You know what time it is. As soon as the clock struck midnight on Halloween, October 31st, we moved not only into November, but into peak holiday season. Adobe predicts, “…This year’s online holiday sales will reach a record $83 billion, an 11-percent year-over-year increase compared to last year.” Amy Gesenhues, Marketing Land

Google's Top 3 Holiday Predictions

Think With Google

The 4th of July serves as a primer for the upcoming festivities of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, which will be followed by New Years, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patricks Day. In fact, if we are to keep going, Easter, Mothers Day & Labor Day, and Father’s Day follow suit afterward.

There is a holiday for every month and Christmas is the by far the most anticipated holiday of the year. While Thanksgiving is only two days away, most businesses have already begun their marketing for the biggest holiday of the year.

Whether it’s Coca-Cola’s signature polar bear and Santa Claus ads or M&M’s (Mars, Inc.) clad in seasonal attire quipping about St. Nick, most major brands will feature themes catered to the holiday.

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Ad for Coca-Cola’s newly integrated holiday marketing campaing.

So, as a business/brand, the age old question now comes into play: “If everyone else is doing it, should you”?

Perhaps you don’t celebrate Christmas or in the event you do, maybe your sensibilities are more in line with those of Ebenzer Scrooge. One way or the other, chances are that you won’t be able to avoid an office party, Secret Santa event at your church, or Christmas carols on the radio.

It’s highly probable that Christmas decorum will line your city streets, Salvation Army volunteers will bid you good tidings, and television season finale’s will hint at the celebration in either Biblical connotation or consumer ploy on a mass scale.

To not belabor the point any longer, the question remains, should you tailor your marketing for the holiday season?

The answer is neither a simple yes or no. Instead, it is one that lies with the brand you’ve created and continue to support.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and day-after Christmas sales rule this time of the year with inboxes flooded with emails boasting of an “Additional 30% Off!” Lines wrapped around your local Best Buy and overrun parking lots at your local outlet mall have all become the seasonal norm.

Black Friday v. Cyber Monday

Courtesy of Direct Marketing News

In examining the scene from above, it would seem natural that you should join in the two month long sales event. From a financial standpoint it could place your sales figures in the black and help you offload inventory that has been sitting and taking up space.

In fact, it is a tactic employed by many shops that carry novelty items or products that are out of season. For example, summer wear is sure to sell at a price point far below its normal market value. So, if you’re a retail outlet, consignment shop, or distribute speciality items, it’s a great way to boost your sales and use the additional foot traffic to market your  brand and year-round services/products.

Again, this is advisable if/when the holiday is in line with your business/brand beliefs. The holiday spirit is infectious and fleeting, and while the customers entering your storefront will be in a pleasant mood, it may not last.

Why is that?

When you enter into holiday marketing, you’re stepping into a fiercely competitive environment. The revenue generated from Christmas and Winter holidays is larger than any other by comparison.

Holiday Spending; 2013-2014

Courtesy of NRF Foundation

So, let’s imagine that you choose not to participate in the shopping frenzy that occurs between November 1st and and December 31st. Does this affect your credibility or services? Is it a move you can afford to make financially?

Ask yourself this question first: Do I have the logistical means to support a holiday marketing campaign?

This question should be asked first and foremost months ahead of the year-end shopping season. Why? Because while the sales cycle is rather short for these purchases, they require a significant amount of manpower whether operating online or in a brick-and-mortar location.

For example, say you decide to engage in the seasonal sport of servicing gift-giving shoppers at discounted prices. While you may be delighted to think of selling out of your inventory before the season has ended, what about after effect?

You know, all the items that will be returned or exchanged due to their color, size, or the gift recipient having been given multiples of a single item. It all requires the same effort (staff, hours, etc.) to operate your normal day-to-day functions along with the residual holiday nuances.

Or perhaps you are able to staff your business for the influx of customers, but is your business equipped to handle the same. For instance, if you run an online store, can you fulfill all your purchase orders and their respective delivery dates while maintaining your customer’s security?

Identity theft is a topic left largely unspoken about amongst online retailers. The staggering revenue generated is the prime appeal to scam artists committing fraud. The inverse for a brick and mortar location is not only keeping your customers safe, but your inventory as well, as sticky fingers seek to gain the five finger discount.

Holiday Marketing

Home Alone 2: Sticky Bandits

At this point you may be feeling no more sure about whether or not to engage in the holiday marketing blitz. While we’ve already mentioned that the answer is more complex than yes or no, we can tell you this for certain. If you’ve yet to get a jump on the holiday season, it’s too late.

It’s never too late for next year, but this year is in the can. Scrambling to put something together could cost you more than you earn. It’s best to gather ideas for what you can do next year and try to implement smaller holiday sales events leading up the winter holiday season.

For example, put together a social media campaign (if your target market is on social media) and test audience engagement. Find out what works and what doesn’t work. Get those holiday emails rolling out early, discover wording that resonates with your audience, and negotiate deals that are beneficial for the customer.

However, what if you are well on the path of your end of your marketing push?

If you’ve already put several months of work into this season, compare your current campaign to these tips provided by Entrepreneur,

  1. Plan a personalized campaign.

    • “OfficeMax saw an enormous boon using this strategy with the ‘Elf Yourself’ social-media campaign; The site drew 193 million visits and continues to evolve with new characters, dances and animated graphics.”
  2. Get your staff involved.

    • “Studies show there is only a 2 to 8 percent overlap between employee and company social networks.”
  3. Hit key emotions with your campaign.

    • “Focus on the feelings that fit the season, including friendship, ‘home for the holidays,’ good will, giving back and gratitude.”
  4. Create an easy-to-share campaign.

    • “Consider that 74 percent of consumers rely on word of mouth as the top influencer of their purchasing decisions.”
  5. Include online deals.

  6. Create a consistent experience across all channels.

    • It’s crucial to create a consistent user experience regardless of which channels your customers are using; The deals you’re offering should also stay consistent.”

The holiday season is in full swing and while it’s crunch time for marketers and business owners alike, the most important thing is to remember the season. All the promotional material and door buster deals put into play can distract us from the invaluable time we are given to be thankful for the condition of our lives and the people we cherish.

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Break Through The Noise

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*For more data on holiday season spending, visit Direct Marketing News and Think With Google