Digital marketing for the holidays: It's not too late to get your business up to speed

Digital marketing for the holidays: It's not too late to get your business up to speed

This article originally appeared on America’s SBDC Blog.

You've already figured out that you were supposed to start planning your holiday marketing in the summer… whoops.

Even if you're among the 1 in 4 small business owners who told QuickBooks they don't have marketing expertise, there's no need to panic. You can still get up to speed with a digital marketing campaign for the holidays. If July was the best time to start, the second-best time to make a plan is now.

Why you still want to create digital marketing for the holidays

If you haven't launched digital marketing for the holidays yet, there's still time to create and execute a plan. And you should.

Nine out of 10 consumers plan to celebrate the holidays in 2022, according to the National Retail Federation. And almost two-thirds of consumers say that sales and promotions are more important to them now than they were in 2021 (thanks, inflation). With 41% of consumers expecting to spend more this holiday season, according to new QuickBooks research, digital marketing creates an opportunity to direct some of that spending to your small business.

It's not just retail. Restaurants and service businesses can offer gift cards, special rates or packages, or holiday rates for services to get a slice of the pie. The important part is to remind customers of your brand as they shop (and self-indulge) for the holidays.

"It's so important to stay top of mind by using all of your channels you have available," said Ashley Gates, owner of Sugar Cube Lane children's boutique in Missouri. "Post often, but make sure you're capturing an email or SMS so you have a way to stay in contact and continue to retarget."

Cover the digital marketing basics

If you're not totally sure where to start with a digital marketing campaign, you're not alone. Fortunately, there are a lot of good resources available to help you get started. QuickBooks can get you started with a manageable guide to marketing online. If you own an e-commerce business, this in-depth ebook on digital marketing is for you.

If you're truly starting from scratch, there are three digital platforms you want to be sure you have set up.

"In this day and age, you absolutely must have a social media presence, a website, and a Google Business Profile. People must be able to find you and find information about you," Gates said. "If they're not able to easily find out basic information about a business from those online sources, people will quickly move on to the next." 

Use social media platforms, your website, and your Google Business Profile to stake out your territory. Make sure your contact information is accurate and your offerings are clear. Ask for product and business reviews. You're on your way!

Test and learn

With a digital presence established, you can use the time before the holidays to test out different channels for digital marketing. 

There's no lack of options for digital marketing: social media marketing, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, and email marketing. Each type has different price tags, strategies, and platforms attached to it. And what works for one business or industry may not work for your small business. 

"We are still trying so many things and not 100% sure what’s worth our money," said EB Belts Kauffman, one of the owners of Idaho backcountry gear company Argali. "We do almost all of it — SEO, pay-per-click, Google Ads, email marketing … we're currently looking for a way to enter the mobile marketing world."

Experimentation is the name of the game at this stage. Tap into a mindset of curiosity to test, track results, learn, and try again.

"We test a lot and make small changes, trying new ways to reach our audience," Belts Kauffman said. 

Play to your strengths

When you find something that works for you, do it again. For Sugar Cube Lane, fun native social media postings attract new customers, and email marketing converts returning customers. 

"People seem to think email is dead for marketing, but it's actually pretty consistently the highest conversion rate of any marketing channel," Gates said. "It's a great way to stay in touch with your customers without having to rely on an algorithm."

For Argali, producing high-quality outdoor films is at the center of its brand identity.

"Without a doubt, our content creation is our most effective tool. It’s what really gave us our name," Belts Kauffman said.

If content marketing efforts like video production are outside of your skillset or something that, as owner, you don't have time to do, keep it simple. Outsource creative work to a local freelancer, take advantage of free marketing assets, or use tools to create simple assets. Services such as Canva, Adobe Express, and Snappa can help you design professional-looking content quickly. 

Lean into local

Small, locally owned businesses like yours give your community flavor and flair. At a time when the supply chain and transportation routes are turbulent, consumers have yet another reason to buy from independent business owners this season. One of your digital marketing's jobs is to remind community members how important their support is — to you and to the local economy.

Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is a big opportunity to ask customers to shop small, whether it's online or in person. Use your digital marketing channels to tell customers when you'll be at Christmas markets, holiday pop-ups, and other community events. Join the #ShopSmall movement (these assets can help!) or start a #BuyLocal campaign, using the downloadable guide from the nonprofit American Independent Business Alliance if you'd like to make your effort official. 

Look for local business associations and city or neighborhood holiday marketing efforts; you may be able to join in their established digital marketing messaging. If you're struggling to piece together digital marketing for the holidays, lean into small business resources, such as:

And you can find more helpful articles to get your business through the holidays on the QuickBooks Holiday Hub.

Get jinglin'

Take the pressure off yourself: Your digital marketing for the holidays doesn't have to be perfect. It's better to get a single message pushed to your audience than to agonize over details and never publish anything. 

"Not marketing is the only misstep you could make! Getting your products or services out there as much as possible is so important," Gates said. "Your competition is marketing to them, so you need to too."

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