner to share ad space and costs. Even cross-promoting through in-store materials is a great way for businesses to achieve economies of scale during a critical marketing period.
Of course, each of these opportunities requires that you begin reaching out to other business owners in advance to describe the benefits, achieve buy-in, coordinate and plan the effort, and execute it successfully. Be sure to schedule time after the holidays to circle back and discuss ways to improve in the following year. This saves you time leading up to the next year's holiday season.
Last but not least, don't launch any holiday marketing programs unless you're sure that you have the necessary trained staff in place to handle the response efficiently, professionally, and in the holiday spirit. The last thing you want to happen is to spend time and money developing great holiday marketing initiatives then watch those efforts fail because you're not prepared for the response from consumers. It's better to be over-prepared than under-prepared because bad service this year will certainly be remembered, and talked about with friends or on the social web, next year.
If you have questions, please give me a call for an appointment, I'm happy to see you! 
~ Marge Cirillo
FSBDC Consultant - St. Johns County
904.209.1295 | 

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