Black Friday may be the official kickoff to the holiday season, but you really need to treat this as the “leaping off point” and extend your preparation throughout the entire next month or so. Many businesses, both online and at brick and mortar locations, rely on holiday sales to carry them through the rest of the year. Is your small business ready to take advantage of all the holiday opportunities and start the next year on a high note?
What’s In a Name?
Black Friday and Cyber Monday used to be specific events. It was something that you waited for every year, collecting coupons and rumors in an attempt to be the first in line to get the best deals. As time went on, though, the start of Black Friday kept getting earlier and earlier, with many stores opening for their special sales in the middle of Thanksgiving.
Online outlets are much the same, with many of them launching their sales and promotions days in advance of the traditional kickoff.
Back in 2010, it was actually a newsworthy thing that Cyber Monday became the highest online sales day of the year. Now, we’ve spread that out over an entire week in an effort to reach as many customers as possible. This is what led to overall sales for Thanksgiving and Black Friday in 2013 to reach $1.964 billion. (Which was up over 18.5% from 2012.)
Why Stop There?
As a small business, it’s okay to rely on special events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get that initial boost, but there’s no reason to stop there. The entire holiday season is one big opportunity – but only if you’re fully prepared for the long haul.
Set Your Online Plan of Attack
So where do you start?
Unfortunately, at this point it’s a little late to start hoping for better search engine rankings. SEO is a process that takes many months, and now isn’t the time to start trying “experimental” (read: unethical) tactics to try and make up for lost ground.
So let’s assume that you want to make the most of the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is still time to set a plan and get the most out of this season. You have to start with the basics, but then you can start reaching out through several different channels to let people know about your products.
Website preparation – How you present yourself is critical during the holiday season. While it isn’t strictly necessary, one of the best ways to grab the attention of a holiday crowd is through a dedicated page where you collect all your deals, promotions, and special items. Make it clear how they can reach this page from your home page, and keep your most profitable items (or best deals) up near the top.
A seasonal page like this isn’t difficult to create and maintain, but make sure you have a professional designer and coder go over it so it looks great and won’t buckle under the stress of so many visitors.
Social Media – This is your opportunity to really engage with your potential customers and give them a reason to visit your website. The earlier you start spreading digital worth of mouth, the better.
Focus your efforts on your major networks (the ones your target audience frequents the most), and consider offering a special reward for those who are already following you this season. This can help get the ball rolling, and then, with their help, you can start spreading the word about your holiday promotions to others.
Just remember that social media endeavors require a serious balancing act. You need to engage without being annoying. Be consistent, but don be a pain. Set up a content calendar to keep track of what to post and when, and you’ll be able to generate a lot more buzz. Here’s a few more tips to get the most out of each post:
- Post pictures, they’re far more effective than text
- Focus on your best or most impressive deals
- Hint that there may be a time or supply limitation on those deals
- Pay attention to the hashtags of your competitors, you might want to follow the trend
- Post at consistent times so customers know when to watch for deals
Email – Many businesses write off email as an old fashioned marketing technique. The fact is, though, that it is an extremely cost effective option for small businesses, and many studies are showing that customers who arrive on your site because of an email are more likely to convert to a paying customer.
You don’t have a lot of time to get your emails created and sent out before the end of the holidays, though, so be sure that you send the right message at the right time. This might be to inform them of your best deal of the season or to remind them that they’re coming up on the last possible chance to place and order and receive it before the 25th of December.
Paid Advertising – Many small businesses feel that they don’t have the budget for a paid advertising campaign, but if you’re trying to reach as many people as possible, this might be your best choice. The search engines make it easy for you to get some exposure while staying within a strict budget.
This will take some careful planning, though, and you’ll need to make sure you’re targeting the right keywords. You may think you want to go for words like “Black Friday Deals” or “Best Deals on [your product]” but chances are there are a lot of large companies going for the same terms.
Target the long tail keywords (“discounted [products] in [your city]” or “[your product] with [specific detail]”) and you’ll be able to bid on more terms and develop a more effective strategy.
A Lot of People in a Little Time
Your promotional activities have to reach a lot of people in just a little time to be really effective throughout the holidays. This means you need a game plan and you need to be prepared to put in the time and effort to keep things running smoothly. It will take a lot of work, but when you start the next year coming off the momentum of a great holiday season, it will be worth it.