Holiday marketing planning starts in late summer for many companies – particularly those with big holiday booms. Now all those months of planning and set up have suddenly come to an end and it’s go-time with holiday marketing campaigns off and running.
Industries like retail, e-commerce, m-commerce, car services, house cleaning and sitter services (both for kids and for pets) are especially busy as the year comes to a close, and marketing campaigns are a great way to capture business. With public-facing brands having so much to lose with a misstep or campaign mismanagement, the end of the year can be as stressful as it is supposed to be cheerful.
Now that we’re in the thick of it and you have all the major parts and pieces in place (hopefully), it’s time to carefully manage the day to day. Here are some common missteps companies can actively avoid if they want to not only survive but thrive during the holidays.
Email campaigns are huge during the holidays … but they’re huge for everyone else too. It’s easy for your emails to slip by unopened and unnoticed in the flood, or worse, begin going to the junk folder because of user inactivity.
It’s also easy to set up your email campaigns ahead of time and simply let them run unchecked. This is where so many teams go wrong. During the busy holiday email season it’s more important than ever to monitor email analytics. Before the email campaign begins have set goals and a firm understanding of average email performance and trends at your company so you have something concrete to measure against.
Keep in mind that people are busy, traveling and inundated with email this time of year, so you may actually see email open and click rates drop – though your emails should be seeing some action to be considered successful. Spiking unsubscribe rates are a major red flag and need immediate attention. You want to entice customers, not annoy them to the point where they opt out permanently. Monitoring bounce rates is also important to ensure you aren’t blacklisted and your email numbers aren’t skewed by undelivered attempts.
Don’t be afraid to deviate from the original email plan if things aren’t going well. Switching messaging, cadence, format and even offers can improve results. If segmenting your email list wasn’t part of the original plan, take some time to break out different targets based on past activity and send them tailored messages that have more of a chance of sticking.
Email can be a major driver during holiday sales campaigns so it’s important that you’re constantly monitoring, testing and improving to ensure this vital component of marketing is performing as expected. Building in set time for data analysis and discussion a few days after each send will keep this task from slipping unnoticed to the back burner.
Many companies have successfully mastered the art of engaging with customers on popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook; but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to a catastrophic misstep. Saying the wrong thing, sending the wrong message or not responding to online criticism can create a social media firestorm that will earn your organization unwanted attention.
Create a social media plan that includes pre-approved message themes and wording, then use that to create a social media calendar. While posts can be scheduled ahead of time, make sure one designated person (or a team if your social media manager has a lot of travel coming up) is responsible for keeping a careful eye on what’s planned to go out. Many companies have run into trouble when an unforeseen current event makes one of their pre-scheduled posts seem untimely, insensitive or opportunistic.
It’s also important to have a designated social manager or a chain of approval for monitoring and responding to direct customer interaction on social. Consumers like to voice their dissatisfaction online and companies running holiday sales could potentially see a rise in social engagement that needs to be promptly and professionally handled.
People may also react to your holiday-specific ad campaigns or promotions (think Starbucks’ red cups). It’s important that one trusted person or committee is responsible for responding to any engagement. This keeps unauthorized employees form responding in a way the business doesn’t approve of and creating an even bigger issue. Deciding who is responsible for social media management, how they’ll handle daily posting and monitoring and the course of action if negative comments arise will help companies smoothly and successfully run their social media during this hectic season.
Major campaign themes were taken care of months ago, but what about smaller day-to-day aspects like blogging. Maintaining a monthly or quarterly documented content calendar that includes blog posts is a major hallmark of successful content marketing. Planning at a minimum a few weeks ahead will make sure you stay on schedule, avoid gaps when bloggers are out of the office and have appropriate posts to thank customers, promote end-of-year sales or recap company accomplishments as needed.
While planning and executing holiday promotions and campaigns is the fun part, it’s easy to ignore the cleanup. The holidays often bring seasonal changes to websites, pinned social media posts, special ads and other timely items that eventually need to be taken down or returned to normal. To avoid looking sloppy make sure a clean-up calendar is established and designate appropriate parties responsible for follow through. You don’t want angry customers because the special deal advertised in the ad they just clicked on has actually expired or they show up to your store during the hours of operation posted on your website only to discover that those were extended holiday hours. Not only do situations like this leave a bad taste in the consumer’s mouth, but it can also cost you money if you let expired ads continue running.
Running marketing during the holiday season isn’t an easy task. If you struggled this year, plan ahead for next year by budgeting for agency help during the upcoming holiday seasons. Working with an agency is a great way to bring in specialized expertise without adding in-house head count.
In addition to help planning, an agency can also take over the hectic daily management, engagement, execution and analysis to make sure your holiday campaign stays on target alongside regular marketing activities.
The end of the year comes with mixed emotions. The weather is cold, calling some people to curl up under a cozy blanket and others to strap on a pair of skis. The holidays are looming with the promise of time away from the office spent relaxing with family. And final sales deadlines are quickly approaching. It’s one of the busiest times of year that happens to coincide with quite a few Federal holidays and long professional and personal to-do lists. With so many interruptions and things vying for attention it’s easy to simply trust the marketing plan that was put in place months ago and become lax on monitoring, analysis and program up keep. This is a recipe for a failed holiday marketing campaign.
Understand what the overarching campaign plan takes care of and where you need to supplement and monitor with daily activates. Then formulate a more granular plan to fill in the gaps and successfully survive this holiday marketing season.
Ben Smith is a Researcher at Fruition. Ben is a graduate of the University of Denver’s Mathematics program, and he enjoys learning about Google’s algorithm updates. He's a vital asset of the Fruition team, and he one day hopes to publish a book. In his free time, you can find Ben walking around reservoirs in Colorado.
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