Summer 2

Image Credit: Dorret

In the previous part of this blog series, we reviewed the actions businesses should take when preparing for the winter holiday sales in terms of product range and sales channels. This week, it’s time for the field of marketing, which is also extremely important – you can’t expect people to buy your product if they don’t know that it actually exists. Even if they do, you have to convince them that your merchandise is the best choice for them or, if we’re talking about the holiday sales, that it would make a great gift for their friends and relatives. There’s actually quite a lot to do for an online business in preparation for the largest sales of the year, and starting as early as possible can bring much better outcomes. So, let’s get to our advice on how to start marketing your business for the holidays.

Develop a marketing plan

Before you start taking random actions, it’s really important to understand your expectations for the holiday season. If it’s not your first holiday sales, you probably learned a lot during the previous ones, so use your knowledge – no one can know your business specifics better than yourself. Set precise goals for your business, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the amount of sales (well, it’s probably one of the more important things). Holiday sales are also a great time to increase your brand awareness and there are many ways to do that. For example, Facebook introduced the system of giving real-life gifts to your friends, interestingly called Facebook Gifts, last year. Not only can it generate some additional sales during the holiday season (or during other occasions such as birthdays, engagements, weddings, etc. for that matter), but it can also serve as a way to increase your brand’s visibility. So, set your goals and decide what means you will use to reach them. You should also be prepared for various outcomes as the winter sales season is not as long as it may seem – if your blog post about that special gingerbread cookie recipe doesn’t receive as much attention as you thought it deserved, maybe it’s time to invest a little extra into that PPC campaign?

Start building the hype months before the holiday season

If you’re running an online business, you’re probably already using a lot of marketing channels, including a blog and Facebook and Twitter accounts. While starting to constantly write about Christmas gifts ideas in July might not be the brightest idea, early autumn is certainly the time to do that. Introducing your current and potential customers to your new (or old) products while also explaining why they would make a perfect present for the holidays can be regarded as a great help by some of your customers. If you spice it up with promises of some great discounts during the sales period, you can certainly expect some purchases – just don’t forget to remind them when it’s actually the time to buy. The time before the holidays is also perfect to start using new social media platforms, as people are constantly looking for some gift ideas, so if you’re not using Pinterest or Instagram – you should think about starting to do that right now.

Design holiday-themed landing pages

Most of the traffic during the winter sales will still probably come from search engines, but customers might add such words as ‘sales’ or ‘discount’ to their usual search queries. If you don’t have a large budget for pay-per-click advertising, it can be a great idea to create a couple of landing pages for different search terms and optimize them for search engines. If you’re successful, your pages will appear in the first page of search results on Google and other search engines, and that can only mean additional traffic. Then, it’s up to your creativity on how to make these visitors actually buy something – gift cards, wish lists, special offers, holiday greeting cards… The list goes on and on. There’s one very important thing though: page rank updates can take months, so it’s essential to design these pages as soon as possible if you’re looking to get the best results.

All in all, well thought out and effective marketing is as important to successful performance during the Christmas sales as having enough products in stock or managing to actually deliver them to the recipients. The staple of holiday marketing is having a plan – some occasional blog posts and tweets coupled with a 5% discount on all merchandise will probably not bring the desired results, and, as we mentioned in the previous part of this blog series, there’s a lot of profits to be gained if you prepare well. Early bird usually gets the worm here, so it’s a good idea to think about holiday-themed landing pages and ventures into new social media platforms as early as the middle of the summer. Next week, we’re going to review the inventory and shipping parts of online business – there’s quite a lot of preparations needed in this area as well.