You’re already running late for holiday marketing! But thankfully it’s not too late.
(Tunes Radio: Jingle bells, jingle bells…pshhh…static…simply having a wonderful Christmas time!…pshhh…) – Turns Radio Off.
Just in case you want to have a holiday song stuck in your head to get you in the holiday spirit:
Yes, like hearing Christmas music in July, your holiday marketing campaign should start much earlier than anyone wants it to.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – let us take a moment for a brief introduction:
We’re Marketing Supply Company (MSC), a digital marketing agency based in Detroit that has tens of millions of dollars in holiday spend over the years for local, national, and international brands. And with these experiences we’ve learned a lot, and we want to pass that knowledge along to you and your team.
In order to provide you with updated, channel specific advice, we asked our expert team at MSC to explain how we approach growing our client revenue during the holiday period.
What is Holiday Marketing? If you found this post, you likely know the answer to this question. But high level thinking can lend itself to a better existential understanding of the goals we want to achieve. So let’s take a stab at defining it.
Holiday marketing in the age of digital growth is a process of continuous optimization to strategy and advertising creative that takes place during the holiday season – the last quarter of the year. It’s the utilization of spiders or search engines, E-commerce websites, email subscriptions, social media channels, targeted creative and copywriting, popular content platforms and forums to direct traffic and collect data.
The collection of buyer persona data allows us to continually update where we position ads, the copy and creative we use, and most importantly, evaluate how useful our content is at converting high quality leads into your potential buyers.
The beauty of marketing and selling goods and services during the holiday season is that buying things is already inherently built into our culture.
Gifts, deals, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, post-holiday sales – we shop and spend a lot of money in November and December.
According to Investopedia:
The difficult part is that you and your competition all know that. So how do we get your message, your products, and your brand in front of others?
As a general rule, the best time to start thinking about most marketing strategies for the holidays is late September or early October and these will run through December, sometimes in early January depending on your goals.
But you should know it’s highly dependent upon the channel you’re using to target your audience.
Take organic SEO results for example – depending on your website’s health and authority, and the competition associated with the search terms (keywords) you’re targeting, it can take 3-6 months to see organic traffic and ROI results.
So if you have webpage copy or a multi-blog strategy planned for the holiday season, hopefully it’s already underway (more on this later). Try sneakily posting optimized blog posts as early as May or June. You can drive traffic to them via other channels later, but allow for crawling, indexing and ranking movement by Googlebot and other search engine crawlers.
For example, Amazon advertising campaigns perform better the longer they run – Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals have to be set up in advance.
This is also true for Google and other paid advertising platforms that utilize machine learning to help you better target your audience. Remember, acquiring data takes time.
When it comes to email we suggest a book-end approach. Front-loading some early holiday messaging, a little earlier than you’re comfortable with, to grab those early shoppers checking off the gifts on their lists before that first bite of turkey ever enters their mouth. And then backloading and intensifying your email cadence to motivate the master procrastinators who are normally stuck trolling malls in desperation on Christmas Eve. Of course, you shouldn’t lose connectivity to your email audience in the no man’s land of the first two weeks in December.
So, the dates. Start your campaign in early November and pick up that intensity again in the last two weeks of December.
Going in with a game plan will help you meet your goals and bypass last-minute missteps.
Follow the five steps below to ensure that you’ve set the stage for a successful holiday season:
What have you tried in the past, and what did your audience respond well to? How can you build upon that success and utilize that data to strengthen your holiday marketing strategy?
Just as important, ask your team what you’ve learned from any failed campaigns you’ve run in the past?
Set realistic goals as well as a clear KPI for each goal. This is a vital step in building a successful holiday marketing strategy—doing so will allow you to track your progress and ultimately determine whether or not your efforts were successful.
Given the goals you’ve laid out, come up with offers that make sense on a financial level. Offer enough of a discount to entice a larger pool of shoppers, but don’t make the discount too steep that you end up hurting your bottom line.
Your target customers will inform all of the marketing deliverables you create from social ads and Instagram to email and content. Ask yourself questions like, how old are these shoppers? What compels them to make a purchase? Where do they hangout online?
