The Complete Holiday Marketing Guide

holiday guide

Think about the time you last made a big purchase for somebody else.

It might’ve been your mom’s birthday, or your wedding anniversary. But I’ll bet that a national holiday—such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day—was up there on your list.

Your digital marketing campaigns need to cash-in on that purchasing behavior around specific holiday seasons. That way, you can get to the top of your customer’s mind when they’re thinking about purchasing gifts not just for their loved ones, but themselves, too. 

In this guide, we’ll share nine tips and tricks to help you master your next holiday marketing campaign.

The Importance of Holiday Marketing

Wondering why holiday marketing is important, anyway? After all, you’re likely running digital marketing campaigns year-round. Sure, you assign more budget to months when you’re running promotions—but that’s it.

Failing to push the gas on your holiday marketing campaigns means you’re missing out on the trillions that people spend collectively each holiday season.

It’s reported that households in the U.S. spent $1,496 during the 2019 Christmas holiday season. All of those purchases totaled more than $1.1 trillion—one of the biggest shopping periods ever recorded.

The best part? You’re likely already doing eCommerce marketing on the places those big-spending holiday shoppers splash their cash. Research shows that 8 in 10-holiday shoppers are influenced by the internet before making a purchase. Your emails, social media posts, and blog content are all hosted there. 

Posting holiday-related content there could be all you need to grab their attention, and cash-in on some of the money they’re spending during the holiday shopping season. 

How to Do Holiday Marketing: 9 Tips and Tricks

So, are you convinced to invest in your holiday marketing campaigns? 

Not only will you capture some of the money that holiday shoppers spend each year, but some campaigns have gone down in the hall of fame, bringing fame and brand awareness for years to come. 

Creating a holiday marketing strategy doesn’t start the night before the big day, though. You need to put some thought and preparation into your holiday marketing campaigns—and it starts way before then you might think.

Here are nine tips and tricks to help you plan yours.

  1. Create a holiday calendar
  2. Plan before the actual holiday
  3. Think of how customers shop during the holiday
  4. Consider holiday sales and promotions
  5. Go all-in with social media
  6. Sync brick-and-mortar with online
  7. Lean into retargeting
  8. Lay off the A/B tests
  9. Use marketing automations

1. Create a holiday calendar

When we think of the “holiday season,” events like Christmas, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday usually come to mind.

However, it’s not just holidays during the Winter season that you can create marketing campaigns around. Other holidays are huge spending opportunities for customers, too—including dates like:

  • New Year
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Easter
  • Mother’s and Father’s Day
  • The 4th of July
  • Back to School or College
  • Halloween
holiday shopping

The only problem? It can take up to 12 weeks to create a new marketing campaign. Yet remembering the week before a big event, and trying to get your assets created in time, probably won’t see you create the most successful holiday marketing campaign.

That’s why it’s smart to have a big calendar that plans out all the holidays you’ll be celebrating. 

Sendible’s holiday calendar is a great resource to bookmark if you don’t want to create your own.

2. Plan before the actual holiday

Regardless of the dates you’ve added to your own calendar, you need to start turning the wheels on your new holiday campaigns way before the date rolls around.

And that’s not just because 35% of people start their holiday shopping before October ends:

holiday shopping sales

Planning your holiday marketing campaigns in advance gives you enough time to put together your plan of action—including creating your marketing materials, setting-up automations, and checking everything works properly.

It also gives you enough time to plan around any issues that might crop-up during your planning. Delays with creating assets, and getting sign-off on budgets, can take more time than you originally planned. 

So, the real question is: how far in advance should you plan your holiday marketing campaigns? 

Aim for three months beforehand if you have a fast, agile team. Six months prior to the event is a good timeframe if you’re a bigger marketing department whose sign-off process is lengthier. 

3. Think of how customers shop during that holiday

Now we’ve got the holiday calendar prepared, and we know how far in advance to plan, it’s time to move onto the details.

This starts with understanding your target customer and how they shop during that specific holiday season. That has a huge impact on how you’ll promote your products before each big event. 

For example:

  • Millennials intended to spend $466 on Christmas gifts
  • High-income households are more likely to shop online for Christmas gifts
  • Baby boomers are expected to plan ahead and start shopping earlier than any other generation

Your holiday marketing strategy for reaching each demographic would vary dramatically. A holiday marketing campaign targeting high-income households would prioritize their online campaigns, whereas one targeting baby boomers would release their marketing materials earlier than usual. 

The same concept applies to other traits about your target buyer, too. 

Things like payment methods and preferred marketing channels can all be affected by your target customer:

payment methods

4. Consider any holiday sales or promotions

Did you know that 52% of customers look for promotions during the holiday shopping season? 

