Boost Your Sales With This Christmas Marketing Checklist
Updated: Nov 22, 2022
November? Already? Time really has flown, so much so that Christmas is next month! Next. Actual. Month! (unless you're reading this any other time then you work it out!).
Let's not forget that before now and the end of the year, in addition to Christmas, you've also got Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Taco Tuesday (probably), Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year's Eve to contend with.
For those of you in the retail sector, the run-up to the end of the year will probably be your busiest time and hopefully the most profitable.
As belts are tightened in this difficult economy, people will be looking to spread the costs further which means they'll be buying earlier, so it's never too soon to start planning.
Research from Statista has shown that around 40% of people start their Christmas shopping before the end of October so many have already started! There's no time to wait for you and your marketing team. (which also might just be you!).
With the economy only heading one way right now, it's important to maximise your marketing efforts to ensure that you squeeze every penny out of your resources and those lovely consumers.
This is especially true if you're a small business and already have enough on your plate just trying to stay afloat.
Why Is Holiday Marketing So Important?
Before we get into your festive checklist, let's take a moment to understand and assess why marketing at this time of year is so important.
As we said earlier, for many retailers, the last quarter of the year is one of, if not THE, most valuable in terms of sales.
As such, it's the perfect time to tick a lot of boxes all at once. You can use this time to increase your brand awareness, reach new audiences that you don't normally target and launch new seasonal products (or new products in general).
It also offers the opportunity to sell stock that hasn't been as successful up until now (include them in sign-up offers, as 'free' gifts, BOGOF / BOGOHP offers, etc. - more on this later).
You can also utilise this unique time of the year and offer themed content and marketing campaigns to help you sell and connect with your customer base. This will (or should) have the additional benefit of humanising your brand in the spirit of the festive season.
Marketing Checklist. Let's Go!
To get the most out of the last quarter of the year, our team have put together a 9-point marketing checklist to help you stay on top of the game and help you make the most of the festive period.
Some you might know and are already doing, and if that's the case, then great. If not, hopefully, it will give you some new ideas on how you can increase your sales. Let's start with ....
1. Start Planning Early
As we said, people are starting their festive shopping earlier, so you need to be planning earlier.
When planning a seasonal campaign, the earlier you can start planning, the better. If you haven't planned anything by now, then we don't know what to tell you! Try harder next year! 😉
- Set Goals
Seriously though, when planning your campaign, think about what you're trying to achieve. This will really help you define not only what you're going to do, but how you're going to do it.
Your goals might be to reach new customers, perhaps you want to increase your brand awareness, increase engagement with your audience or just increase sales (or all of the above).
Whatever it is, it needs to be realistic and, more importantly, achievable. Use the previous year's sales as a guide to what might be possible if you have them.
Also, as much as we all like new customers, don't disregard your existing customer base when setting your goals. Too many companies disregard them at their peril, so plan campaigns with those in mind too.
This time of year isn't just about Christmas. As we touched on earlier, there's also Black Friday, Hannukah, Kwanzaa and Taco Tuesday, so it's a good idea to think about which of these celebrations you're going to focus on.
That's not to say you can only pick one, but try and establish a theme that's central to all your marketing and don't spread yourself too thin.
If you have a limited budget or resources, then remember you don't HAVE to hit every holiday full-on.
If you're starting early enough, you can also include things like Halloween or (if you're in the UK) Bonfire Night.
When establishing a theme, ask yourself what you want to communicate; is there a particular product or range of products you're looking to sell and, most importantly, does the theme help you achieve the goals you've set?
If you have a team, get them together for a brainstorming session or put together a mood board to help you illustrate what the campaign might look like.
It's also a good idea to see what your competitors are already doing or did last year. Look at their promotions, which platforms they used and when did they start their marketing. This is purely for inspiration you understand, no stealing ;-).
When putting a theme together, think also about how it's going to work across different platforms including social media, email campaigns and your website. A cohesive theme will really help pull your branding together.
As with any marketing campaign, you'll have a budget. In this difficult economy, it's vital you spend what you have as effectively as you can.
