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The holiday season is fast approaching. While you’ve probably spotted baubles on shelves and been inundated by ads referencing it for a month or two already, now’s the time you really need to make sure you’ve got a plan in place.
In fact, some people would probably think you’re leaving things a little late. That’s where this article is here to help. We’re not going to offer you tips on creating an amazing Christmas campaign or help you come up with adverts for Hannukah or New Year. What we are going to do is help you get the basics right, so you don’t have anything to worry about.
We want to make sure you aren’t caught out by an influx of reviews you weren’t expecting, you’ve got emails scheduled for the right times, your sales pages are optimized and ready, or you know exactly what you’re posting on Twitter.
So, without further ado, here’s our holiday marketing checklist to help local businesses navigate Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, Hannukah, and the New Year.
Social Media Holiday Checklist
On social media, the key is to communicate what you are doing for the holiday season effectively. This could be as simple as a special menu or your opening hours or creating a whole campaign, like an advent calendar. Here are our top tips for the holiday season:
- Communicate your offers: let customers know if you’re offering gift cards, holiday offers, or discounts in your social posts and stories.
- Share any updates to opening hours: even if you’ve updated your GBP for the holidays, you should share when you’ll be open on all your channels. You can’t rely on someone googling your business. For many people, your social channels are their first port of call. If you’re going to be closed for a night for a Christmas party, for instance, make sure you let people know.
- Share any updates to menus: if you serve food, there’s a good chance you’ll have some special items on your menu. If you’re updating your whole menu for the next couple of months, make sure you share it on your social media platforms for people to see. This works in a couple of ways, it gives them access to something up-to-date but it can also get people excited about that deep-fried cranberry & stilton mac ‘n’ cheese you’ve spent all year planning.
Here’s Starbucks announcing their holiday menu on Instagram for some inspiration:
- Consider adding new photos of any holiday offering, like decorations: if your shop is offering holiday products or anything new in store people can take advantage of, like holiday menus, Santa appearances, boiler maintenance Christmas deals, seasonal products like Christmas tree delivery or disposal services, let your customers know! Here’s a great example of how Zabar’s & Co. announced an exclusive product and discount for Hanukkah via social:
- Share any special events: if you’re running one-off experiences or events, or just know that you’ll get particularly busy on certain days, let people know in advance to help them plan.
- Consider a holiday-specific campaign: This doesn’t have to be something complex you’ve spent 6 months planning either. Social can help you put something simple together, like an advent calendar, with 25 days of offers, or 25 days to share services, menu items, or something in part of your business. Unveil a new product over 25 days, or something completely new.
- Run a competition on social media: want to get people excited about your new offering? Consider a “like and share to win” for a holiday meal, experience, or gift.
- Consider adding holiday designs to any of your social graphics: this could be as simple as a dusting of snow on your cover photo, or you could go for something more advanced in any of your promotional images. It’s up to you (or your brand guidelines!).
- Offer a gift list/gifting suggestions: this is particularly important if you’re a retail store and gives customers a reason to visit your business over a competitor.
- Partner with other local businesses to offer something unique, or share content with: if you’re offering locally sourced food, consider partnering with a local brewery to create a food and drink gift basket people can buy. If you’re a landscape gardener, consider partnering with Christmas tree wholesalers to deliver Christmas trees around the local area.
- Remember to wish people a happy holiday season!: if your audience is local consumers from a range of backgrounds, it’s a good idea to share the love this holiday season. Don’t just limit yourself to the holiday you’re celebrating yourself.
Get Your Website Ready for the Holidays
While many local businesses still forgo a website, they’re a key aspect of your digital presence. At this time of year, there are a number of things you can do, to help you prep for potential heavy traffic moments, like end-of-season sales, or increase your online visibility.
- Prepare for heavy traffic: server, queue system? – if you’re expecting an influx of additional traffic, can your current site hack it? This won’t affect everyone, but for those who know it could happen there are a few things you can do. Make sure your server can cope with the potential additional traffic, or even consider investing in queue software if you’re expecting particularly high demand.
- Pin seasonal posts in your blog: if you create seasonal content that’s relevant every year, then make sure your customers can find it! A simple way to do this is by pinning holiday posts to the top of your blog page for the duration of the season. This means you may not have to write whole new posts every year just so people can find them again.
- Update posts for freshness: that being said, if you are pinning old posts to the top of your blog, you need to make sure they’re up-to-date. This applies to any of your seasonal posts, though. There’s a chance that most of the information in your holiday posts could be absolutely fine, but it’s worth checking to make sure data, dates, or other information is accurate and relevant still.
- Prepare your sales & promotional pages: you should already have pages created for these that you use every year. If you don’t, this is your cue to do that. You should have an evergreen page for your holiday promotions and sales. This page should remain live all year, just not linked prominently from your homepage. This way your main promotional pages for key events will gain authority from links and age over time. It means you won’t be trying to rank a brand new page every time. Now you’ve got your evergreen pages, make sure they are completely up-to-date with this year’s information.
