2011 Holiday Marketing Guide by socialicontact


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									                         A Holiday Marketing Story: The 12 Chap
                                                                   ters of a Successful Season

What’s the most wonderful time of the year? Now! The holidays are rife with
opportunities for your small business to grow its lists, attract new customers, and
increase sales. And if you start your holiday marketing now, you will be able to take
full advantage of all the holiday season has in store for you.
Learn everything you need to know about successful holiday marketing in our 12 chapters, complete with
ideas, advice, and insider tips.

As with any marketing campaign, you will want to create a plan before you get off and running. In coming up with
a plan, you’ll need to ask yourself some key questions about what you want to accomplish this holiday season and
create goals for your campaign. Once you have your overall goals, you will need to establish a budget. Knowing your
budget and goals will help you create a plan that works for your business.

In creating your plan, you’ll want to
think about how email and social media               Did You Know?
marketing fit into your overall marketing mix.       According to the Direct Marketing Association’s The Power of Direct
Your messages and offers should be fairly            Marketing, email delivers the highest return on investment across
consistent across your marketing channels,           marketing mediums by a whopping $43.62 for every dollar spent.

whether online, print, etc. Consider your
goals and how each channel will help you
achieve those goals. Some channels perform better than others for different goals and audiences. One key advantage
of online channels versus print, aside from lower cost, is flexibility. With an email campaign, you can generally make
minor tweaks to an offer up until the time you send the email to your list. Additionally, your email list is made up of
customers who have asked you to send them marketing offers by signing up for your communications.

While having a plan is definitely important to a successful holiday campaign, having flexibility in that plan can be the
difference between a campaign that flops and one that soars. Markets, competitors, and circumstances can all

                                                                                  }                                                  }
change. What seemed like a great offer or what worked well in the past may not work this year. If you build in flexibility,
you’ll be able to adjust your campaign early and salvage your holiday season.
                                                                                          Resource #1
                                                                                          Jenni Williams, “Top 10 Steps for Creating a
For a more detailed list of tips for planning your holiday campaign,                      Holiday Marketing Campaign That Shines,” The
                                                                                          Official Email Blog of iContact, September 9,
check out our blog post “Top 10 Steps for Creating a Holiday Marketing                    2011.
Campaign That Shines.”     1

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    A key component to any holiday campaign is creating               Did You Know?
    a workable schedule around key holidays and marketing             An informal iContact Facebook poll shows that most
    dates. Take note of the dates below for the 2011 holiday          marketers are getting an early start on holiday marketing:

    season, and build your plan around the activities you                  58% will start in September
                                                                           95% will begin before Thanksgiving
    would like to do for each date. Then, work backward
    from those dates to ensure you can complete everything
    in time to reach customers on the right days.

                   Planning, September to early October

     OCTOBER       Halloween, October 31 – Although many don’t necessarily lump Halloween in with the rest of the

                   holidays, it can be key to kicking off your holiday season.

     NOVEMBER      Thanksgiving Week, November 18–25 – Many companies start their big sales on the Friday after
                   Thanksgiving, commonly known as “Black Friday.” Marketing of those sales often begins as early as
                   the Friday before, and some companies, particularly in the B2B space, begin their big sales as early
                   as the Monday before Thanksgiving to get an edge over their competition.

          NOVEMBER         Thanksgiving Day, November 24 – This is the last day to communicate your offers to your

            24             customers before Black Friday. Consider sending a reminder email on Thanksgiving Day to keep
                           your offer top of mind for customers as they finalize their Friday shopping plans.

          NOVEMBER         Black Friday, November 25 – This is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season and

            25             the single biggest shopping day in the United States.

     NOVEMBER      Cyber Monday, November 28 – People are back at work after the Thanksgiving break and easing

      28           into the week by doing some online shopping.