If that wasn’t convincing enough, the same report found 81% of customers expect to be swayed by a holiday promotion if they see one. 

That means promoting your coupons, discounts, or promotions could result in a holiday sale—even if they didn’t intend on buying from you.

Promotions can take many forms: 

  • Free shipping
  • Discount or coupon codes
  • Bundling products with a discount (e.g. three products for the price of two)
  • Upselling (e.g. promoting a similar, higher priced item at the checkout)

But regardless of what perks you’re offering, you should build these promotions into your holiday marketing campaigns. It can boost the ROI of your strategy—especially considering they can sway customers into buying your products.

You can do this by treating the sales promotion as the copy for your campaigns. Use it as your Facebook Ads headline; add it to the call to action in your holiday-related blog posts; send emails mentioning the promotion.

The more you can spread the word about promotions during the holiday season, the more chance you have of capturing new customers.

5. Go all-in with social media

We already know that social media is a huge purchase machine. 

As many as 74% of consumers make purchasing decisions using social media platforms—which is why brands allocated a quarter of their annual budgets to holiday social media marketing.

It’s smart to make social media the foundations of your holiday marketing campaign. So, start to think of how you can use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to reach more people when they’re buying holiday gifts. 

Here are some examples:

  • Use UGC from customers: Influencer marketing is a popular way to promote your brand or products on social media. However, user-generated content is 9.8x more impactful than influencer content when making a purchasing decision. Grab testimonials, photos, and videos that your customers have created and use that as your social media content during the holiday season.
  • Include hashtags: Hashtags allow your social media content to be seen by people who don’t already follow your branded profiles—especially now that Instagram allows users to follow hashtags. Hop onto seasonal hashtags, such as #ValentinesDay or #HappyHolidays to reach people browsing them. 
  • Point people to an online gift-giving quiz: A piece of interactive content, such as a quiz, requires people to do something. This gets them more engaged, whilst also giving you the chance to recommend personalized products. Use social media to promote this quiz to direct followers back to your website. 

Another great way to elevate your social media strategy in your holiday campaign is by using holiday language like December quotes in your captions. By doing this, the post will resonate more given the time of the year.

6. Sync brick-and-mortar with online

These days, we think that eCommerce dominates holiday sales. But sales from brick-and-mortar stores during the holiday season total more than you’d imagine.

It was reported that revenue from brick-and-mortar comprised $869.4 billion during the last holiday season. Plus, customers say they do 59% online shopping and 36% in-store shopping—proving sales do happen away from the internet. 

Limiting your holiday marketing campaigns to online-only means you’d miss out on those sales. 

However, it’s not a choice between one or the other. You can sync your brick-and-mortar stores with your online marketing strategy to get more holiday sales.

You can do this by:

  • Getting customers to take photos and upload online to enter a giveaway: This is a superb way to create user-generated content, whilst also enticing in-store customers to follow you online. Starbucks is infamous for this. They run a contest each year for people to doodle on their red cups.
  • Using social media to advertise offers to people within a 10-mile radius of your store: Facebook Ads allow you to target people within a certain radius of your brick-and-mortar store. Use your promotions to entice them in. 
  • Allowing in-store customers to pay using apps: It’s estimated that the digital payments market will be worth $6.7 trillion by 2023. Get in on the action, and encourage online customers to visit your stores, by allowing them to pay using their app. You can also gamify the experience by allowing them to collect points.

7. Lean into retargeting

Every business has a sales funnel that customers pass through on their way to purchase.

People at the top of the funnel are brand new to your product. They don’t know or trust you yet, so it’ll take much longer for them to pass through and end up purchasing an item.

However, people who already know and trust your brand are further down the sales funnel. You don’t need to educate them or get them to trust you. They might already have that built from previous interactions with you.

This means there’s less barrier to converting people who already know you. Those people should be your main focus during the holiday season because time is short. 

There are various groups of people you can retarget with platforms like Facebook and Google Ads, including:

  • All website visitors
  • Visitors to specific webpages
  • People who’ve liked your Facebook Page
  • People who’ve engaged with previous Facebook posts
  • People who’ve abandoned their online shopping cart 
  • All previous customers
custom audience

Regardless of which retargeting audience you choose, they’re all further along the funnel than people who’ve never heard of your brand. They need fewer nudges to purchase—which can boost the ROI of your holiday ads.

8. Lay off the A/B tests

A/B testing is a superb marketing practice that makes sure you’re not wasting time (or money) on poorly performing campaigns.

Yet whilst you might be planning months in advance, the peak time to run your holiday marketing campaigns is short. By the time you’ve got enough data from A/B testing, the peak time for selling might be over. 

Instead, use data from your entire marketing campaigns to make decisions about your upcoming campaign. This can include results from last years’ holiday season, if you ran special promotions then.