Bed, Bath & Beyond has had its ‘Holiday’ category live with the same URL structure since 2015, with other subfolders coming off it. This has allowed it to gain links and rank for related keywords.
- Check for consistency: make sure your promotional messaging is consistent across your entire website. If you have a banner saying one thing and your landing page says another, you’re in trouble.
- Check metadata is correct for this year: if you’re using your evergreen pages, there’s a good chance you optimized your meta titles and meta description for the previous year. Make sure each one is accurate for this year. Consider optimizing them to include what the deal actually includes, too. Are you offering cut prices, a special service, or free shipping? Your meta title or description could be your customer’s first impression of your deals or events.
- Communicate key information where applicable: if you’re running special menus or deals, make sure you communicate these where you can. Similarly, if you have restricted opening hours or a final postal date, make sure you clearly communicate this.
How To Smash Your Email Marketing This Holiday Season
In an ideal world, your holiday email marketing communications would be all-singing, all-dancing campaigns with seasonally appropriate designs and GIFs galore, right? But in reality, when it comes to communications as a local business, the most crucial elements of your holiday emails will be the need-to-know items.
- Opening hours reminders: don’t give your customers a chance to tell you they didn’t see your holiday opening hours! As well as on your website, GBP, and social channels (plus any in-store signage you may have), come at your clients from all angles and reinforce any changes to opening hours or contact details in your email marketing. Much more active on IG stories or your Facebook Page as a local business? Direct email subscribers to the most relevant channels for regular updates.
- Communicate service or product ordering and delivery deadlines: likewise for any significant holiday deadlines, ensure your customers have plenty of notice – whether it’s the last order and delivery dates for gift giving, seasonal food ordering ahead of any big days, or your availability for particular services.
- Prepare the ‘signing off’ email: if your business is closed during any of the holiday periods, it’s always a good idea to send a ‘signing off’-style communication. This is a nice opportunity to wish your subscribers happy holidays, whilst communicating key reminders about how and when customers can expect to receive support throughout this time. You can also use this as an opportunity to recirculate helpful resources such as FAQs or any guides you might have created.
- Automate key messages and prepare ahead of time: even if you’re going to be out of the office for certain periods, the importance of timeliness never diminishes. For example, the period between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is prime for discounts and sales promotions, so in the run-up to key holiday periods, ensure these key emails are planned, created, and scheduled.
Make Sure Your Promotions Are Optimized
Need-to-know information aside, these busy promotion periods do call for some creativity, however. As commercial dates like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas approach, the need to stand out from the hundreds of notifications pinging your customers’ inboxes or sponsored ads filling up Instagram feeds comes into play. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Be descriptive with your offers: absolutely everyone is going to be bombarding users with ‘BLACK FRIDAY SALE’ messaging, and it’s more than enough to just turn people who aren’t actively looking for something off. In emails, use your subject line or pre-heading text to be descriptive about what you’re offering and therefore why it’s such good value.
- Creating a sense of urgency: we can’t all be like Glossier, who so rarely holds sales that it causes the internet to go into meltdown, but we can learn a thing or two about how it creates urgency. If you aren’t the kind of business that usually discounts products or services, you can utilize messaging to create excitement or a sense of urgency (AKA incite a sense of FOMO).
- Can you handle demand?: this applies to both the what and the how of any promotions you’d like to run, so not just the product or service that your customers are buying, but the logistics of fulfilling them and your business being able to keep up with any issues. Consider the following:
- Do you physically have enough products in stock?
- Is there a limit on purchasing?
- Do you have adequate customer support in place?
- Is your site set up to receive discount codes?
- Can it handle significant traffic and amounts of transactions?
- Rewarding loyalty / high-value customers: some consumers see pre or post-holiday promotional periods as a free-for-all and, while it can be a great opportunity for you to grow brand awareness and gain some new customers, it’s worth considering what value they will place against your brand as a one-time promotional purchaser. Why not consider how this could be an opportunity to reward your existing, loyal customers? You could create an exclusive customer discount, an early-access event, or a live interaction via social channels that seek to reward your most engaged users.
Preparation Is Key for a Relaxed Holiday Season
So, are you feeling ready? Our checklist should help every local marketer get the business ready, whether you’re launching a festive menu, closing on different days to everyone else, or simply optimizing your promotional pages
We hope our tips for the holiday season will have you feeling prepared to tackle everything that comes your way over the next couple of months.
Before you get started with your holiday marketing strategy, why not run a Google Business Profile Audit or benchmark your visibility with Local Rank Tracker? Make sure you can measure the impact of everything you’re doing across Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and beyond.