Marketing during the holiday season may be a challenging process for all businesses, especially for those that are trying to compete for retail revenue with the big-box stores.
Kay Carey, a management and marketing instructor at Texas A&M University-Central Texas’ College of Business Administration, shared some recommendations on how local businesses can capture their share of holiday revenue through marketing.
Carey is a Harker Heights resident with several years of business experience. She served as director of administrative services with the Lone Star Girl Scout Council in Austin; the CEO and board chairman of a local multimillion-dollar family-owned business, Maplehurst Inc.; and as an account executive with Artworks Advertising Agency.
When should businesses start marketing their holiday sales?
Planning for next season should start in January or as soon as data is available on the success/failure of your last season campaign.
Most large retailers start mass media advertising in October. As a consumer, it seems to start earlier every year. In customer-centric organizations, all marketing decisions are relative to our target market, so it is hard to give an exact date.
The window of opportunity is narrow, so take advantage of every single day of the season. Plan ahead.
How can marketing during the season help make local businesses and stores capture their fair share of the revenue people will be spending during the holiday season?
Consumers go through a buying process that most of us are not aware of. Sometimes, even as a consumer, we are not conscious of this process. Becoming aware of a need (holiday gift giving) and gathering information about possible alternatives is part of this process. As a marketer, you need to be certain that your target market has access to information about what you offer, where and when they can purchase, and most important, the value the product/service offers to the consumer. Communicate with your target market.
What are some of the most important things to consider when coming up with holiday marketing?
Set clear and specific objectives for your communication plan. Be sure you have resources (not just money, but staff, inventory, etc.) to implement a holiday marketing campaign. Plans on paper are nothing without the ability to implement. Communicate with your employees. They need to understand the plan and what part they play in the implementation. Use your local professionals for advice and guidance.
What are some of the best ways to market those holiday sales?
If you are local, use local media, social media and word-of-mouth. Your promotional strategy might include, but not limited to, coupons, direct marketing, contests, sponsorships, tie-ins with local nonprofit organizations, publicity and advertising.
How hard is it to compete with some of the national big box stores during this time of year? And how can marketing help level the playing field?
Being a strong community partner throughout the year can give you an advantage over the big-box stores. It is impossible to compete dollar for dollar with the big-box stores, so we simply play it smarter. We differentiate ourselves, add value to our product/service. We use being local as a competitive advantage that they cannot duplicate. The big boys can indulge in mass media; as a small local business, you must be very target conscious with your marketing dollars. Use your local media reps to get the most bang for your buck. Be sure the media you use reaches your target market.
If you are a do-it-self business, what are some of the best resources available to learn about marketing your product or service during the holiday season?
Research social media and use it if it is applicable to your target market. It is inexpensive (takes a little time to manage) and can help you reach local online “community groups” that might be part of your target market. Learn from the big boys, their successes and failures. Take a marketing class at Texas A&M University-Central Texas.