If you don’t know who your target audience is, then starting your campaigns earlier is better. This will allow you to gather data on broad targeting, and as you learn more about the people clicking your ads and visiting your site, you can make optimizations as you go.
What social media platforms do they use? Are they Instagram users or Facebook users? Or, maybe they’re more active on email. The answers to these questions can help you identify the types of digital marketing campaigns you should launch.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed from the above list, consider speaking with a professional marketing agency like us! Visit our Contact Us page to get the conversation started.
The holiday season is approaching quickly and our Facebook feeds are soon to be filled to the brim with red, green, and many, many, many, many snow-men or snow-women. Much like the bright lights on the Griswald household, you’’ll want to make sure your creative designs stand out from the rest of the neighborhood. Follow these points to make sure you have a successful holiday season.
Before you start designing it’s important to think about the overall concept of the ad. What is the end goal? Is this ad emotion driven or sales driven? What is the message you want to send? Sales driven ads can be great for pushing a product but might get lost in the sea of endless sales while emotional driven ads can tie your brand to the feeling of the holiday season.
It’s all too common during the holidays to see everyone forgo everything they’ve used to build up recognition with their customers over time to show some holiday spirit. DON’T DO THIS. The problem with this practice is that your ads end up looking like every other present under the tree. Keep your branding true with just a sprinkle of seasonal elements to ensure your ads keep getting noticed.
When designing ads, remember your audience and how to target them. Do your potential customers only celebrate Christmas? Are they only white? Most likely not and your ads should reflect that. A recent study from Kantar even shows that ads with more inclusive imagery and language are about 25% more effective than ads that are not.
While you can still get away with posting static images to drive clicks, the dust has settled. Videos ads on Facebook average a 25% greater reach and in some studies have seen click rates up 480% tested against similar static ads. Video also has advantages over static ads. Instead of relying on your customer to read a block of text about your product or story, tell it to them in an interesting way.
For any designers reading this, we probably don’t need to give you a step-by-step guide on the elements and principles of design. However, it should be noted to make sure those are always on your mind and present in your final assets. And I can’t stress this enough, keep it simple.
Incorporating movement into creative almost always leads to more engagement. In advertising, you have a split second to grab a users attention, and motion almost always does the trick!
Of all the digital marketing strategies at your disposal, email marketing can easily be one of the most effective during the holiday season.
According to Custora, in 2015, 20% of holiday sales were directly attributed to email marketing efforts and even spiked to 25% on Cyber Monday.
Campaign Monitor analyzed over 400 of their clients and came up with some holiday numbers that will make you rethink your entire email strategy. Through their analysis they concluded that Black Friday had the most emails sent, opened, and engaged. And Thanksgiving day beat out Black Friday when it came to opens and engagement.
In order to have a successful holiday season that utilizes the power of email marketing, a lot of planning and strategy must be done well before your potential customers start shopping.
Here is a short list of topics you should think about while revisiting your email strategy:
During this holiday season there will be millions of people shopping online for hours on end. This is a perfect opportunity to get email addresses and build your email lists for present and future use.
Welcome emails generate eight times more revenue than regular promotional emails. Make sure your welcome email is top quality and enticing before the holiday season starts.
Over the holidays, you can get the most out of your search engine marketing budget by utilizing Google ad extensions.
Ad extensions increase the visibility, performance, and rank of your ads. More specifically, both the static and dynamic extensions can increase your customer interactions. Google’s research has shown that ads with extensions have a 10 to 15 percent higher click-through rate for each type of extension used in an ad.
Below, we will walk you through some of the most effective Google ad extensions and their key features.
These extensions are more helpful than Santa’s elves. They give you the option to highlight and link to the specific website pages that you want to drive traffic to—customers can navigate to that page directly from the ad.
They also offer the opportunity for your ad to become more prominent by virtue of occupying more real estate in the SERP. For example: The Sam Bernstein Law Firm offers links to “Our Team”, “No Fee Guarantee®”, and “Contact Us” to give the potential customer as much information and choice as possible.