Once you've got your ideas and themes in mind, it's time to ground them in reality and cost them. This might be the point at which you need to streamline your big ideas, but that also doesn't mean you can't do them. You might just need to put a fresh, more cost-effective spin on them to make them fit your budget.
If, for example, you wanted to have a campaign on your clothing range but can't afford professional models, why not run a competition with your customers that allows them to be the star models for it? Don't be confined by tighter budgets, it might just be the opportunity you need to get creative.
- Marketing Channels
Depending on the type of retail you're involved in, whether you're in a brick-and-mortar store, online only or a mixture of the two, you'll need to prepare the marketing channels that you're going to utilise.
Obviously different channels will be more (or less) suited to different products, companies and budgets but whatever you're selling, they'll all need promoting in one way or another.
Whether you choose your social media platforms, promotional blogs, email campaigns YouTube content or, if you have the budget, some paid-for advertising, understanding what channels you have available will help you plan accordingly.
- Know Your Dates
With your campaigns sorted and your budgets set, it's vital you understand where your business is (and will be) by the relevant dates.
This involves making sure you have the right stock to fulfil the orders you're expecting. Bear in mind, if you need to order in advance, make sure the stock will be with you in time for the orders coming in. If not, maybe run some pre-order campaigns instead.
Of course, if you're ordering stock you need to pay for it, so as part of your planning, make sure you know what investment you need and when it will need to be paid for.
Obviously, the further away the holiday celebration you're targeting is, the more time you have to fulfil those orders and be ready for them.
2. Liaise With Suppliers
Unless you control your entire supply chain from top to bottom (which is rare), you're going to have suppliers. Whether that's the raw materials you use to produce your product or just the packaging you send products out in, liaising with your suppliers is vital.
You probably won't be their only customer, so it's important that you know their schedule and workloads to be able to plan your own sales, especially at this time of the year.
Being able to plan your shipments with your suppliers will make your life so much easier. They may also have suppliers of their own, so being across your entire supply chain is key.
Make sure you ask them the questions you need to know. For example...
Can they supply your stock on time?
Do they have a contingency for larger deliveries?
Will your stock arrive on time?
Will any strike action have an impact?
Have the fuel increases impacted their delivery charges and, if so, can you afford it?
All of these questions (and more) are worth asking so keep an open dialogue with your suppliers. If you can get one point of contact with your supplier, even better.
3. Define Your Offers
You need to know what offers are available to you not least so you can stand out from the crowd in a very busy marketplace. So consider offering some of these..
BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) / BOGOHP (Buy One Get One Half-Price) / Two-For-One
Discount Codes; great to offer to new and existing customers alike.
Free Shipping; in general or if an order is over a certain value.
Free Express Shipping / Next Day Delivery; offering free or discounted expedited shipping really helps clinch sales. Postage costs often kill sales at the last step, so make sure you have something available to complete that final hurdle.
Early Access To Sales; another great way to engage existing customers when combined with email marketing campaigns.
Limited / Numbered Editions; offer exclusive or limited editions of your products; e.g. 1 of xxx, new colours, signed products, etc.
Combination Deals; a great way to sell older stock by including them in 'combo' deals offered at preferential rates.
Flash Sales; offer sales that only last for a limited period of time.
Giveaways / Free Samples; use them as prizes in a competition or just another opportunity to move your older stock by giving it away to entice additional interest in newer products. Who doesn't like getting something for nothing?
Coupon Codes; offer discounts or coupon codes that shoppers can enter at checkout to get something new, or to activate one of the other offers on this list.
VIP Access; offer special rewards to customers who meet a 'VIP' criteria, whether that's available to your customers who are your biggest spenders, longest-serving, etc.
Bear in mind you don't HAVE to offer any promotions at all but, especially at this time of year, others will be, so calculate which one(s) might work best for you and your business.
4. Optimise Your Website
For your online sales this festive season, your website is going to be ground zero for any purchases customers make. It's easy, with all the other planning you need to do, to forget about your website and take it for granted, but there's often work to be done to make sure it's ready.
