Does it feel like summer was just yesterday? Well, it’s time to put away the pool toys, cover the grill and pack up the bathing suits. For small retailers, it’s time to start planning your 2013 holiday marketing strategy. (In fact, in a recent Experian survey, 69 percent of marketers had already started planning—last month!). Here are some tips to get you started.
Determine your marketing mix. What types of marketing messages do you want to get out, and in what channels? Will you use traditional methods such as direct mail, cable TV or radio advertising; digital outreach such as email marketing, social media and online advertising; or a combination of both? Marketing isn’t one-size-fits-all. To design the perfect plan for your store, look at what worked for you last year (and what didn’t); set goals for what you want to achieve with your marketing this season; and consider how your target customer has changed in the past year. For instance, if you are marketing more to younger customers, you may want to increase your focus on digital marketing and decrease your direct mail spending.
Create a holiday marketing calendar. Timing is everything when it comes to holiday sales. You can have the best marketing plan and creative in the world, but if you don’t get your ad in to the newspaper in time for it to run, that won’t matter. Create a calendar of key dates, and work backward from those dates to determine what needs to happen when. For example, what do you need to do now, in October and in early November to be ready for Black Friday promotions?
Prep your employees. Customer service is a huge aspect of marketing for small brick-and-mortar retailers. You’re competing not only with huge ecommerce sites like Amazon, but also with big retailers who integrate their online and offline shopping experiences seamlessly. What’s more, “showrooming”—the practice of customers coming into your store to look at products in person, then using their phones to find a cheaper price elsewhere or online—is a real threat. To combat this, your employees need to be on top of their game. Not only must they provide stellar, smiling service, but they also need to be in-store sales consultants with expertise about your products and the competition’s. Make sure your employees are well versed in what you sell and can advise and guide customers to keep them in-store.
Take advantage of Small Business Saturday. This initiative to drive more shoppers to local small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (this year it’s November 30) is growing every year. Visit the Small Business Saturday website to learn more and get prepared with marketing materials, store signage and more you can use to rally your customer base to come out and support small business on Small Business Saturday.
Partner with local businesses. One reason Small Business Saturday is so successful is that it brings the community together. Don’t wait for Small Business Saturday to co-market with other businesses in your area. Get involved with your chamber of commerce or business development association to come up with events that benefit everyone.
Give back to the community. Speaking of the community, now’s the time to get involved. You may have a cause-oriented marketing program in place all year long, but if not, the holiday season — when giving is on everyone’s mind — is a great time to choose a cause that matters to you and your employees. Choose an organization and a means of giving that make sense for your brand. That might be donating a portion of proceeds for one day to charity, giving shoppers a discount if they donate nonperishable food for you to give to a local food bank, or working with a Secret Santa organization to get customers to buy gifts for underprivileged kids at your store. The key is to get your customers involved, too—so make the cause part of all your holiday marketing outreach.
Plan your holiday events. Holiday events, such as special shopping nights, in-store promotions or performances, are a great way to differentiate your store during the busy holiday season. Figure out what events you’d like to hold this year. Determine what you need to put in place to make them happen—whether that’s refreshments and seating, extra inventory or holiday décor.
Spread the news. Whether it’s a huge sale, in-store event, hot new product or charitable cause, let local media know what you’re doing well in advance. Reporters and bloggers are flooded with pitches this time of year, so make yours stand out. Putting the perfect spin on your press releases, whether it’s a feel-good story, a hot gift trend or a way customers can save money, should pique the interest of local reporters.
Holiday retail is more competitive than ever, but if you get started early and plan well, you can still come out ahead of the pack.