If you happened to be wandering around a supermarket toward the middle of April this year, the chances are you were greeted with two particular sights and one particular sound. The sights would have been; unsold Easter eggs from this year being quietly removed from the shelves and unsold Christmas crackers from last year quietly replacing them, and the sound would have been the first test run of Christmas carols, Band Aid and that Slade song. Remember?
We’re exaggerating, of course (the bigger supermarkets generally wait until at least the summer holidays before the first hint of Christmas marketing makes its presence felt), but the chances are you actually spent at least a few seconds convincing yourself you could remember that, because the push toward Christmas marketing on the part of big business does indeed seem to start earlier every year. There are reasons for this, of course, the first being the sheer size of the Christmas market and a shared terror amongst retailers that everyone else might steal a march on them in terms of taking advantage of this annual spending boom. In 2014, retail sales over the Christmas period (generally regarded as running from mid-November to the end of December) rose from £72.662 bn the previous year to £74.261 bn, and every business in the UK needs to be determined to take their fair share of this spend.
The Marketing Strategy:
Another reason is that bigger retailers can afford to run the risk of alienating shoppers by overdoing the amount and intensity of Christmas marketing, safe in the knowledge that every other retailer is doing the same and, ultimately, customers will have to go somewhere to buy their turkey, mince pies and advocaat.
There are important lessons for any SME to take from this. The first is that it’s never too early to start planning your Christmas marketing, even if delivery needs to be carefully timed and targeted, and the second is that, although you might not be able to match their budgets, you can take marketing tips from bigger companies in terms of the tricks and techniques which they use to deliver effective Christmas marketing.
What your SME can do:
Integrate – make sure that your Christmas marketing is integrated across every platform you use, whether that means social media, your website or hand delivered flyers. If you’re focusing on price based Christmas promotions then include details on all your material, with the same applying to Christmas themed visuals, tricks such as the use of humour and any specific link between your product/service and the time of year.
Pile on the pressure – but not too much. Make sure your customers are aware of how many shopping days there are until Christmas, and also of vital dates such as the last day to order for Christmas delivery, when you close over the Christmas period and the time covered by any specific Christmas promotions. Although his can be seen as pressure designed to drive sales, make sure it is presented as simply useful information; any sense that you’re nagging your customers will be counterproductive.
Don’t ignore your brand – no matter how ‘Christmassy’ you want to make your Christmas marketing, don’t do so to the detriment of your core brand. If you provide luxury, high end goods or services, for example, smothering your marketing material in tinsel and animated snowmen might undo the previous 11 months of effective brand building.
Jump on the bandwagon – take advantage of key shopping dates such as Black Friday (the last Friday in November) and Cyber Monday, the year’s busiest online shopping day. It’s a safe bet that the news and other media will be packed with coverage of events such as these anyway, so linking some of your own promotions to them will ‘slipstream’ behind this wider coverage. You could even take advantage by offering an ‘anti-bandwagon’; if you work in the health and beauty sector, for example, you could market your services as the chance to escape and relax whilst everyone else is fighting in the aisles of supermarkets, and the same goes for the hospitality trade, holiday getaways etc.
Choose the right promotion – in simple terms any promotion consists of giving your customers more for less, and in this case associating it with a specific time of year. Within that remit, however, there is a great deal of flexibility, making it important to select the type, scale and size of promotion which fits in with your customer base, budget and offering. Options include:
- Free gifts with certain products
- Limited period price reductions. Try to ensure that such reductions are indeed genuine and are actually time limited. Consumers are becoming much savvier when it comes to spotting ‘special offers’ which are based on front loaded price rises, or which are in fact simply longer term price cuts.
- Voucher codes, which are very useful when it comes to gathering statistics on the reach and effectiveness of your marketing.
- Exclusive discounts for loyal customers
- Free delivery for certain products or over a certain period.
Overall, the message is to copy the tricks of larger retailers in terms of hitting relentlessly on Christmas as a theme and combining this with the sharper customer focus and increased flexibility of an SME. And don’t forget that the onward march of mobile technology means that your online January sale should be ready to open some time on Christmas Day…….
You can read more of our ‘tips and advice’ posts here.