I know many of you are still in the “back to school” mindset, but it’s time to mark your calendars and start preparing for the holiday season! Part of your strategy for the 2009 season should be to start planning early. Sit down and map out your plans for the entire holiday season today – don’t wait! To help as you are planning, I’ve pulled together a checklist, or roadmap, of what you should be looking to accomplish this year:
1. Review last year’s (and the year before that, and the year before that’s…) holiday season.
How did it perform for you overall? What worked well and what didn’t work at all? Also take a look at what your competitors did last year. Set your benchmark to measure this year’s success against. This will be the starting point for you to…
2. Develop your strategy and goals for the season.
Think through what types of communication you will send and at what frequency, and determine whether you will need to redesign your template (you could even consider holiday-specific templates). Be prepared to dedicate more resources to email marketing during the season and set specific goals for yourself based on the benchmarks set by previous years. Most importantly, start planning early so that come September, you are miles ahead of your competition.
3. Build out your communication strategy.
As part of your strategy session, develop personas and/or profiles of your subscribers and build a plan for what messaging will resonate best with each segment. You should also be thinking about how to communicate your sales and promotions during this period. Will you hint at upcoming sales or include shipping countdowns, for example? Also consider some goodwill gestures like saying “Thank You” and showing appreciation for your subscribers.
4. Establish a calendar for your communications.
After determining what you will say, you need to determine when you will say it. When’s the right time to introduce gift registry, for instance? Does it make sense to step up frequency, and if so, when?
5. Plan your pre-holiday messaging & preference push.
Just prior to the holiday season is the perfect time to collect information directly from your subscribers via a survey (ie. “What are you interested in hearing about?” and, “Are you going to be buying gifts from us?”) or through requests for customer reviews. It is also the time to set expectations around frequency and messaging through a preference center. For messaging, you could consider some “early bird specials” to encourage people to start shopping early.
6. Stand out from the crowd.
The holiday season is one of the most, if not the most, profitable time of the year for marketers. That means you will have some stiff competition for subscriber attention. As part of your communication strategy, you should be thinking of ways to make an impression and spur action. Stand out through design, through timing – start promoting earlier than competitors -, or through offers – perhaps by pushing contests or giveaways.
You don’t know what will work best for you without testing. Build a testing schedule into your communications calendar so your content is continually being optimized to hit the target at the right time with the right message.
8. Don’t forget to optimize your landing pages.
Check your current landing pages’ performance in your analytics package. Do you have a high bounce rate? Are people abandoning the path to conversion? Tweak and test prior to the holidays to ensure optimal results.
9. Think post-holiday.
When you hit January 2 on your calendar, it doesn’t mean you should stop planning and go back to the status quo of the off-season. You should be thinking about how to wrap up the holidays and how to get customers back into your store to continue shopping. Post-holiday is the perfect time to message gift card redemption, push accessories, cross-sell like products, or up-sell upgrades (ie. “Gifts for you“). You will also want to de-brief and take a look back at how the season performed and keep a record of it for next year.