These helpful extensions give you the opportunity to highlight specific value propositions that set you apart from competitors, such as “Nationwide Sales Reps” or “Turnkey Units Available” for VESTA Modular, a construction company specializing in modular builds.
Give your holiday shoppers extra hints with structured snippets that can be used to show the different options you offer. For example, Jewel, a cash back shopping site for luxury brands, can showcase all of the different product categories for which offers are available.
Whether you want customers to contact you, visit your website, or make a purchase, there’s likely an ad extension to suit your needs. With so many advertisers vying for customer attention during the holiday season, it’s important to use all of the tools at your disposal to maximize reach and compel potential customers to convert.
We all know that when it comes to planning your brand’s paid social strategy during the holiday season “the earlier the better” is the best policy. However, you cannot adequately prepare for the holiday season if you do not first understand what impact it has across the paid social landscape.
So, let’s start with the major changes that come with the holiday season and then discuss how you as a marketer can adapt to those changes.
Unlike other events you plan for, when it comes to the holiday season, we run on the consumers time and their time has already begun. Platforms continue to see a YoY trend of users starting their holiday shopping earlier and earlier.
In a recent study done by Pinterest, they are seeing users searching for “Holiday Shopping” ideas as early as June and July. They are even seeing users creep into April with their research, with a 77% increase YoY in Holiday related searches on the platform.
Because of the “holiday phenomena”, almost all social platforms see a large increase in user traffic. In response, we also see an increase in advertisers pushing out their deals to capture these festive holiday shoppers. This creates more competition in the auction driving up CPCs and in turn overall costs in Q4.
Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the trend towards online shopping for gifts has received a swift push upwards in 2020. This is great for digital advertisers. However, it means as more advertisers jump on this trend, we could potentially see quite the crowd come December on the platforms.
When it comes to shopping for the holidays, people browse for themselves, but they purchase for others. Thus, your usual audience may not actually be the most efficient option in terms of purchase volume and CPAs. With this knowledge, you should consider having a separate targeting approach during the holiday season compared to the rest of the year.
Let’s begin with how we plan to mitigate the impact of the above changes.
Knowing that there is such an influx of crazed holiday shoppers as well as advertisers happening already for holiday shopping, it would be good to start your ads as soon as September.
Doing this will allow for you to:
Your Holiday audience is going to be a gift that keeps on giving. As mentioned, your typical audience may not be the most lucrative approach to your holiday strategy. People who do not normally buy from you may now be in-market for your products. Start by doing this:
This will allow for you to reach more people who have similar behaviors to your previous year “holiday audience purchasers”. In doing so, this will allow for you to more easily convert these users at a cheaper CPA, especially if they are returning from the previous season.
Since we know users are shopping for the holidays now and that our audience is different during this time frame, we should pool them into our holiday audience now when the cost is lower. Then when it is time to run holiday retail deals, we will again be able to more easily get users to convert for a purchase because we are now just targeting the engaged audience, which we have found during our early acquisition efforts.
So, when your marketing team says, “the earlier the better”, now you know why. It isn’t because we want to spend your money, but rather we want to stretch your dollar as far as possible, while additionally creating and refining a strategy that continues to return the favor year after year.
If building trusted relationships with the right audiences is something you’re interested in, then Amazon just may be the right channel for you.
Amazon solutions enable advertisers to drive results directly from Amazon’s platform, meaning you can leverage their existing audience of loyal customers to complement your own audience.
Amazon also gives you access to their insights tool, so you can ensure that your ads are relevant and reaching the right customers.
Amazon DSP is a powerful tool that finds shoppers at scale wherever they are across the internet. Making the right investment to get into the right consideration set is key to winning the purchase. When thinking about building relevant audiences, it’s important to consider how you reach those customers.
Amazon enables the retailer to reach existing customers, lookalike audiences, as well as new customers. All of this can be achieved simply through a pixel, customer list or DMP transfer.