     DECEMBER      Super Saturday (sort of), December 17 – Super Saturday is typically the Saturday before Christmas, but

      17           with Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, Super Saturday only really leaves time for overnight shipping
                   (assuming Sunday delivery is available). So, Saturday, December 17, will likely fill the Super Saturday shoes
                   this year. Use this to your advantage by creating some urgency in your last-minute shoppers.

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     DECEMBER      Hanukkah, starts December 20 – Hanukkah involves eight nights of giving, so you may consider

                   sending a series of offers promoting a new gift idea for each night.

     DECEMBER      Christmas Day, December 25 – Christmas Day is the culmination of most of the shopping that has

                   occurred over the past couple of months and is typically a slow day for retail.

                   Week after Christmas, December 26–January 2 – This week presents a great opportunity to clear
                   out remaining merchandise, take advantage of shoppers with holiday money and gift cards to spend,
      26–2         and finalize your planning for the new year. This is also a good time to promote offers relating to New
                   Year’s Eve celebrations.

          DECEMBER         New Year’s Eve, December 31 – This is the last chance to make sales before the end of the

                           year as well as a major day for celebrating.

           JANUARY         New Year’s Day, January 1 – This is a great day to rest and enjoy yourself before starting your

             1             plans for your next 12 months of marketing!

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    There are four types of holiday shoppers: early birds, prime-time buyers, last-minute shoppers, and post-holiday
    bargain hunters. Each shopper wants you to speak directly to their needs—from offering deep discounts early in the
    season to guaranteeing rush shipping at the last possible moment. Once you learn what motivates your shoppers,
    you will know how to create messages that best connect with them.

                            Early Birds
                            Early birds know what they need, have a budget, and want to finish their shopping before
                            the holiday rush. They are willing to sacrifice the best offers (which typically come at prime
                            time) for access to the best products and services (which may sell out before the height of
                            the shopping season). Don’t assume early birds will pay full price, though; they expect to be
                            rewarded for shopping early, and they love snagging a good deal.

                            Start sending messages in early October to your best customers and those who purchased
                            from you last year at this time. Focus your promotions on the perks of early shopping (think
                            “enjoy a glass of eggnog while your friends battle for mall parking spots”).

                            Here are a few offers that will catch the eye of an early bird:
                             Time-sensitive discount (e.g., 30% off before November 1)
                             Exclusive free gift with purchase
                             Exclusive event or early access to new products/services
                             Advance purchasing (e.g., customer thank-you gifts that can be ordered by administrative
                                 professionals early in the season and shipped to their customers closer to the holidays)

                            Prime-Time Buyers
                            Prime-time buyers check gifts off their lists between late November and mid-December.
                            They have several weeks to make buying decisions, and competition is fierce among
                            businesses vying for their attention, especially during peak shopping times, such as Black
                            Friday and Cyber Monday. If you decide to throw your hat in the ring, you want to reach your
                            contacts’ inboxes well before Thanksgiving. If you are a B2B company, send your messages
                            the Friday or Monday before Thanksgiving; this will give contacts plenty of time to read them
                            before they leave the office for vacation. If you are an e-commerce company, send messages
                            early in the Thanksgiving week to promote your online sales.

                                Insider Tip
                                If you are an e-commerce company, consider running a sale that starts as soon as the clock
                                strikes midnight on Black Friday. Armchair shoppers and those looking for a break from
                                family will thank you (in sales).

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                            Prime-time buyers are not as frazzled as last-minute shoppers, so any old marketing
                            message will not win their notice. Focus on creating offers, text, and designs that stand out.

                            Here are some marketing activities sure to win prime-time buyers’ attention:

                            Entice Shoppers with In-Store Promotions for Black Friday
                            Thanksgiving means turkey, football, and shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. There are
                            many prime-time buyers who look forward to Black Friday all year, but not everyone has the
                            same shopping strategy. Create an email and social media marketing plan that addresses
                            shoppers’ different needs.

