It’s that time of year again — you know, the most wonderful time of the year? That is, the most frenzied shopping and marketing month of the year? As consumers prepare to spend nearly $800 on average for holiday-related purchases in 2016, now is a good time for small businesses to stay top-of-mind among their audiences.

According to the National Retail Federation, American consumers spent approximately $6.3 billion during the 2015 holiday season, and this year that figure is expected to increase to around $6.5 billion. This impressive figure is the reason why 71% of top ecommerce and retail advertisers are planning to increase their holiday marketing budgets, according to the 2016 Holiday Advertising Survey Report.  

With more competition for attention during the holiday season, marketing this month may be challenging, but it promises to be rewarding for businesses who employ smart tactics. You don’t have to be an ecommerce giant to cut yourself a slice of the pie; here are some of our favorite marketing tactics that promise to boost your bottom line not only through the holidays, but also through the entire new year.

The best part? You don’t need a Coca-Cola-sized marketing budget to pull them off (see their A+ 2015 commercial for inspiration below).

1. Give your subscribers a gift using personal promo codes

The holidays are about gift-giving, so why not send a select group of customers or leads a promo code that’s unique to them? With a personalized promo code campaign, you can show your recipients that you value their relationship by giving them a special discount or free item.

In ONTRAPORT, you can choose from two varieties of coupon codes: personal coupons and group coupons. While group coupons allow you to reach the widest audience with your promotion, personal coupon codes have the added benefit of creating exclusivity for your recipients because the code is only good for a one-time use.

Choose a delivery channel (email, SMS or even postcard) and add a personal coupon code using the familiar merge field function to give a select list of recipients a special gift.

2. Capitalize on urgency with a countdown timer

Most holiday shopping revolves around a fixed deadline of the actual holiday, so there’s already a natural sense of urgency built into seasonal shopping. You can make the most of that urgency by designing time-sensitive campaigns that expire on a particular day, then display the time that customers have left to take advantage of your deal on an ONTRApage.

To do this, simply add a countdown timer block to the ONTRApage with your special promotion. Select the date and time that the promotion ends, and your countdown timer will display the remaining days, hours, minutes and seconds. You can also set up an automatic redirect once the clock reaches zero to send visitors to a different page with a message such as, “Sorry, Sale Ended!” or “Time’s Up! Get on the Waitlist.”

3. Send a personalized holiday card using postcards and merge fields

Throughout December, your customers’ email inboxes are filled to the brim with messages promoting deals, holiday greetings and purchase shipment notifications — so why not think outside the inbox?

Everyone likes receiving holiday cards, so a great way to engage with your customers this holiday season is to send them some personalized mail. Dealing with mail merge, choosing a local print house and manually addressing and stamping each message is time-consuming, but you can save time and still send your customers personalized messages using ONTRAPORT’s built-in postcards.

All you need to do is design a festive postcard template, use merge fields to personalize your message and schedule your holiday postcard send (here’s a helpful tutorial). As an extra bonus, you can add a coupon code (either group or personal) to your postcards to make the most of the spike in customer engagement and solidify their loyalty for the coming year.

4. Make the most of increased traffic by running more split tests

As you prepare for a holiday traffic surge on your web pages, don’t forget to make the most of those extra visitors to learn more about your audience’s behavior and preferences. During the holiday season, you can get more valuable information about how your audience responds to different marketing tactics by running a few extra split tests.

For example, if you’re planning a holiday email marketing campaign, test two different email subject line and pre-header combinations to see which performs best. If your data reveals a winner, apply what you learned to the rest of your seasonal emails for a lasting boost in engagement.

If you’re aiming to drive more sales conversions for your product during December, you can experiment with different headlines and calls-to-action on your sales page, or if you’re feeling very adventurous (and you have a very large audience), different pricing or product configurations.

During this seasonal push, be sure to check your performance frequently and adjust your tactics based on what’s working in real-time to maximize your conversions.

5. Think past December and prepare for a more profitable 2017

Although it’s easy to get caught up in seasonal marketing tactics, viewing the end of the year as a one-time chance to get the most sales possible, the truth is that your efforts during these months can have a lasting impact far beyond New Year’s Day.

Your goal should not be to generate as many new sales as possible during December (although that’s a nice bonus), but rather to build awareness, engagement and loyalty that you can leverage throughout 2017. To make that happen, formulate a plan to stay in contact with the new leads and customers you snagged during the holiday rush via a long-term nurture sequence.

For example, create a step sequence to follow up with new customers who purchase for the first time because of your holiday promotion. Figure out what kind of logical next purchase would make most sense for them: Perhaps if they purchased a one-time-only product or service, you could upsell them to a subscription or sell them a larger package. Focus on taking that relationship to the next level by subscribing them to an email sequence that sends them valuable information to build that relationship over time, including strategically placed offers to strengthen the buying relationships.

If you focus on nurturing your list year-round, your seasonal promotions are bound to be even better next year. According to Vivial.net, “Businesses that communicate with their target audience year-round have more successful holiday marketing campaigns (and, thus, sales) because they have built up strong relationships with shoppers.”

Thinking about holiday marketing tactics in the context of your larger strategy is critical. Although the holiday season holds the promise of a large, one-time revenue spike, it can benefit you in longer-lasting ways as well if you focus on developing over time the relationships that are sparked this December.

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Holiday Marketing Tactics to Win More Sales This December (And Beyond)
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Holiday Marketing Tactics to Win More Sales This December (And Beyond)
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As consumers prepare to spend on holiday purchases, now is a good time for small businesses to use holiday marketing to stay top-of-mind.
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ONTRAPORT
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