When considering execution for Amazon, always be mindful of going beyond demographic reach:
Ultimately, Amazon is a powerful channel that is definitely worth considering when planning for the holiday craze.
Make sure customers can find your business and that they have a great experience on any device, but specifically mobile!
According to OuterBoxDesign:
We know by now that the holiday marketplace is constantly overflowing with promotional content, so you have to get creative when making sure your brand and products stand out across organic social channels.
Direct your attention towards platforms that will give you a visual spotlight and opportunity for creative freedom.
Not only do these spaces offer a lot of room for innovative visual content, but each allows you to cater to different demographics and audiences.
Instagram is, of course, the favorite child when it comes to social media platforms with a visual and engagement edge.
Not only do you have opportunity for great in-feed content, but the addition of Instagram stories, IGTV and now Reels (TikTok for Instagram) will make your presence that much more effective, engaging, and humanizing.
Don’t just tell your story, show it by utilizing video content for a creative spin on holiday promotions.
Pinterest lends itself to the gift guide connoisseurs and innate planners. Having a strong presence of creative, yet informative gift suggestions and ideas will establish your brand as an “influencer” of sorts when it comes to holiday shopping.
Avoid the sale-sy approach, and mold your content towards someone who may be turning directly to Pinterest as a creative alternative to Google.
Getting ahead of the normal shopping timeline is also an important play on Pinterest, but we’ll get to that in a second.
The newest member of the elite social media squad, TikTok, can not be underestimated. As it will be experiencing its first real holiday season in 2020, a lot is up in the air.
But if the last year has shown us anything, we can expect millions of users to be spending their time watching for the next viral challenge, dance, mind bending video, or educational piece of content paired with a popular TikTok sound.
If you haven’t already caught on, your holiday advertisements and marketing efforts need to be started early.
As the holiday shopping market evolves with every promotional frenzy (looking at you Black Friday weekend), the time in which you start your holiday social media campaigns is crucial. Especially now, when we can expect almost all shopping to happen online.
General rule of thumb here is to be prepared with your holiday campaigns and accompanying content as soon as the clock strikes November.
This doesn’t mean all of your holiday content needs to be promoted right away, but leave hints here and there to entice your audience.
Use the “countdown to ___” idea to inform your content, and don’t forget about the “last minute” content topics for those late shoppers if your brand’s products and shipping methods can cater to them.
Pinterest acts a little differently, however. As mentioned above, the platform can attract the planning type, and can serve many as a search engine. Having your holiday content out early for the Pinterest pickings can only help get you some traction.
It should also be noted that in 2020, pinterest boards are frequently showing up at the top of Google searches. Giving your board 3-5 months time for search engines to crawl it might just give you a jump on the competition.
Yes, showcasing any sale or relative promotion is important, but pushing too much sales content to an already saturated market can overwhelm your audience and actually hurt your efforts. Get creative! Find ways to spin the holiday season to be both entertaining and informative.
When it comes to Instagram, mix things up. Weave your brand-wide holiday campaigns into branded memes and text based content, while using video content to bring real people and influencers into the mix with tips, guides, routines, and their holiday favorites.
As an online-only retailer, Asos has built its international empire exclusively through digital channels. So it’s no surprise that their organic social presence during the holidays is something to be noted.
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A post shared by MORE THAN FASHION (@asos) on
Answer questions and reply to comments as soon as possible, while engaging with targeted audiences to catch users in the shopping mood.
When it comes to holiday content and SEO efforts, your strategy starts anywhere from three to six months in advance, and even further back if you’re clever.
And if you’re looking for a well-rounded approach to ensuring your holiday products are seen, there are several components of search engine optimization that are going to help you beyond the content creation efforts.
Remember, your website and your content are a part of the internet, a massive “web” of linked pages. During the holidays, it’s all about building highways (links) into your product and services pages via content your customers want.
This includes the optimization of:
Generally speaking, you should start publishing keyword-rich holiday content such as blogs or videos by at least September to increase your chances of ranking on the first page of Google for those vital search terms come November and December. But ultimately – the earlier the better.