                            Door-buster deals work well for shoppers who consider loss of sleep a minor price to pay to
                            be done with their holiday shopping by 7:00 am Friday. The mid-day and evening shoppers
                            want great deals all day long. Extend your shopping hours, and promote offers that are good
                            until closing. Throughout the day, use social media to let shoppers know you still have high-
                            demand items in stock or to share gift ideas for different members of the family.

                            Don’t Forget Cyber Monday
                            Cyber Monday is the busiest online holiday shopping day of the year. For some prime-time
                            buyers, there’s nothing more satisfying than spending the day pretending to work while
                            covertly filling online shopping carts. Although most shoppers will make their purchases
                            at work, it’s probably not their work email addresses they’ve given you. Send an email
                            to your contacts on Sunday letting them know that a special surprise will arrive in their
                            personal inboxes Monday morning. Then reach out on Monday with special discounts and
                            free shipping offers that will draw them to your site.

                                Insider Tip
                                In a 2010 study by ATG (Consumer Shopping Experiences, Preferences, and Behaviors), 70%
                                of respondents reported that they abandoned online shopping carts because they learned
                                that shipping charges were more than they had expected. Free shipping offers, therefore, will
                                be very attractive to shoppers this holiday season.

                            Be a Source of Inspiration
                            Prime-time buyers with dozens of friends and relatives on their lists are often in search of
                            great gift ideas. Help buyers out by sending a series of emails highlighting products and
                            services that would make nice gifts for different recipients and budgets.

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                            Last-Minute Shoppers
                            Some people work best under pressure. These are your
                            last-minute holiday shoppers. They want to find great gifts,
                            but mostly they want a no-nonsense buying experience,
                            helpful service, and guaranteed rush shipping. These
                            shoppers are most receptive to marketing messages; every
                            passing hour lowers the barrier to sell.

                            This Crate & Barrel email from the 2010 holiday season is
                            a good example of how to communicate with last-minute
                             The email states how many days are left to shop before
                                 the holiday.
                             It provides last-minute gift suggestions.
                             It promotes electronic gift cards, the last-minute gift of
                                 choice for many shoppers.
                             It notes the last days to order for guaranteed holiday delivery.
                             It highlights a mobile application, which makes last-minute shopping easier.

                            Post-Holiday Bargain Hunters
                            One size doesn’t always fit all, which means many people will be back in stores after the
                            holidays to exchange gifts they have received. Others will be looking to use up their newly
                            acquired stacks of gift cards. Use email and social media to promote your end-of-year deals
                            and to update shoppers on what you have in stock.

                            Try these promotions targeted at post-holiday bargain hunters:
                             Talk up products and services for the new year (from champagne and dresses for New
                                 Year’s Eve to gym memberships and closet organizers for resolution-setters).
                             Offer free financing to get people in the door before the start of the new year. You will
                                 pay tax on any inventory you have as of January 1, so you want to clear out as much
                                 as possible before the new year begins.
                             Let your shoppers know you understand their needs. If you own a travel agency, for example,
                                 you might advertise discounts on real vacations now that the in-laws have left town.

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    Every shopper loves a good deal, but think of your messages like a menu in a restaurant—too many dishes to
    choose from, and nothing looks appetizing. Too many deals, and a potential customer may walk away overwhelmed,
    confused, or, at worst, irritated. Promote just one offer per email and social media message, and segment your list
    accordingly. If you have a range of complementary products, focus on a hero product, and promote additional items
    with less prominent links.

    Unlike distant relatives who may be content with receiving your family’s holiday newsletter once a year and not
    much more, your customers need constant attention during the season. Marketing noise is at its peak, and your
    brand needs to be sticky to make it onto your contacts’ shopping lists. Think about increasing the frequency of your
    email and social media messages during the season. As long as your messages are relevant and interesting, your
    subscribers will welcome the additional touches.

    Holiday shoppers are more likely to open emails that have enticing subject lines. Keep these four characteristics of
    winning subject lines in mind:   2

                                                                                     {                                                            }
       1. Useful
                                                                                           Resource #2
       2. Ultra-Specific                                                                   Brian Clark, “The Three Key Elements of Irresistible
       3. Unique                                                                           Email Subject Lines,” Copyblogger, August 26, 2010.

