Christmas is a major time of year for Australian businesses, with one study finding that retail sales at this time in recent years have surpassed $50 billion. Even though the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a curveball to businesses in all sectors this year, there’s still reason to believe that Christmas 2020 will be a big one. In fact, staying at home may mean that people choose to spend more to make the seasonal period spectacular – and, as a provider, it pays to be prepared.
Whatever happens, getting sorted in advance is crucial. Here at Promark, we know just how important it is to be ahead of the curve when it comes to digital marketing at this busy time of the year. The risk of losing the chance to drive sales is a big one – and the key to avoiding this outcome is to ensure that the stress is not left to simply mount up as the big month of December approaches. This Christmas digital marketing planner will walk you through the steps required.
Step one: brainstorm and strategise
Timeframe: January to September
Given that the Christmas period is one of the major times of the year for consumer spending, it’s never too early to start planning for Christmas – no matter what consumer-facing sector you are in. Large firms often begin their Christmas planning as early as January, and it makes sense. If you are planning something grand, such as a video for social media, the project management process will most likely need to be well underway by spring. You will need to procure quotes from video firms, for example, while you will also need to ensure branding and other logos are ready to be embedded.
It’s here that a digital marketing calendar can really come into its own. This way, you’ll be able to track the progress of any external commissions and ensure that they are delivered by the deadline. By being organised in this way, you can be sure that the right posts go out at the right times: a post about a user-generated Christmas tree decoration competition, for example, shouldn’t be going out on Christmas Eve when most trees have already been up for weeks. It may seem simple, but the reality is that a busy business can easily lose track of what needs to go up when – especially if the team is time-pressured, or staff on the marketing team are working multiple jobs at once.
The most sophisticated digital marketing planner will contain lots of different points. As well as the proposed date and time of publication, they often assign responsibility for the content to a particular team member. They can be linked to the timescales used by the product or supply chain teams so that all public claims about delivery times and stock levels are accurate. They can also be linked to social media scheduling tools to ensure that they go out automatically.
Around Christmas time, some firms also take the opportunity to have a good look at their key messages and re-interpret them through a, particularly festive lens. Perhaps during the rest of the year, you present yourself as a warm, friendly brand. From there, you could consider using stock image libraries to pictures of warming Christmas-themed fireplaces and using in-keeping, brand-friendly images like these to emphasise your key messages.
Step two: gather collateral
Timeframe: September to November
Once you have your idea and Christmas digital marketing strategy in place, it’s time to make sure that you have the raw materials ready for execution. For social media managers, this will entail the creation of things like cover photos for Facebook and Twitter pages, or a co-ordinated Instagram campaign showing off the best of your firm’s wares. For paid Google advertising planners, it may include the writing of adverts based around the keyword research that you have already carried out in step one. And for email marketers, it will mean putting together a set of mailing list emails emphasising your latest discount offers.
If you’re doing this in-house, you may be able to get away with leaving it until November. But if you’re making the sensible decision to outsource the material creation process to a firm such as Promark, it’s worth getting them onboard much earlier so that they can begin to work some festive magic on your campaigns.
It’s worth remembering that your marketing collateral should, more often than not, be product-focused in nature, either directly or indirectly. There are some exceptions to this: some retailers with instant brand recognition go for high-concept omnichannel advertising, such as the British retailer John Lewis – which tells a cute story in an advert for online and television each festive season. And certain parts of your digital marketing properties, like a Facebook cover photo, work well when they’re anchored around a simple and effective festival graphic – like a Christmas tree branded with your logo. A good rule of thumb for posts, though, is to publish two posts about products for everyone that’s not directly product-related – so mixing up your latest offers with videos of cute puppies opening presents, is a smart bet!
For a smaller or medium-sized retailer, however, the main goal with posts, emails and adverts is to emphasise that you have a desirable product that customers want – at competitive prices. It’s also useful to schedule in some time to disseminate practical information that helps customers make effective seasonal purchasing decisions. Perhaps you have a discount scheme in place, and in consultation with the product team you’ve decided to extend this from 10% to 20%. Or maybe you intend to open until 7 pm on Thursdays for late-night shopping. If that’s the case, make sure you don’t miss out the basics – and get these dates into your marketing calendar.
Once you have your marketing collateral in place, it’s time to move ahead with a launch. For some firms, such as John Lewis with its video advert or Coca Cola with its promotional marketing truck, a so-called “hard launch” on a stated date is a way to build hype and anticipation – and even, potentially, generate press coverage. But for a smaller firm with less brand recognition, a soft launch over time is best.
Finally: it’s worth remembering that the Internet really is your friend when it comes to getting graphics, template emails, advert management apps and more in place. Free or low-cost image libraries, email schedulers and more are all available, and they often have low barriers to entry given that they are aimed specifically at non-marketing experts. There are also affordable digital marketing agencies out there which have the capacity to manage the collateral development process for you at flexible and cost-effective rates – so it could be worth making some enquiries as the festive season approaches.
Step three: feedback
Timeframe: across December and into January
While planning may seem like the name of the game in the digital marketing sphere, the reality is that you’re only getting some of the hard work out of the way by preparing for launch. Social media algorithms work in part by rewarding brands which interact with those who reach out to them – so it’s worth investing the resources in having your social media channels monitored over the course of the festive season. That way, you won’t miss an enquiry from a customer.
Another aspect of feedback, meanwhile, comes after the campaign is over. When January rolls around, and the team heads back to the office (or, as is likely in 2021, the virtual office), it’s worth looking back over how the campaign went. Some of this can be done internally, and metrics like Facebook post engagement, the number of retweets or level of click-throughs from key mailing list emails are all useful to look at. Depending on how powerful your digital marketing tools are, you might be able to cross-compare this with previous years and identify what went right and wrong. Some firms, however, also choose to go external for feedback. Focus groups are a way of working out what posts or emails went down like a storm – while finding out which ones failed and knocking them off next year’s list.
Christmas can be a lucrative time for consumer-facing firms: for some, it can make the difference between profit and loss, and ending the year on a good note or a bad note. After all: urban legends claim that the November gift-buying date of Black Friday is so-named because it was the time of the year that companies finally got back into “the black” and away from making a loss. But it can also be a stressful time for many firms, especially when it comes to marketing.
By following the advice outlined in this guide, it’s possible to make sure that you don’t miss a single marketing opportunity – and that you can rest and relax on Christmas Day.