The holidays aren’t too far away, but they also aren’t right there, staring us in the face. This is the perfect time, before the rush but not too soon, where you can really start working on those holiday promotion plans. But as a small business you have to make sure you do it the right way.
Some mistakes are incredibly common among smaller businesses that don’t have an entire team to plan out every step based on millions of dollars in consumer research. You might not have the resources of the big guys, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have your own ace up your sleeve.
Small Business Holiday Season Mistakes
Just avoid these 10 mistakes and you will have a great, successful holiday season this year (and every year).
1. Failing To Hire Extra Help
You don’t need to have anyone on hand if things get crazy, right? Extra help is for the big guys, the giant chains who will have swarms of people going to the store to wait at 5 a.m. for door busting Black Friday sales.
Actually, no … you need more help. Let’s say your customer count increases by 10 percent during the holidays. Will you have the time and energy needed to help them all? What if there are more than expected? When will you get your own shopping done — or holiday parties, or time with family?
Hiring another person or two as seasonal workers is worth the money and easy to do, with so many young people in particular needing a short term position to earn some extra money.
For smaller budgets, try hiring at least a virtual assistant who can take over smaller repetitive tasks (like social media sharing, phone calls, etc.) or even help you sort through your emails.
2. Keeping Their Ad Budget The Same
Hopefully you have seen steady growth since last season. But either way you should consider increasing your ad budget.
With social media ads being so affordable there really is no reason not to bulk it up a bit as the holidays draw near. Same with Google AdSense and other avenues where you can catch local searches
3. Ignoring The Promise of Landing Pages
Landing pages are one of the easiest ways you can boost your SEO clout, bring on more traffic and promote your site. Having one for the holiday season is an excellent idea that gives you a great platform.
Alternatively you can also do mini sites, which are holiday themed versions of your pages. For example, Hubspot did a holiday mini site a few years ago with great success. In this case, it is a holiday themed page that leads to products, services and content related to that time of year.
First Site Guide did a great roundup of Christmas plugins to help you optimize your site for Christmas, including creating a special landing page. Also, here’s a summary of holiday visual marketing tactics to bookmark.
4. Not Seeing The Value of Post-Holiday Hype
We all know that holiday sales are going to be your goal. But that shouldn’t be your only aim. In fact, the period after the holidays is one of the most important times of the entire year.
Think about it! People get gifts from your business, which puts you on their radar. Maybe they make a review that helps alert others to your brand.
You can make that happen by encouraging word of mouth or online reviews. Or ask them to sign up for your newsletter for special deals. A good call to action and a strategy to cultivate activity after the holidays is going to be priceless.
5. Not Going Paperless
What is this, 1990? Why do we still encourage payments via checks, or send out paper gift certificates or mail printed documents to sign? What is happening? It is 2017 and by now these should be digital.
Going paperless saves your time (pre-holiday post offices are swamped!), makes it easier for your customers to buy and send your gift cards, makes your business more secure and eco-friendly, and helps make your paper work easier to monitor, thanks to various platforms that will notify you of the status, and remind your customers to sign. It is also more affordable. Keep Solid Sign is the platform I am using to keep my digital paperwork organized. It’s currently free and makes the whole process smooth and secure.
6. Not Analyzing Your Own and Your Competitors’ Trends from Past Years
Look at what your competitors were doing last year. What content did they publish? What holiday campaigns did they launch and what worked for them? What worked for you and what didn’t?
Try searching Buzzsumo Facebook Analyzer to find Facebook business updates on your topic. Facebook Analyzer is a newer tool but it does go back as far as October 2016 giving you a solid archive for the last year’s holiday season.
Also make sure to record your own tactics and conclusions to refer to for the years to come.
A useful tool to start using now (if you haven’t done that yet) is Cyfe. It saves the archive of all Twitter mentions you are collecting enabling you to go years back to analyze. It will store your competitors’ mentions for this holiday season to give you loads of data to get inspired by for the next holiday season.
7. Starting Sales Too Late
Sure, you can make a sale go up three weeks before Christmas. But the closer you get to the holidays the less people are going to have to spend. They are also more likely to go to a big chain to get a last minute gift. Starting a bit earlier, say before Black Friday, means you are getting people when they have more time and money to spend.
Use Google Trends to research the trend and time your holiday marketing effectively. Search your specific topic because trends can vary. For example, “Christmas safety” trends start climbing up on November 6.
While “Christmas decorations” trends start happening as early as late October.
8. Starting Sales Too Steep
You might think offering insane discounts will bring people to you, but it is also going to eat into your profits. Yes, big chains can offer 40 percent off and more without batting an eye. You are smaller and don’t want to undercut yourself.
Besides, people are willing to spend more at small businesses because they see the quality as being higher. Work with that and keep your discounts and sales moderate.
9. Just Letting People Come To You
Engagement! It isn’t just something you do before you get married. You should be engaging with people on social media, on review sites, anywhere that allows you to get your brand name out there and cultivate an image.
As the holidays get closer, be sure to really ramp this up.
10. Not Making Holiday Specific Email Marketing Campaigns
Email marketing campaigns are one of those amazing, undying, unchanging forms of content that just always seems to work.
If you have a subscriber list, start sending out those holiday specific drip campaigns. Also use those landing pages and social media accounts to get more emails to add to the list.
Have some other common mistakes to name? Let us know in the comments!
Broken Decoration Photo via Shutterstock
You need to prepare for the sudden influx of people in the holidays. Don’t take it lightly or you may end up losing some sales.
I’m writing this in 2020, so three years after this article was first published. But, there is a lot of good information here. Number 9, I think, is the one of the most important. Getting out there and interacting with people will get you some visibility. Just sitting on the side and waiting means you will always be in the shadows where no one looks.