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Get Your Holiday Marketing Plan in Order

Tips that can help you build a successful holiday marketing plan

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Excellent organic business marketing plans, no matter the season, are an important part of any business strategy. However, holiday sales usually mean more profits for most companies, so having a good holiday marketing plan in place is even more important. Below are some issues to consider when creating your holiday marketing plan.

1. Start early

Marketing the holiday season early cannot be overstated. Research shows that consumers are shopping for holidays earlier and earlier each year. In fact, The National Retail Federation (NRF) notes, "Each year, about 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween." Following are some more early shopping facts from NRF...

  • NRF's 2012 Halloween consumer survey shows that Americans will likely spend $8.0 billion on Halloween in 2012, and NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay, notes, "By the time Halloween rolls around, it's safe to say Americans have already spent two months preparing."

  • According to NRF's 2011 Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, by the second week in December, the average consumer had already completed 46.5% of their holiday shopping.

  • Last year (2011) consumers spent a record amount on Black Friday, showing that people are ready to shop early for holiday goods.

  • Once spring weather hits, folks are already thinking about, and researching Easter products.

If you're not marketing for early holiday spenders, you're missing a large chunk of the market.

2. Don't discount email promotions

Traditionally, email campaigns don't fare as well during the holidays, mainly because holiday vacations tend to equal email vacations for many. That said, don't discount holiday email promotions. The Online Shopper Intelligence survey from Compete, revealed that after Internet searches, consumers said that retailer emails were their most frequently used online shopping tool.

Consider that emails and email newsletters are more than just a sales tactic. Good email campaigns help generate customer engagement, consumer loyalty and can increase traffic to your business website. Overall, for ongoing holiday sales and last minute holiday purchasing reminders, email can be low-cost and super effective.

3. Look at last year's marketing results

What was your company's most successful marketing campaign last year? Was it free shipping? Late-in-the-season shipping? Coupons or freebies? Although you don't want your marketing campaign to get stale, it's wise to stick with tried and true marketing techniques. If it's not broken... well, you know.

If you didn't track how various marketing campaigns affected sales last year, you should plan to track this year's sales. An organic business can learn to track and optimize sales using the following tactics:

4. Seriously consider coupons

According to Compete, "Coupons are the most effective promotional strategy to drive purchases at online retailers." In fact, Compete goes on to note that, "The average conversion rate on retailer sites was 3.7% compared to a conversion rate of 7.6% when consumers are referred from a coupon site – a fifty percent lift."

Keep in mind too, that "organic coupons" is a growing search term in America. Consumers really want organics at cost, especially organic food and they're actively looking for coupons.

You can get coupons to your customers via various ways, such as:

  • In your emails or email newsletters.
  • Via general third-party coupon sites, such as couponcabin.com, coupons.com and couponmom.com.
  • Via organic and natural specific coupon sites, such as Mambo Sprouts and Organic Deals.
  • Post coupons on your business website. Either on the home page, in blog posts or on a dedicated "deals" page.
  • Via mail if you still have a paper catalog or other paper mail campaign in place.

5. Implement a customer loyalty program

Compete survey results show that customer loyalty programs are another particularly effective retailer promotional strategy. Compete notes, "Loyalty programs yield conversion rates 30% higher than the retailers’ overall conversion rate... [and] retailers who offered an incentive saw conversion rates twice as large as retailers that did not offer an incentive."

This said, you may want to consider allocating points or freebies for purchases made. This can be a particularly good idea if you offer buy-again products, such as organic food or body care items, because it's likely a customer will be back for more.

6. Offer gift cards

Offering gift cards is a great way to think ahead to after-the-holiday sales. Last year, 8 out of 10 consumers surveyed said they did plan on giving gift cards for the holidays. So, you really should be offering gift cards or certificates, both online and in brick and mortar establishments. See resources below:

7. Offer free shipping

Not all companies can afford free shipping year-round, but if you can offer free shipping at least during the holiday season it'll give you a big leg-up. Start browsing the Internet. You'll notice that many, a bulk in fact, of organic companies do not offer free shipping. Thus, you can set yourself apart by offering it.

Just how big a deal is free holiday shipping? In December 2011, a comScore holiday survey showed that a full 36% of online shoppers won't even make an online purchase unless free shipping is part of the deal. The same survey showed that another 42% of online shoppers feel that free shipping is important enough to them that they'll actively search out free shipping deals before buying from a paid shipping site.

If you can't go free-shipping all-the-way, at least consider free shipping on orders over a specific amount or on orders placed before a specific date. Web Marketing Today has a must-read, incredible article on this topic, How to Offer Free Shipping without Going Broke while Entrepreneur offers a look at how businesses break down the free shipping game.

8. Consider extending shipping times

While research shows that plenty of consumers are planning and shopping earlier than ever, a decent chunk do wait until the last possible minute. For these folks, fast and last minute shipping can mean the difference between a sale or no sale. Check out the resources below.

IMPORTANT NOTES: First, post your holiday shipping times on your website so they are easy to find. Consumers want clear deadlines. Secondly, be sure to send your late-date shipping policy out to organic minded blogs and websites, so you can be included in last minute shipping posts.

9. Have a back-up plan in place

Some holiday marketing plans rock, but some fall flat and that's just the way it goes. Instead of dwelling on the negative, have more than one or two holiday marketing ideas in place so when the worst happens, you're ready with a come-back plan.

Internet Retailer has a excellent little piece up - "Retailers need backup plans for holiday promotions" that everyone should read. Not only does this article look at what online retailers can do to improve holiday promotions, but what bricks-and-mortar retailers can do as well. The tips are quick, handy and very worth the read.

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