It’s finally the holiday season! And you know what that means: business owners are scrambling to prepare for the shopping rush.
Forget about the usual concerns of sales, marketing, and business financing. The holiday season means dealing with an entirely new set of issues.
How should you compete with larger retailers? How heavily should you cater to the holiday crowd? Should you keep making the usual content or try something more seasonal?
It’s enough to make any small business owner want to rip their hair out!
Fortunately, you’ll be able to skip the dreaded holiday scramble this year with our 8-step business marketing guide.
We’re going to be covering some of the major issues you’ll run into this holiday season, as well as how you can creatively engage with your customers throughout the holidays.
Beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s going to be a busy couple of months. But with a bit of planning and some attention to detail, you’ll be able to make the most out of this season.
Sound good? Great, let’s dive right in!
Quick: when you think about the holidays, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
If you’re like most people, you probably said “family”, “friends”, or “quality time”.
And with good reason! When the average person thinks about the holidays, there’s a heavy emphasis on the meaningful connections in their lives.
As a savvy business owner, you can’t afford to ignore such powerful emotional motivation. Or to put it another way, you can’t expect to get away with content that isn’t compelling these next few months.
Here’s the reality of your situation: 90% of the time, you won’t be able to beat giant retailers when it comes to price.
While you’re trying to determine the best business financing strategy, they already have wholesalers selling to them at massively discounted rates.
Make no mistake about it: they’ll always offer the best price because they have lower production costs.
And while pricing is important, it’s not really what you’re selling as a small business.
What you lack in competitive pricing, you make up for in customer service and customer experience.
In other words: you care. You respect your consumers time and money and treat them as such.
The key to small business success during the holiday season is actually quite simple. If you can develop a connection with your consumers, you’ll be one step closer to securing a sale.
All of that sounds great, but the real question is: how do you actually put it into action?
Well, let’s say you have a blog that’s consistently updated. Instead of producing the same content you’d produce all year, focus on the specific issues that your consumers are having this time of year.
Not only is this a great way to drive more organic traffic, but it’ll also increase the likelihood that your audience will find the content relevant.
But why stop there? Create seasonal appreciation posts on social media. You’ve probably already shown behind the scenes footage on Instagram Stories, but this time, have the people are the office say what they’re thankful for this year.
Or they can talk about their favourite holiday memories, holiday horror stories -- you get the idea.
The point is simple: don’t just create seasonal content because it’s “that time of year again”. Show consumers that your team understands just how important those holiday connections are.
Because the sooner you’re able to connect with consumers, the sooner you’ll earn enough trust to warrant a sale.
Here’s the deal: the basic principles of marketing never change.
No matter the business you’re in, your goal is always to make the sale as appealing as possible.
And as far as the holiday season goes, making the sale appealing comes down to two factors: customer experience and pricing.
We’ve already discussed the general idea of optimizing your customer experience via an emphasis on creating engaging holiday content.
But pricing is still massively important. Although, if we’re being honest, the goal isn’t to necessarily have the cheapest product.
When you’re in a crowded industry, trying to offer the cheapest price possible is no guarantee of success.
Why? Because despite what consumers might say, they’re not looking for the cheapest product.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Consumers aren’t just after the cheapest price -- they want the greatest value possible.
Some of you might be thinking, “wait, aren’t those the same thing?”
Well...yes and no.
On paper, the cheapest product might appear to offer the greatest value. But anyone who’s purchased something online will tell you that when you buy something suspiciously cheap, you often get what you pay for.
Confused? Let’s try a little thought experiment.
Imagine that there are two small businesses selling headphones. They’re virtually the same quality, except they’re going for 2 different prices.
Business A is selling the headphones for $5 while Business B is selling their headphones for $10.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, not so fast.
Take a deeper look at what these businesses are offering. Business A has free shipping, but since it’s shipping for a Chinese warehouse, it’s going to take about 15-20 business days to arrive.
Business B may not offer free shipping, but they’re offering two-day shipping for $5 during the holidays.
And if you’re like most consumers, you’d happily pay an extra $5 to get your headphones that much sooner.
See what we mean? Value isn’t just about money. Customers want an experience that’s just as efficient as it is cost-effective.
Offer incentives that sweeten the deal and make it easy for consumers to find the value in purchasing from you.
And remember to remind consumers that these unique seasonal discounts won’t last forever. Once you’ve developed a connection with your audience, you’ll want to make sure they know to take advantage of these deals.
Countdown timers on product pages and exit pop-ups are great ways to establish that sense of urgency without compromising the integrity of the customer experience.
The goal isn’t to sound “gimmicky”. You’re just reminding a friend that these holiday deals won’t be here for long.
Listen, there are dozens of tactics you can use to appeal to consumers this holiday season.
You can tweak your email marketing strategy to send out holiday relevant emails, or you can leverage your social media profiles to drive more holiday traffic to your site using hashtags.
Encouraging consumers to create user-generated content detailing their unique experience with your products can be pretty impactful once you’ve built some brand loyalty.
You can collaborate with influencers who create holiday gift guides, offer holiday customer giveaways, and even team up with charities to give back.
But at the end of the day, all of these tactics are extensions of the 2 holiday marketing principles established above.
As a business owner, your job is to identify a need and address it. And during the holidays, consumers feel the need to emotionally connect with brands and businesses.
It’s the reason that Coca-Cola drops their usual marketing approach this time of year and focuses on how cute their little polar bear mascot is.
And here’s the crazy part: even with all their branding and name recognition, you still have them beat when it comes to connecting with consumers on an emotional level.
Why? Because you are your consumer.
Hear us out. You might be selling your consumer a product, but as a small business owner, you’re fully aware of the stress the holiday season can bring.
The beauty of your marketing approach lies in its capacity for authenticity. You’re not just a faceless corporation. You’re a team that’s trying to help people, plain and simple.
So often, we business owners trying to inflate the ‘professional appearance’ of their brand. And while that can certainly work for some businesses, this is certainly not the time to try it out.
The experience you’ll be able to provide will always be more transparent than anything a Fortune 500 company could offer.
If you do nothing else this holiday season, make sure that your consumers understand that they matter to you.
Once you’ve done that, you can start to get creative about the incentives you offer. 2-day shipping, coupon codes, sales -- with a bit of patience and a lot of A/B testing, you’ll figure out what works for your business.
What’s important is that you don’t stress out over the fact that giant retailers are beating you on pricing. Because what you’re offering consumers is much more valuable than a few extra dollars.
If you’re able to fully embrace both sides of this coin, it’s only a matter of time before your holiday season goes from stressful to profitable.