'Tis the Season: 7 Steps to Prepare Your Holiday Marketing Campaign

Rachel Leist
Rachel Leist



christmas-presentsIt's evident the holiday season is much, much more than December 25 -- in fact, we've got two whole months of holidays to celebrate. But for us marketers, that also means that right now, we need to start thinking about and developing our holiday campaigns.

December 1 is far too late to begin implementing your promotional tactics -- now is the time to get your campaigns up and running.

So, if you're already behind on your marketing plans through year's end, take some time to read up on the seven areas you should keep in mind so you can implement a comprehensive holiday campaign.

1) Think about your campaign strategy. 

Part of generating a campaign strategy is figuring out how you can promote your brand through the major holidays of the season: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year's. Also, take into consideration the shopping holidays that have become so popular (and vital to businesses' success this time of year): Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.

Once you recognize which of these holidays is best for your company to create a campaign around, you'll need to get your plans in motion. For the purposes of this blog post, let's follow American Express's Small Business Saturday campaign as our main example of a holiday campaign done right.

2) Don't focus solely on Christmas.

A holiday campaign doesn't mean one solely created for Christmas. It doesn't mean it has to be launched in December. The aforementioned traditional and special business holidays are often forgotten in the excitement surrounding Christmas. 

For instance, since 2010, Small Business Saturday is held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (this year, it falls on November 30). People are encouraged to support small businesses nationwide that, in turn, celebrate Small Business Saturday with special deals and promotions. In 2012, there was an estimated consumer spending total of $5.5 billion at small businesses.

If you think about American Express, you would probably think that they would do something along the lines of shoppers spending their American Express credit cards at retailers. However, the card issuer took a different approach to show its support for small businesses, separate from Christmas. The business took the Thanksgiving/Black Friday approach to create a recognized holiday immediately following Thanksgiving.

3) Create holiday-themed offers.

To promote your campaign, you'll need to create offers centered around your campaign theme. In some cases, this may include discounts that you can provide to your customers. In others, this could include content that you created for the holidays. For instance, to celebrate the holidays at HubSpot, we created holiday ecard templates to help our audience with their seasonal marketing efforts.

After you create the concepts for your holiday-themed offers, start building the creative to help it all come together. There are a variety of tools that you can use -- calls-to-action, banners, webpages, photos, and images for social -- that'll help with that promotion. Here at HubSpot, we created free Holiday Stock photography for our audience to use in their holiday campaigns.

If we carry on with our American Express example, you'll notice that they developed a resources page to give small businesses collateral that they would need to participate in Small Business Saturday. Specifically, the company created logos, ads, and printable signage that businesses can use to promote their participation but also personalize based on their business. It also created social media and email templates to help businesses build a promotional strategy.

4) Prepare your social media strategy.

Around the holidays, you may notice that your audience engagement is much smaller. The main reason? Many people are either on vacation or thinking about and planning their upcoming vacation. But there is still plenty to do to make sure your audience is still engaged during the holiday season.

For instance, you'll need to make sure your editorial calendars are planned out ahead of time. This will make it easier for you to write all of the content that you need during the holidays. After the content (blog posts, ebooks, SlideShares -- whatever works best for you) is written, schedule it for publication over the course of November and December. If you don’t have an editorial calendar already, you can create your template using this document.

It's also imperative to continue monitoring your social media accounts. Use your preferred social monitoring tool to track holiday keywords so you can respond proactively. You can even create a few canned responses based on the keywords you've researched.

American Express has a section on promotion through social media where it includes its hashtag #ShopSmall as well as lazy tweets and posts that can be used for businesses to promote their participation in the holiday. 

5) Optimize your keywords.

If you choose to use PPC for your holiday campaign -- and you might want to, it could provide that quick, temporary boost you need for a holiday campaign -- you have a couple things to consider.

First, think about when your audience is searching for your brand -- or keywords relating to your brand. If you're a B2B business, you may see the highest engagement during working hours. Conversely, B2C businesses may see higher traffic during nights and weekends.

Next, create copy for your ad. Think about what's going through your audience's minds when they're searching. Are they looking for gifts for family? Colleagues? Last-minute gifts? Create your ad copy with your audience in mind to craft an ad that will make sense for them and grab their attention while they are in a rush for the holiday season.

6) Consider planning an event.

The holiday season is the perfect time to plan an event. But before you start buying Christmas lights and other holiday decorations, figure out the exact purpose of your event.

What goals are you trying to achieve? How will the event make it easier for you to reach your audience? Having an event just for the sake of having an event defeats the purpose, but setting clear goals that can be accomplished by throwing a get-together or party makes sense.

Using an in-person event to expand the reach of your audience is one goal you may have. When you host an event, your attendees will typically tweet about it with the event hashtag. With this hashtag, you could promote other parts of your campaign, such as your offers.

The people in attendance at your event and their social followers are more likely to see the campaign on the hashtag due to your event. So, strategize bridging your online and offline presence at the gathering you put together to reach your goals.

As part of its campaign to drive business on last year's Small Business Saturday, Royal Razor Urban Barbers threw an event with free food and a photo booth. The photos taken were posted online.

Moreover, Royal Razor also did a ton of online promotions with the resources and tools American Express provided to spread awareness. Because of its online campaign, the business secured a significant amount of business after the event because shoppers were curious seeing the pictures online.

7) Focus on customer delight.

During the holiday season, most companies have at least one promotional campaign. Some have discounts and sales. Others have specials just for the holidays. Whatever your business decides to do, customer delight should be at the forefront of your marketing efforts.

As you think about the goals for your campaign, think about how you can make sure you are delighting your customers. If you can slightly alter an aspect of your campaign to show your appreciation for your customers, do it.

American Express first looked at the businesses it served and how they celebrated the holidays. The card issuer provided its small business customer base with collateral and promotional materials that they could use to promote their own campaigns.

Many small businesses simply don't have the resources that American Express does to create these materials. Offering these companies materials they can use to bolster their marketing efforts is most definitely customer delight. And in turn, these small companies were then able to provide some customer satisfaction of their own.

What else is your business doing to prepare for the holiday season? Give us some insight into your plans for this season below!

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