SCORE

It’s the most wonderful time of the year but also the most competitive for any local business--retail or service--to try to reach out to customers.

Before the holiday rush starts, put your marketing machine on the lift, and inspect it for these checkpoints:

Email Marketing

As email inboxes get more crowded with marketing messages during the holidays, email users get choosier about which ones they’ll open.     

  • Start by sending to small segments of your list. Unless you send a lot of email marketing messages regularly, a sudden increase in mail volume can make you look like a spammer to email service providers.
  • Schedule carefully. According to a study by email vendor Yesmail, of the thousands of holiday email messages, Thanksgiving-themed messages got more response early in November than closer to the holiday. On the other hand, Black Friday-themed offers did best when sent last minute. For Christmas themes, a good strategy is to send in the 10 days leading up to the holiday, emphasizing a countdown to the 25th.
  • Make your subject lines stand out from the crowd. Don’t just say “announcing our holiday sale!” Give specifics about products or services on sale or special offers.

Search Engines

Same cautions as with email: Mind the timing and messaging of your paid search ads to compete.

  • Keep up with new search terms.  Sure, you have tried and true holiday offers and a set of keywords that have worked in the past.  But enter the old standbys into Google Trends, the search engine’s research site, to see if new related search terms pop up. Also, if your site features a search box, check your Google Analytics records to see what search terms your customers have entered – more clues for keywords there. Finally, check the AdWords Keyword Planner for suggestions.
  • Watch your budget.  Don’t run through your budget too fast in this peak season. Carefully watch your burn rate–dollars spent against your budget–and be prepared to recalibrate by focusing on your high performing campaigns or lowering your bids. 

Social Media

Social media never pauses – but you and your staff do for the holidays.

  • Create a schedule for posting. Good advice for any time of year, but especially this season. Create a list of types of posts—sale announcements, interesting visuals, etc.—and schedule them out on a calendar. Write what you can in advance.  If you haven’t tried one of the many social media scheduling tools on the market, now’s the time. They automate the whole process of planning and posting to multiple social networks. 
  • Avoid posts that ask for responses from your audience. You and staff may alternately be crazy-busy or on vacation, so don’t invite interaction you can’t handle.
  • Assign staff to monitor social media. Nothing says “nobody minding the store” like unanswered complaints, questions or even compliments. So someone needs to be on duty during throughout the holidays, at least to handle the customer service aspect of social media and at best to post on up-to-the-minute topics.

Website

You want your site to not only function flawlessly during the holiday rush, but show your visitors quickly where you want them to go.

  • Check your points of contact. Update phone numbers.  Make sure “Contact Us” forms work. If you use a live chat function, make sure staff is scheduled to answer questions throughout this period.
  • Create/update pages.  Don’t use your search ads, social media posts or email campaigns just to drive customers to your home page. Create special landing pages for the holidays that promote your latest offers, and match up with your latest ad keywords. But do also update your homepage and other key pages with holiday-specific terms and images. Check to make sure coupons offered on your site are up to date.
  • Get a bit more aggressive with site visitors. You’ve seen the ads that pop up on websites just as you’re about to leave: “exit intent overlays” can present an enticing offer to a site visitor that may need some extra persuading. You can chase departed site visitors with “remarketing” search ads, through Google and other search ad vendors; your ex-visitors will see an offer enticing them to return to your site.