For example, you might figure out that last year, Valentine’s Day emails with heart emojis in the subject line got double the amount of opens. Or, Christmas-themed blog posts you published in November got three times more conversions than others.

Figure out what works—and double down on that. 

(If this is your first holiday campaign, don’t panic. The data on which channels, messaging, and content works best from this holiday marketing campaign can be used again next year.)

9. Use marketing automations

When it comes to holiday marketing, don’t get down in the weeds doing things manually. The more you can automate your holiday campaigns, the more time you’ll have to double-down on what’s working as you go. 

Remember: the holiday season comes and goes faster than you anticipate. There’s no time for split-testing, nor spending hours doing a task that can be automated in five minutes.

There are hundreds of automations you can use to save time on the back-end and make the sales process run smoothly during each holiday season. 

Here are some examples:

  • Abandoned cart Facebook messages: Get away from the overcrowded News Feed—and into a person’s private inbox—by creating a Facebook Messenger bot. It will automatically ping the people who’ve left an item in your online cart, showing the exact item they’ve left—making the advert feel more personalized. It guides them back to the website to complete their holiday purchase.  
  • Email sequences for flash holiday promotions: In the preparation stage of your holiday campaigns, draft email sequences for your upcoming promotions. You can automate the delivery of these. For example, Email #1 is delivered on Monday, email #2 is delivered two days later, and so on. Scheduling them upfront takes one more activity off your plate.
  • Post-purchase survey feedback emails: Your holiday marketing doesn’t end once someone purchases an item for you. Customer feedback is golden—and you can use it to finetune your marketing around the same event next year. Create a survey and link to it from your purchase confirmation emails. It’s a simple way to automate feedback collection. 

4 Great Holiday Marketing Examples to Inspire Yours

Are you ready to create a successful holiday marketing campaign? 

Now’s a great time to start thinking about upcoming events. (Remember: you’ll need to start planning months in advance.)

Let’s take a look at four of the best holiday marketing examples you can draw inspiration from. 

1. John Lewis’ Christmas TV Ad

Some retailers go all-in with their holiday marketing and become famous for them as a result.

In the UK, the department store John Lewis did just this. These experienced holiday advertisers release an annual TV advertisement around the Christmas season. It’s usually three minutes and comes with a unique soundtrack performed with a well-known musician or band.

In fact, John Lewis’ Christmas advertisements are so legendary that people even record themselves reacting to them.

But here’s where things get interesting: Planning for the annual John Lewis TV ad starts in January. That gives them plenty of time to nail the idea, create the video, and perfect the final touches before the holiday season release. 

2. ManyChat’s Holiday Giveaway

Don’t panic if you don’t have thousands of dollars (and 12 months) to create a viral TV advertisement.

Your holiday marketing campaign can be as simple as running a giveaway. These ask people to enter their information in return for an entry to your competition. 

Although just a few people will win, you’ve collected the emails of everyone interested in your product. This allows you to collect tons of lead data over the holiday season that might turn into loyal customers later in the year.   

We did this last Christmas by giving away 100 million free SMS and 1 billion free emails. It gave new customers an incentive to sign up and was a shareable piece of content.

3. Etsy’s Christmas gift guide

Another example that proves holiday marketing doesn’t have to be extravagant comes from Etsy.

Research shows that two out of every three people struggle to buy gifts for others. Some 38% struggle because the person already has everything, and 19% said the recipient is too fussy.

Etsy solved this problem for their potential customers by publishing a Christmas Gift Guide on their website. It asked visitors to select who they’re buying for and recommended a bunch of personalized product ideas. 

The goal? To help people choose gifts for their loved ones. (Even those who already have everything.)

Christmas gift guide example

4. LinkedIn’s Happy Mother’s Day tweet

If you’re working with a small budget, holiday marketing campaigns can feel overwhelming.

You need to splash the cash to reach your target audience around a big event, right? After all, you’re competing with huge brands that can push their name all over the internet during the holiday season.

Not necessarily.

This tweet from LinkedIn proves that you can still jump onto other holidays without having to splash the cash on it. They simply posted a tweet on Mother’s Day, asking their followers to share what their mom has taught them.

Key takeaways

As you can see, holiday marketing campaigns don’t have to be complex. They can be anything from a simple thread of tweets, right the way through to a full-scale TV advertisement. 

The most important thing to remember is that the planning of your holiday campaigns shouldn’t start the night before the big date. It takes time to plan out your ideas, design the creatives, and get sign-off.

It sounds like a lot of work for one small period, but remember: the holiday seasons are some of the biggest times for spending. Make sure you take advantage whilst you can.

Start your Chat Marketing campaigns now for a successful holiday season.

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The contents of this blog were independently prepared and are for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ManyChat or any other party. Individual results may vary.