It's hard to believe but we're already three quarters of the way through 2014, which means it's time for the Lightning Round, the holidays. The holiday season is huge for business owners and consumers alike, with billions being spent on gifts, parties, and more. For business owners who want to make the most of the holidays for their company, then the best thing to do is have holiday-themed specials and sales. However, since everyone is trying to do the same thing, marketers need to work smarter if they want people to notice their business. Here are 6 selling tips that marketers can use to ensure they have a spectacular holiday sales seasons.

  1. Start Marketing Early
    October is the start of a holiday marketing corridor that stretches to the start of the new year. The right time to start marketing will vary from business and holiday, but whatever the campaign, it's important to start early. Campaigns need time to spread to consumers and even with the power of the internet, that takes time. Planning a Halloween promotion? Don't expect a lot of people to show up if it's only advertised the day before. People need time to tell their friends, clear their schedule, save up money, etc. Also, with so many retailers marketing their own sales, specials and events, the longer marketers wait, the more likely it becomes that another business owner has already capitalized on the opportunity by reaching the target consumer first. Marketers should try to advertise sales at least one week in advance, and events should have at least two to three weeks of marketing prior to the event.
  2. Use Integrated Marketing Techniques
    The holiday shopping season is so important for businesses that many marketers use every marketing tactic in their arsenal to reach consumers. The best way to maximize the benefit of using all of these technique is to use integrated marketing. This allows marketers to exponentially increase the range of their marketing by connecting them all together. For example, email marketing messages should include social sharing buttons so it's easy for email subscribers to tell their friends about specials from a retailer. Content published on a website should be promoted on social media channels. And PPC ads can be used to promote events, sales or promote brand awareness. Having these elements work together allows them to feed on one another, making each tactic far more effective than if used separately.
  3. Use Promotions, Incentives and Giveaways
    People are going to spend money on the holidays, that's why retailers love them, but that doesn't mean that business owners don't have to hustle to get people into the store. Marketers should pull out their best promotions, incentives, and giveaways during the holiday season. With so much money being spent during the holidays, the thought of saving money or getting a prize can get people excited about going shopping. These don't have to be expensive. Even something as simple as offering a free gift to customers that visit a business location can make them stand out. Also, remember that during the holidays, everyone is having a sale, so a strong hand will be needed to make an impression with retail. Sales of 10% or 15% off may be good during the year, but when everyone is doing it, then it's not much of sale. Business owners may need to be prepared to offer more a higher discount than usual to get people in the door.
  4. Tie Holiday Themes into Your Sales Strategy
    Holidays themes, such a songs or iconography, are a great place to start when designing holiday campaigns. For example, a craft store can have a "Deck the Halls Sale" or a museum can do a "Silent Night, Silent Auction". Working these kinds of things into a campaign may seem a little cheesy, but it really helps to make an impact on the people who see the ad. Holiday themes give marketers another way to connect with consumers and get the ad to stick in their minds.
  5. Beef up your Customer Support
    As I mentioned in another article, customer service is one of the things that internet marketing can't fix. Poor customer service can kill any holiday sales initiative. Before starting a holiday marketing campaign, business owners need to ensure their customer support processes are operating efficiently. Business owners can take proactive measures to build customer trust, such as displaying customer reviews on a website, social media or in email marketing messages. It's counterproductive if customers have questions about the sale they can't get answered. Worse still, if these customer service issues spread via social media, it can kill the campaign entirely. Business owners may want to consider hiring a few temporary holiday staffers to help you keep things running smoothly.
  6. Consistently Use Graphics to Promote Sales
    The old saying, "A picture is worth a thousands words." is especially true for marketers. Each holiday in the season invokes strong imagery that business owners need to incorporate their marketing materials. Besides the individual ads that customers may see, holiday imagery should be used on a business's site and social media channels. While, there may be some variation between the graphics, there should be some consistent element that let's people know they're on the right page and that they're looking at the right special. This can be the company logo, a particular graphic for the sale (e.g. banner), or a holiday-themed spokesperson that appears in all materials.

With October upon us, now is the time for business owners and marketers to start planning their holiday specials. It takes time and effort to craft a campaign that reaches customers and drives them to action. And if business owners want to follow the first tip and "Start Early" then the planning phases need to be finished in the next few weeks.

For a little more help, read this article with statistics from the 2013 holiday season that can help business owners draft their plan of action.

Published on: Oct 6, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.