To Jenny Green, the owner of Fisher Green Creative, a Maine digital marketing firm, the holiday season means a lot more than Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. It really runs from November through January and includes holidays like Veterans Day, Small Business Saturday, the Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Chinese New Year. Green said business owners have a chance to capitalize on some or all of these holidays in a webinar sponsored by the Small Business Development Center of Maine.

“All of these holidays start adding up, and all of a sudden there’s lots and lots of different opportunities to take advantage of the holiday season to leverage for your marketing strategy,” Green said.

Once business owners identify the holidays that align with their brand, they can develop a social media marketing strategy. But before the holiday sales promotions and chatty blog posts, Green said it’s important to attend to housekeeping for each platform.

First, the correct information, including addresses, store hours and website links should be checked. Next, check your buttons on all social media platforms and the business website. “Pretend like you’re a consumer. Click on the different buttons. Make sure that everything is up to date. The worst thing you want to do is create all this great social media content only to find out that there’s a dead link in your profile, and the customer can’t actually get to where they need to start shopping,” Green said.

She also suggested making posts shoppable so a customer can buy goods or services through a social media channel rather than just on a website. Accomplishing this varies depending on which platform is used. According to Green, making posts shoppable increases potential sales revenue by nearly 50%.

Other housekeeping tasks include updating the Google business profile, considering using a search engine optimization service and signing up with Google Merchant. This is a Google feature that allows business owners to list their products on the Google shopping platform.

Green also recommended that as the holiday season approaches it’s important to collect reviews and email addresses for the newsletter mailing list, improve product and service descriptions and take lots of photos and videos. A final bit of housekeeping is to consider updating the business logo for the holidays or creating a holiday landing page.

“This is a pretty hefty checklist,” Green said, “but these are all really critical pieces that will help when you do get to the social media content, will help it not go to waste.”

She advised using a spreadsheet to develop a holiday marketing strategy. The spreadsheet should include potential monthly themes, post dates, a blog schedule and newsletter and email content ideas. As the business owner begins to craft content using this calendar, Green said the most important tenet is to stay consistent and authentic.

“I think it’s important to stay true to who you are,” she said. One way a business owner can do this is to simply show their unique personality through their content.

Understanding customer behavior is an essential piece of seasonal marketing. Behaviors are different from demographics, where customers are segmented by age, income, location, education and gender. Understanding customer behaviors is about learning what motivates a customer and what drives them to make purchases. And, according to Green, during the holiday season, there’s some differences in the way shoppers act. For instance, a grandmother looking for the perfect Hanukkah gift for her grandchild is going to shop differently than when she goes on her weekly grocery store run.

Holiday shoppers can be grouped by behavior: the “doorbuster shopper” wants the best deals; the “conscious consumer” wants to know that their shopping makes a difference; the “shopping connoisseur” wants to use their senses during the shopping experience; and the “last minute shopper.” There’s also the “online shopper,” the “do-it-yourselfer,” the “artisan enthusiast” and the “holiday entertainer.”

In understanding these different behaviors, a business owner can then tailor their messaging and customer shopping experience for each group. “This will help direct the flow of content as your products and services relate to the customers’ shopping goals,” said Green.

In order to appeal to the “shopping connoisseur,” for example, social media content should include lots of photos and visuals to appeal to the potential customers’ senses. For the “DIY consumer,” it may mean crafting cheat sheets on how to create their own recipes or gift baskets. And for the customer who wants the best deal, it may mean creating 2-for-1 deals or offering free shipping.

Despite housekeeping, planning, a careful study of consumer behavior and crafting unique messaging by behavior, Green said that running paid advertisements should be considered. “It’s nearly impossible to generate momentum during the holidays without some kind of paid advertising campaign. You want to look for a 1.8% to 5% return on your campaigns,” she said.

Rebranding ads are important. Rebranding refers to engaging audiences who have already interacted with a brand. For example, a customer may spend some time visiting a website but not make a purchase. Rebranding means that a product or service from that website can pop up when a consumer is visiting a social media platform or other website.

Another piece of Green’s advice is to use each social media platform uniquely. It’s important to not just create content on Instagram and copy it to Facebook. You can use the same text and photos, but you have to format them slightly differently so that there is a unique post for each platform.

Finally, Green noted that any type of marketing, including holiday marketing, is a long game, and it’s recommended to begin six months in advance for any holiday promotion planning. “If you’re just starting, that is okay. There are still plenty of opportunities and things you can do to get going,” she said. “Let’s go ahead and start thinking about 2023 and make 2022 a really good practice run.”

by Sonja Heyck-Merlin