Your website is going to be seen by hundreds, if not thousands, of new visitors, all of which have the opportunity to become old customers, providing you optimise your website.
Think of this like a checklist within a checklist.
When it comes to your website, there are some questions to ask your IT team, your website developer and/or your hosting company to make sure your website will be ready. They include;
Will the bandwidth and the site itself support a significant increase in load/traffic without affecting performance?
Can it keep up in terms of speed? In other words, is it fast enough to cope?
Look at your products themselves; are the descriptions, prices, sizes, colours, ingredients, images and allergy information up-to-date? These will vary depending on what your products are (obviously). Some might need updating to help any updated keyword research or product images/photography style might be looking a little dated if you haven't changed them in recent years.
Is it responsive to the device on which it's being viewed? You'd be amazed how many still aren't in 2022!
Do you have banners/tags/labels to promote your campaign? People will need to be pointed to the right place to find your promotions quickly and easily.
Do you have testimonials or reviews visible? Can you get some more up-to-date ones from your most recent customers to keep it fresh?
Are you offering the latest payment options? ApplePay? Crypto? PayPal? Do you offer the latest Buy-Now-Pay-Later schemes to help customers spread the cost through apps like Klarna, ClearPay, LayBuy, etc.
Does your website offer the highest level of security to process payments? Is the process transparent?
Does your store include stock numbers/low stock warnings? Can customers join a waiting list for products that are out of stock?
Are all your latest keywords included on your website? Remember keyword research is (or should be) a vital and ONGOING part of your SEO efforts.
Do you have resources available on the site to help customers find support, i.e. LiveChat feature or an FAQ section and are your company contact details/working hours easily found online?
If online sales are going to be your 'bread-and-butter' this Christmas, then making sure your website is running like a well-oiled machine is key. If not, please let us know and we can help.
Now you've put together a killer marketing campaign, how are you going to promote it so you can sell your product or service?
Thankfully there are a wealth of options open to you, but which ones are going to be most successful or cost-effective, well that depends on you and your resources.
It's also going to tie in with what your goals are (remember those from section 1?). Some of the marketing channels available suit different types of campaigns or different types of products and services.
For example, as a web development and marketing agency, our Christmas campaign, if we had one, probably wouldn't be trying to sell website development deals (they are rarely at the top of anyone's Santa list), but we might just want to increase readership on our own blog by writing more original festive-themed content to help other businesses (like this thing you're reading) .
Alternatively, we might decide to promote our copywriting service to help with all the campaigns you're creating. Hint ;-)
If you're selling online, then your options start with deciding whether you're going to:
Creating organic content or...
Pay for advertising.
If, like us, you're more of an organic person, or don't have the budget for paid advertising, then what are your options? Let's start with...
- Email Campaigns
One of the most effective marketing channels available is email marketing.
Before you go mad and send out all your emails to your entire email database, take some time to look at your database.
If you can divide or segment them into more useful categories, that's a great start. It's rare that there's a one-size-fits-all campaign. Sure, some messages will be relevant to all of them, but different customers might require different messages in different tones requiring different behaviours. Knowing who they are is obviously a key part of this.
Take into account your funnel and where different people are in the process. Brand new customers might need a little more hand-holding and information whereas regular customers might be primed for that latest discount code.
Once you're ready to send your email, there are a couple of vital steps to consider to optimise its impact. These include:
Crafting an attractive and enticing subject line to encourage them to open the email.
Add a CTA (Call To Action) to get them to take the action you want. Again, think about the wording of this as even micro-copy can also really help engage customers. Use things like "Get A Discount", "Shop Our Deals", "Get x% Off" or "Claim Your Discount" rather just "Shop" or "Click Here".
Add a sense of urgency to your messaging. This could be a countdown timer to the end of your offer or an 'only x days left to save' intro.
While you should have a FAQ section on your website, there's an advantage in having a smaller section as part of your email. You could also include other informational resources (especially useful for new customers) like a blog or tips.
Whilst not necessarily part of a marketing campaign, emails should also be automatically generated when customers order products, confirming their transaction, payment and estimated delivery date with all the latest information.
