Now that we’ve got you thinking and have told you should be thinking about holiday marketing in July, here are eight steps to get a jump on the competition (and maybe even have time left over for a summer vacation).
- Decide what products or services you’ll promote. The holidays aren’t just for retailers: service businesses such as salons, spas, cleaning services and catering businesses, as well as restaurants and bars, are also among the businesses that see more sales at holiday time. While you may not be able to pinpoint exactly which products or services will be hot sellers at your toy store this year, you can get a general idea of what you’d like to promote. Remember – times are still tough for many folks in West Virginia. Even automotive service industry businesses may see profit in offering service gift certificates. Many people “gift” others with much-needed gifts, above and beyond the typical shirts and toys.
- Assess last year’s marketing campaign/s. What worked and what didn’t with last year’s holiday marketing efforts? Hopefully, you always track the results of your marketing using codes, website analytics or other tools to see which types of advertising are most effective. If you spent a chunk of change on a campaign that didn’t deliver big profits, scrap that approach this year and put more money into the types of ads that got results. There are many ways to assess the success of your promotions, even if you didn’t track your marketing campaigns last year.
- Do market research. Consumer purchasing habits are changing rapidly, so don’t assume what worked last year will get the exact same results in 2017. Look at industry data and industry publications, market statistics and other information about your target customers’ purchasing habits. For example, retailers should check out the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Headquarters, where you can dig into projections for the coming holiday season as well as historical data about past years. Also, use a focus group to find out what the hot items in demand this year are going to be. Just like Spring’s fidget spinner craze – you don’t want to be blindsided by not having enough inventory. Similarly, now that this craze has seemingly died down, you don’t want to overstock for something no one is looking for.
- Create a marketing plan. Sketch out your holiday marketing goals, areas of emphasis and a rough budget, both overall and for specific types of marketing, such as print, radio, and online. Remember: marketing is more than just advertising – it’s finding the right product, setting the right price, positioning it correctly with the promotion that it needs to sell.
- Develop a marketing calendar. Timing is of the essence when it comes to holiday marketing. For example, last year Hanukkah started on Christmas Eve, which meant retailers had more time than usual to sell Hanukkah gifts. (This year it starts in mid-December.) Decide when you want your ads to appear or your publicity to hit. Then work backward to see when you need to start to achieve that deadline. For example, if you want to run a print ad in the December issue of a magazine your target market devours, find out when the deadline will hit. If you’ll be doing a direct-mail campaign, check out key dates and how far in advance you’ll need to get your mailers to the post office.
- Create your marketing materials. Get as much of your marketing and advertising materials as possible ready ahead of time. If you need to hire graphic designers, copywriters or other specialists, for instance, start looking now. You can also start planning holiday public relations, reaching out to media at publications or broadcast stations, and even plotting out some of your social media content for the holidays. Be prepared and you’ll be less frazzled during the busy holiday season. By planning early, you also are ensuring you’re not risking any lost production time if your printer runs into a mechanical issue, or if winter weather hits early and causes some serious transportation delays.
- Take action. Don’t create a marketing plan and calendar and then stick them in a drawer. Assign responsibility for each action step and set deadlines for a certain number of items per week. By making slow and steady progress you’ll be sitting pretty come fall.
- Hire InSilico Media Group.