Preparing a Christmas marketing plan for your small business

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Prepare your Christmas marketing plan

Christmas is an important time for almost every business. It can either lead to a huge increase in sales, or a quiet spell as people focus their attention elsewhere. No matter what the festive period means for your business, it’s vital you have a Christmas marketing plan in place in order to make the most of the opportunities on offer, or to help you ride out the lean spell it brings.

Let’s look at the basics of putting together a Christmas marketing plan.

1) It’s never too early to start

It may seem strange to start thinking about Christmas marketing in August, but the truth is all the big companies will have their festive marketing plans drawn up and ready to implement. They’ll even have sent out Christmas press releases with the aim of securing vital coverage on those “must-have gift lists” that appear on an annual basis.

The lesson here is that your Christmas marketing plan will take time to research, write and implement. So you can’t do all this in the first week of December and expect to see good results.

Your Christmas marketing plan should be part of your summer/early autumn calendar every year.

2) Understand what your customers will be looking for at Christmas

The first step in drawing up a Christmas marketing plan is to understand how your potential customers are likely to behave in the run up to and during the Christmas period. After all, these are the people you’re hoping will buy from you.

If you’ve already drawn up customer personas to help you with your marketing, then you’ll need to refine them for your Christmas planning. If you don’t have customer personas, then you should start by creating them.  You can follow this guide to create your own customer personas. These will help you with all your future marketing.

Once you have your customer personas drawn up, it’s time to think about how each persona will behave in the festive period.

What will there spending priorities be? Will they do their gift shopping early or late? Will they be more or less interested in your products and services?

These are the kinds of questions you should be asking to help establish your modified Christmas personas.

3) Understand your business’s position at Christmas

You’ll already have begun looking at this issue as part of the last section. You’ll also have some instinctive knowledge of the issue. For example, if you specialise in Christmas decorations you can expect a big increase in orders, whereas if you’re a loft conversion company you know you’ll probably be at the back of most people’s minds.

However, it always pays to dig into any data you have. The most useful data will be Google Analytics data from previous Christmases. If you’ve got GA fully set up, you’ll not only be able to see how many people visited your website and when, but also how many sales you made and which channels help generate these sales.

Or, if business tends to be quieter in the run up to Christmas, you’ll be able to see when this trend starts.

If you don’t have GA set up, then get it installed on your website as soon as you can. It won’t be able to help you with this year’s Christmas marketing plan, but the sooner it’s on there the sooner it will start collecting data. You can learn about installing Google Analytics in this guide.

4) Start drawing up a basic outline of your marketing plan

By now you should have all the information needed to draw up a brief outline of a Christmas marketing plan.

Namely, you should know :

  • What potential customers are looking for over the Christmas period.
  • How your business can meet these needs. (Or, how your products/services fail to meet these needs.)
  • Which channels drive your Christmas sales. (Or when your lean spell starts.)

With this information you should be able to draw up a basic statement of intent. For example, if you’re a Christmas decoration business you might say: “Our customers will be looking for high-quality, hand crafted Christmas decorations. We can provide a range of tasteful glass baubles. In the past channels that have driven most sales are Facebook and Pinterest.”

Alternatively, if you’re a  business that  expects things to slow down, a loft conversion company  for  example, you might  say: “Our usual customers will want to  focus their spending on gifts and will  not want their home lives disrupted over the Christmas period. As an expensive project requiring significant building work, demand for loft conversions will fall. Our quiet period begins late November and lasts until late January.”

Once you have a basic statement, you can begin to expand it into a fully-fledged marketing plan.

5) Flesh out your marketing plan

First things first. Your basic statement covers your customers as a whole, but you’ll have a few, if not several, different customer personas.

So the first step in fleshing out your marketing plan is to expand your basic statement into a detailed, specific statement for each of your customers.

For each persona, you should know what they’ll want from you, how you’ll target them and when.

You’ll also need to set goals. These goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, and time limited (SMART).

For example, saying “we will increase sales with our Christmas marketing campaign” is not a good goal to set. It’s not specific, you can’t really measure it (as we haven’t said what period the increase will be measured against) and as such it won’t let you understand how well your campaign did.

A better goal would be:  “During the period from December 1st to January 15th we will aim to increase website sales by 15% compared to the same period last year”.

By using SMART goals, you’ll be able to accurately judge if you met your targets.

Remember, the goal of increasing sales is still a valid one even if Christmas isn’t a busy period for you.

You can learn more about setting SMART goals in this guide.

6) Decide which tactics you’ll use to achieve your goals

You know who you’ll be targeting, which channels you’ll be targeting them through and what your goals are.

But what specific methods do you plan to use to actually make these things happen?

There are two main options to you and you’ll probably use both in combination.

The first is to incentivise purchases. You could, for example, offer a price discount, a special gift, or free delivery. So we could go 3 for 2 on our handmade Christmas baubles, or offer 15% off a loft conversion which commences work in January.

The second is to increase the number of people who are exposed to your business. Obviously this should be a long-term aim for your business through search engine optimisation and organic social media growth.

But in the short term you can use social media ads and search ads to boost the number of people being directed to your Christmas special offers.

If you’ve got an existing email marketing list, then a well-timed Christmas promo email is always a great way to drive extra sales.

(If you haven’t got an email marketing list, start building one using this guide. You can also sign up for the GoDaddy email marketing tool.)

Whichever online tactics you use, ensure they’re properly tracked through GA so you can measure the results.

You might even want to attempt a Christmas PR campaign in order to attract more attention. These are harder to implement and track, but can still reap rewards. You can learn about small business PR in this guide.

Don’t be afraid to make use of new form of traffic generation when it comes to your Christmas marketing campaigns, doing so may help you beat your targets.

That said, don’t start a new paid marketing campaign without understanding what you’re doing.  You can read this guide to learn the basics of Facebook ads, this guide to get started with Twitter ads and this guide to get to grips with Google AdWords.

And of course you can always consider hiring an agency to handle these things for you.

By working your tactics into your Christmas marketing plan, you’ll know have a strategy that explains who you’ll be targeting (and why) how you’ll be targeting them and the goals you hope to achieve.

There’s just one more step.

7) Identify and produce the assets you’ll need to execute your Christmas marketing strategy

You may have the theory of your marketing plan finished, but there’s one practical step you need to take before it’s ready to be implemented.

You need to pinpoint what assets you’ll need to deliver your planned campaign.

What do we mean by assets? It’s things like images and text that will form an integral part of your campaign.

This is likely to include product photos and descriptions, ad copy, email design elements, web design elements, and so on.

You don’t have to produce all this yourself, but you will have to understand what you need and commission so it’s finished in time for your campaign to launch. The sooner the better.

Next steps

Once you’ve followed the seven steps above, you should have a ready-to-implement Christmas marketing plan.

Putting it into action should be relatively straightforward. But don’t forget how important it is to monitor the results of your plan so you can see how it shapes up against the goals you set.

You can then use that information to pinpoint what worked and what didn’t work so well. Doing so will help you improve marketing strategies you create in the future, no matter the time of year.

Will Stevens
Will joined the GoDaddy EMEA team in 2017, following the acquisition of HEG. He covers all aspects of digital marketing, from SEO to email, for the GoDaddy UK blog. Previously, he has worked in online journalism and also conducted online marketing campaigns for a number of well-known brands.