If you have a blog on your website (if you don't, you REALLY should) use it to help promote your campaign.
Blogs provide an invaluable, free resource (and help your SEO) to inform, educate and promote your products.
As well as the text, you can add images, polls, downloadable files, tables and video to really showcase what you do, extol the benefits of using it and really dive-deep into what it is, what it does and how it can help your customers.
If you have products that are more technical, use your blog as a 'How-To' guide, or offer new interesting ways of using 'whatever it is'.
Don't forget to incorporate those invaluable keywords into your blog to help drive traffic.
- Social Media
Social media runs such a wide gamut of platforms from Facebook to TikTok, LinkedIn to YouTube, you'll know which ones your product or service is best suited to towards in terms of audience engagement.
That said, depending on what goals you've set (remember them from the beginning of this blog?) it's important the platforms you use are optimised to help your marketing campaign.
Whichever one you utilise, make sure you:
Optimise your photo, cover image, banner and bio; standardise where you can and include relevant links. if you have a new banner to promote the campaign, use it!
Share useful tips, how-to guides, the benefits of what you do, reviews, feedback from customers, etc across your social media.
Replicate your email campaigns (albeit scaled down to suit the platform) to spread the word about your offers and increase engagement.
Create and share graphics/imagery to catch the eye of your followers.
If you have a #hashtag, make sure it's prominently displayed and included in all your campaigns and encourage customers to use it.
If feasible, run some competitions or giveaways to promote the campaign.
Schedule your posts to ensure they all go live together.
- Paid Advertising
In the last section, we talked about social media, but only from an organic perspective. There is another path you can go down if you have the money, and that's paid advertising.
All the social media platforms and search engines offer the opportunity to feature your posts higher and more prominently through paid online advertising.
This can help get your message to your desired demographic more easily, but there's obviously a cost to it.
Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok now also offer the opportunity to sell your products directly on their platform without customers even leaving the app.
If you are going to go this route, and your goal is to drive traffic to your site, we'd recommend increasing your investment around 2 weeks before your event launches.
It's also worth retargeting your campaign(s) to those visitors who came to your website but didn't buy anything.
Whilst all the search engines offer paid advertising, Google Ads are obviously the biggest. They do offer the opportunity to try different ads to reach different demographic of customers.
If you do use Google Ads, use a module called Urchin Traffic Monitor (UTM). These are perfect for anyone looking to get a deeper understanding of their online visitor behaviour.
UTMs are characters that appear at the end of URLs. They give you the ability to monitor the origin of the traffic you get to your websites, so every time a user clicks your link, you'll know where they came from. This helps you understand what platform is driving your traffic (or not).
6. Plan a 'Plan B'
We're very proud of that sub-heading, but we digress....
Your plan, like any plan, isn't going to be 100% guaranteed to work. You can put all the work in the world into it and, even with the best plan ever, there is always going to exist the chance that it won't pay off for whatever reason. That's just the nature of running a business.
Because of that, there's real value in having a contingency, a backup.... just in case.
Look at your plan well in advance and think about where it could break down. Look at all the possible options, especially those that might be out of your control. What would you do then? List the possible solutions.
What if your delivery service lets you down? Simple, have a list of others ready to go with names and contact details already defined.
If things don't go as you expected, having a Plan B in your back pocket ready to go will help. We hope it won't go wrong, but at least you'll be prepared and have a solution ready without stressing about it at the moment.
Having a Plan B doesn't have to be negative. What if your campaigns go incredibly well and you sell far MORE than you expect? Can you get more stock, and if so, how quickly?
7. Customer Service
Let's be honest, good customer service can be the difference between an 'OK ' company and a great company. How you treat your customers and the service you provide them is so important and will be even more so during the festive period.
Whether you have a team of people manning the phones or you're just doing it yourself via LiveChat or messaging, providing your customers with great service is paramount.
If you have staff, or if you've hired new staff to cover this period, it's also important that they're all on board with your ethos and how you want them to speak to customers.
