In transparency, my Christmas tree from 2019 is still up. But if you're a responsible business planner, you're already thinking about next Christmas. Why? This is exactly when you should be plotting out all of your seasonal campaigns for the year.

Yes, Valentine's Day is just weeks away, but if you're not planning for New Year's 2021, you're already behind.

Think I'm crazy? This is something that I've learned from experience. In November, my company Alice is all-hands-on-deck for Veterans Day, to ensure veterans and military spouses have the resources they need to launch and scale their companies. But it takes long-term planning ahead to get our content in line. And at that time last year, we were already planning our content for the end of this year.

Things are bound to change, of course. But the earlier you start, the more time you have to get your great ideas in place. Here's how I'm thinking holiday planning through at Alice.

Chart the Customer Journey

It might sound presumptuous and even a little creepy to map the steps of your customer's interactions with your company, but getting visual with this concept has been profoundly helpful for me and my co-founder, Carolyn Rodz.

Think of it as writing a love story: It's how you and your customer meet, get to know each other, and eventually become irreplaceable to each other. Knowing how each of these steps could take place can empower you with the knowledge to make it happen. 

For example, as you think through pain points your customer may be trying to solve with your business, it will tell you not only how to advertise and market, but how you may be able to hone your product or service. Once you've won that customer, taking steps to map out how to keep them will aid you in doing just that when you go from paper (or screen) to real money.

Mark Your Calendar

When you buy a calendar, days like Mother's Day and Memorial Day-- as well as all the other big buying holidays-- are probably already marked. But what the calendar companies don't do for you is tell you when to start planning ahead. For example, my marketing team has already been planning for February's Black History Month for monthsWhy? The more time you allow yourself and your team to prepare, the more fleshed out your plans will be. 

Imagine the difference between a Halloween promotion that starts in the beginning of October and one that you've been going through tactically since April. Plus, planning ahead will afford you the sense of calm necessary to make it through the long, crazy days of those special promotions.

Budget Your Time and Money

Part of early planning includes making sure that you know exactly what you're spending on your seasonal campaigns, both in terms of your time and your dollars. Will you need to hire seasonal help in December? You'll have to separate out a portion of your day to advertise for workers, interview candidates, then train them. Then you'll need to set aside money with which to pay them.

Sure, you'll be promoting for the big days, but your competition will be, too. You need to show potential customers why you're the right choice for their celebration in a crowded field. 

On the other hand, holidays that may mean big sales for other businesses could mean nothing for you. No one is crowding restaurants on the 4th of July or for back to school, for example. It all goes back to knowing your customer. You can't do 12 big campaigns a year, but you can do four or even six. It's all about prioritizing the times that will get you the most traction. 

So start planning today for the promotions that matter. You're sure to win newly devoted customers if you do it right.