Holiday Marketing & Why It’s Never Too Early to Plan
Living in a region that experiences every combination of weather makes retail and marketing planning essential for business owners. Of course, the changing of the seasons signals when it’s time to trade in coats for light jackets or swim trunks for knit sweaters. But big-box retail dictates the beginning of a new season in many ways, too; think of when Christmas displays invade store shelves the day after Halloween, leaving Thanksgiving wondering, “what am I, chopped liver?”.
While those storefront changes happen, in what may seem like overnight time lapses, they represent a thoughtful campaign-production-showcase process that happened long before the scent of snow was in the air. So, understanding these changing seasonal observances – forced or otherwise – is crucial to effective marketing, especially for those with smaller staffs and even smaller budgets. No matter the extent of resources, getting a holiday marketing plan on your Doppler as early as possible will result in a more successful, profitable holiday season.
It may feel like September is too early to start thinking about the holidays, but remember, back-to-school sales begin in earnest after the Fourth of July. Once consumers are in the mindset, there is juice to be squeezed and money to be made. The Fall Equinox didn’t take place until September 22nd this year, but that didn’t stop a large corporation like Starbucks from launching its signature fall beverage, the Pumpkin Spice Latte, on August 28th. This anticipated yearly relaunch signifies a shift away from cold brew and iced coffees to steamed milk drinks. Starbuck’s decision, and subsequent marketing push, eventually trickles down to locally-owned businesses, which are forced to react in order to cater to the consumer’s expectations.
Taking the time to develop a personalized, comprehensive marketing plan is beneficial, because there is no “one size fits all” approach to marketing. What works for one business, might not work for another, even if in the same industry. It’s not always about developing a new product or service, either. Simply focusing on highlighting what’s already great about what you do can be equally as effective. A holiday marketing plan should consider your target audience, competitive analysis and brand consistency.
Asking these three questions ahead of time and dedicating the moments thereafter to refining their answers will result in a much more effective marketing plan. Identifying the audience and their specific wants and needs might actually help further refine the service or product, too.
Who is your audience?
Knowing your target market is key to the genesis and survival of any business – it’s not something that just becomes important when the holidays roll around. Any business plan will ask that a target market be identified, and all good business owners complete a business plan before any product is sold or services are rendered, right? It’s a good question to ask again as the holidays approach, because everyone spends their money differently when it comes to treating themselves and others. And, there is more competition for consumer dollars during the holidays than at any other time of year. If you do take the time to develop special services or products that exist within the holiday shopping season, you need to know that there is an audience for it. Reaching new customers is certainly essential, but rewarding longtime patrons can pay dividends, too. In addition to pushing sales, treating your most ardent supporters to a gift card sale or limited release merchandise helps build brand loyalty, which is not something that can be manufactured or bought. It’s good to think about both of these sectors of potential consumers when devising a holiday plan.
When conducting competitive market analysis, consider both local and national brands. While national brands are often much safer with their marketing and services, there is information to be gleaned from their overall strategy about trends, tone, and core messaging. When it comes to local brands, you’ll see how they focus on standing out in the crowded holiday market. Paying attention to how competition markets the same products or services will help you develop messaging that stands apart, and hopefully, above the rest.
The worst thing a holiday marketing plan could do is be a disservice to an existing brand identity. If it doesn’t align with existing messaging or values, it could alienate long-time patrons and confuse new consumers at the same time. Whatever the strategy may be, a holiday marketing plan needs to be consistent with the branding that is already tried and true. Consumers respond to it for a reason, so now it’s about amplifying or refining that core message for a specific product or service.
It’s important to understand that it’s never too early to begin devising a marketing plan for the holiday season. Time is always of the essence as a small business owner, so getting a head start on the busiest time of the year will result in more effective marketing and a more successful holiday season.
That way you can be home for the holidays (because everything else is squared away and business is booming).