Is there a 'script' you want them to follow? Should they answer messages/calls the same way? Is there any terminology to use/avoid? What tone of voice to use? How should they refer to customers? Friendly first name terms or more formal?
Letting them know or reiterating your wants is important to offer the level of professionalism and courtesy they will be expecting. Remember, this period might be the start of a fruitful (i.e. profitable) relationship for you both.
If you're more of a do-everything-yourself kinda person, then a little planning can still pay dividends.
As we touched on a little in section 4, you can preempt many of the questions customers might have by building a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on your website for the more common queries.
Also make sure all your contact details are clearly displayed on your site, your Google/Bing listing and social media profiles. Pin an informational post to the top of your timeline so it's clear and obvious.
Also, make sure your shipping/returns policy is both easy to find and easy to understand. This is not the time for a policy written in legalese that might put people off.
8. Track, Measure & Analyse
Once the campaign is over, it's not quite time to put your feet up just yet. You need to understand your campaign and how well (or not) it worked and what can be improved next year using tangible data. You can't do that without a little tracking, measuring and analysing.
It's time to ask some questions to and about every part of your business to help you understand the whole process, from the products that sold, those that didn't, your customer service and, of course, the marketing efforts.
These are just suggestions, but will hopefully generate many more. Start with
Which products sold the most? Organise them into a list, from best-selling to least.
What were the most visited pages on your website? Is there any correlation to the best-selling list?
When viewed against your plan, did any product sell more (or less) than expected?
What are your stock levels? Did you have too much or too little of any products? Could you have sold more if you had more stock available?
- Customer Service
When was the busiest day/time?
How many returns did you have? How was the returns policy? Does it need revising?
Was any product returned more than another? What was the reason why it was returned?
What was the most common question you were asked by customers?
Was there a common theme customer commented on throughout? Shipping costs? Delivery times? Range of products?
How many abandoned carts did you have? Was there a reason people didn't complete the sale?
Could the process by streamlined?
- Marketing Efforts
How did the campaign go compared to the plan? Did you meet your goals? If not, what could you have done differently?
Which offers worked best?
Which platforms/channels triggered the most traffic/sales? Did the money you paid (if any) provide tangible benefits?
Did anything go better / worse than you thought?
What could you utilise throughout the year?
9. After The Event(s)
We know, once this is all over, all you'll probably want to it curl up and sleep given how hard you'll have worked, and while that's probably well-deserved, don't give up just yet.
Once the dust has settled, the orders are fulfilled and you've tracked, measured and analysed internally, use this time to follow up with customers on a less analytical, less formal basis to find out how they like your product or service.
Whether that's through a customer service questionnaire, asking them to write a review or even offering them a discount for their next purchase.
It's also a good time to catch up with your team (if you have one) and ask them what they thought worked well, what didn't and how you can all improve for next year. If not, ask yourself those same questions and be honest.
SQUARING THE CIRCLE
We hope that you find this marketing checklist of some use and it helps to propel your business onto even bigger success.
As we said, planning is key to maximising your efforts and your budget to drive those sales. By taking each step and looking at in more detail you can begin to mould your marketing strategy into something that's really going to take off this Christmas.
As well as looking forward, take some time to look at last year, and the year before for some insight. Bear in mind we've been through a pandemic recently so that data might not be as relevant, but it's worth looking at. If you don't have any historical data, then make this year your baseline on which to build.
Remember, before you press the button for your next campaign, spend a day or two before checking, double-checking and triple-checking your website, your workflow, your copy, your stock, your calendar, your email list, and everything to make sure that there are no nasty surprises waiting for you.
It's a lot to take in we know, but that's why we plan, to succeed. The more weapons you can have in your marketing arsenal, the more likely you'll be to share in its success.
We'd love to know how you get on. Please leave a comment below or consider sharing this blog with anyone you think might benefit. If there's anything we can help with in terms of optimising your website (or building you a new one), writing your marketing copy or designing your graphics, please get in touch. We'd be delighted to hear from you.
Let us be the first to wish you all a Happy Hannukak, a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and Terrific Taco Tuesday. Roll on 2023!