You should have a good idea of what your holiday related keywords are going to be at least a month before you need to publish your content to the web. This will give you time to figure out how much content you’ll need, create a content calendar, and allow for time to build that content.
Before you can start creating your content for search engines to find, it’s going to be invaluable to your campaign efforts that you do keyword research for holiday terms.
Start by using a tool like SEMrush or Ubersuggest to generate ideas and see if your competitors have content you find inspirational.
Some general keyword phrases to get you started:
If you’re a local business think about including the name of the town or nearest population center into your keywords and content titles.
Be sure to type the keywords you’re planning on using into your search engine of choice. Based on what is returned, this will tell you what kind of content Google thinks searchers want for that keyword and who your competition is.
For example, the keyword “holiday decorations for sale” returned ecommerce results, a popular products slider, and a local map.
That means that you likely don’t want to create a video or blog post for this keyword. You’d want to have an optimized product page on your website with “product” structured data.
And you’ll want to make sure your Google My Business page is updated for the holiday season with your business’ website for traffic to travel to, and try using a GMB post highlighting that you now have “holiday decorations for sale”
There are a couple of ways of thinking about how your content is going to get to where it needs to be in time for searchers to find it.
For those of you new to marketing your business with content, you’ll most likely be starting here. You’ll need to create your optimized content, post to your blog or youtube channel and make sure your site is prepared to index that content.
General Optimizations Include:
So, you’ve had your content published for a while and it has been indexed in search. It’s time to ramp things up and make your organic results pop in time for the holiday season.
Give yourself a jumpstart and make it easy to share your content by utilizing both organic and paid marketing channels to promote your content. This gives people access to the page and allows them to share with their friends and family.
This includes sharing your content on social media platforms or promoting a guide via search ads.
This is the fastest way to produce content year after year. If you’ve got old holiday content that ranked for the prior year, dust it off, update it, change out the images, and republish it so Google knows it’s fresh.
Combining this with new content that complements your old content only strengthens your appeal and authority on the topic with search engines.
Search engines tend to reward sites that offer entertainment, usefulness, and authority. If you’re looking to boost your holiday sales and rank your holiday content, it can be helpful to have a well-organized section of your website dedicated to the holiday season, aka clustering your content.
An example of authority building content and clustering might look like this:
You sell women’s dresses. You want to create content that will link to your sales page and get people to buy those dresses.
Some initial content might look like this:
As your site builds more content that is useful and eye catching, Google starts to recognize that users are going to your site and it appears that you have a substantial amount of information about “dresses” and “holidays”.
Continue to build holiday content around dresses and other clothing items to further illustrate your expertise and thoroughness involving your products and seasonality.
Woof! This is plenty of information to get you started down the path to success this holiday season.
If it seems too overwhelming, feel free to contact us for help. We’d be happy to answer questions and get your marketing campaigns dialed in this year!
MSC has been acquired by branding and marketing agency, Phenomenon.
When I started this journey a little over 5 years ago, the plan was to build a smarter, data-driven growth marketing agency that used a startup mentality to scale high growth businesses. Over that period of time, our model was proven by not only MSC’s growth, but also the growth of our clients. Since launching MSC, we’ve helped our clients raise over 100MM in venture capital, have been the growth team for 5 acquisitions, and have helped scale dozens of well-established companies by utilizing digital strategies to help them stay ahead of the market.
Now we’re partnering with Phenomenon to accomplish a bigger vision–one we believe can be best achieved by joining forces. Combining the brand strategy capabilities of Phenomenon with the data-driven growth strategies of MSC, we’re excited to now provide current (and new) clients access to all the cutting edge services needed to scale their business holistically.
Nothing changes for us at MSC, except our name and expanded capabilities. We’ll still be in Detroit and committed to being a part of the city and community. We’ll continue to offer the same high-end growth strategies for current and future clients, and will stay committed to working on the most exciting projects and companies we encounter.
I’d personally like to thank all of the employees that have worked at MSC over the past 5+ years; all of the companies that supported and trusted us with their brands; advisors, mentors, friends, family, our wonderful Detroit community for the support.