       4. Urgent

    For example, Piperlime—an online retailer of shoes, apparel, and accessories for men and women—sent an email
    with this subject line in the summer of 2011: “Last day! 20% off fall apparel + smokin’ slippers.” This has all the
    characteristics of a winning subject line:
       1. Useful – The offer of 20% off is valuable to the email’s recipient.
       2. Ultra-Specific – The subject line is clear: the recipient can save on fall clothing for one more day.
       3. Unique – This promotion stands out because instead of offering a discount at the end of the season like
            most retailers, Piperlime offers it at the beginning. Plus, the reference to “smokin’ slippers” is unusual and catchy.
       4. Urgent – “Last day!” pushes the recipient to read the full email sooner rather than later.

    Another great example can be seen in the short-but-sweet subject line “99 under $9,” sent by Fred Flare—an online
    shop for fashion and home items. Short subject lines quickly grab the attention of customers and prompt them to
    take action, which in this case involved viewing a guide with 99 gift ideas, each under $9.

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    In 2010, Experian Hitwise—a global online competitive intelligence service—reported that Facebook had surpassed
    Google in the United States to become the most visited website on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s
    Day. And when Facebook isn’t outperforming Google during the holiday season, it’s coming very close.

                                                                                 {                                                           }
    Get your brand in front of the millions of people flocking to social media
                                                                                     Resource #3
    during the holiday season to check out friends’ pictures and post about          Heather Dougherty, “Facebook Reaches Top Ranking in
    their travel plans:                                                              US,” Experian Hitwise Analyst Weblog, March 15, 2010.

        Post offers and gift ideas on Facebook and Twitter.
        Encourage your fans and followers to talk about your brand,
            and surprise a few who say nice things with rewards, such as
            gift cards or special discounts.
        Attract new fans and followers by including social media links
            in your holiday emails.
        Reward your fans and followers with giveaway campaigns.
        Gauge your contacts’ needs by asking questions (e.g.,
            “What’s the best holiday gift you have ever received?”) and
            running polls.

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    The holiday season is short, which means time spent on campaigns that miss the mark can be especially costly for
    your business. Whenever possible, split test your subject lines, offers, and email designs.

    These dos and don’ts for testing—from iContact’s chief product,
    marketing, and strategy officer, Jeff Revoy—will help you test for
    success this holiday season:  4
                                                                               {     Resource #4
                                                                                     Jeff Revoy, “Testing: 5 Steps to Find the Right Formula
                                                                                     for Effective Emails,” DemandGen Report, July 19, 2011.   }
    Don’t: Send one test message to 50% of your list and the other to the remaining 50%.
    Do: Use the 10-10-80 rule: One test goes to 10% of your list and the other to a second 10%. Send the winner of
      these two messages to the remaining 80%.

    Don’t: Test multiple variables at a time. Testing multiple variables can make it difficult to determine which changes
      affected your results.

    Do: Test one variable at a time.

    Don’t: Be discouraged by tests that yield similar results between your 10% segments.
    Do: Recognize that tests with similar results can mean that what you tested wasn’t an important component of your
      message or that both of your messages performed well.

    Once you’ve done the hard work of setting your holiday          Clickthrough Rate (CTR)
                                                                    The number of times a link is clicked in a message divided by
    marketing goals (perhaps increasing brand awareness
                                                                    the number of delivered messages. For example, if a message
    or revenue), don’t forget to check in periodically to make      is sent to four subscribers and one subscriber clicks on the
    sure that your campaign is meeting the mark. Choose             message twice, the resulting CTR for that message is 25% (1
                                                                    unique click / 4 delivered emails = 25%).
    the metrics that tie to your goals, and track them
    regularly. If your goal, for example, is to increase your       Unique Clicks / Delivered Emails = CTR

    brand awareness by generating traffic to your website,
    track your email clickthrough rates. By the same token, don’t focus too much on metrics that are not related to your
    goals. If you want to increase revenue, and you’re performing in that area, don’t sweat lower email open rates.

    Historical data can also be very helpful as you measure against your goals. If you had similar holiday marketing goals
    last year, compare where you are today to where you were at the same time last year. If you are underperforming,
    consider revisiting some of your more successful promotions from last year.

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    If you measure against your goals and find that your campaign is not getting you the results you would like, don’t be
    afraid to correct your course. You know what is best for your business, and being flexible this holiday season is a must.

    If you need to turn your holiday marketing campaign around, consider these strategies:
        Trot out new and different offers.
        Reconsider the “winning” subject lines and designs from previous split tests, and overhaul your email
            communications accordingly.
        Think about whether the holidays are really the right time for you to try to compete with big-box retailers,
            especially when it comes to price. If your holiday marketing campaign is costing your business too much and
            doesn’t look like it will be successful or even sustainable throughout the rest of the season, abandon course.
            Sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and focus on the time of year when you are most competitive.

    During the holiday season, shoppers are visiting websites and stores that may not be on their radars during other
    months of the year. If you can convince these shoppers of your business’s value in their everyday lives, the holiday
    season can be a time of tremendous growth for your lists.

    These shoppers will likely be harder sells, but with the right messages, they may become some of your most loyal,
    repeat customers. Entice them to sign up for your lists with special discounts for the immediate season. Include sign-
    up forms on your website, on your social media pages, and at the checkout counters of physical store locations.
    Once a contact signs up, send a welcome email with a list of all the great perks they will receive as a subscriber, and
    follow up with messages that have been highly successful for you in the past.

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    The frenetic pace of the holiday season will keep any marketer, new or experienced, on their toes. Don’t, however,
    forget the basics; your holiday email and social media marketing campaigns will benefit from the best practices that
    inform your campaigns during other times of the year.

    Cleanse Your Lists
    Take time to cut cold contacts from your lists. Hard-bounced email addresses and contacts who have ignored your
    emails for a significant period of time can be safely removed. Sending to disengaged contacts or email addresses
    that no longer exist can be both expensive and damaging to your sending reputation.

    Automate Your Messages
    Set up autoresponders to automatically deliver a predetermined series of messages. These can include welcome
    messages to new subscribers, online course invitations, or carefully crafted sales messages. Autoresponders are
    a great way to nurture contacts early in their relationship with you, especially if you offer a product that includes some
    type of free trial. Just be sure that your autoresponders are not sent on the same day as your holiday messages;
    reaching out to a contact too frequently can result in an unsubscribe.

    Opt for Text
    Make good use of real text (not graphics) at the tops of your emails. A graphic-heavy email will appear blank until the
    recipient has selected to download the graphics. Real text is always visible. Don’t feel like you can’t include holiday-
    themed graphics in your messages at all; just do it smartly. And always remember to create a text-only version of
    your message. This is especially important because many of your contacts will be away from their computers and will
    depend on their smartphones while traveling for the holidays.

    Make sure your holiday marketing story this year is a story of success. Start using the tips and tricks in
    this guide today, and guarantee your business a very happy holiday season.

                                                      – The End –

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    ABOUT iContact
    Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, iContact is a purpose-driven company that makes email marketing and social
    media marketing easy, so that small and midsized companies and causes can grow and succeed. More than one
    million users have signed up for an iContact account, and the company maintains B Corporation status, a certification
    awarded to companies meeting comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards.
    As part of its ongoing social mission, iContact applies the 4-1s Corporate Social Responsibility Model, donating 1
    percent from each of its payroll, equity, product, and employee time to its local and global communities. Visit us online
    at iContact.com, on Twitter @iContact, at our LinkedIn Group, and at our Facebook page.

    Contact Us:
    5221 Paramount Pkwy.
    Suite 200
    Morrisville, NC 27560
    Tel: (877) 820-7837

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