Are You Ready for the Holidays?

The holidays are coming. Soon. Much sooner than you think if you don’t already have a marketing plan in place.

With a weak economy and high gas prices, the 2008 holiday shopping season may be a less-than-stellar one for businesses. Forecasts suggest that retailers should anticipate a heavily promotional season, as shoppers continue to seek the best deals. Many consumers – even those who haven’t done so before – are expected to turn to e-commerce sites to minimize the impact of higher gas prices.

But The Holidays Aren’t Just About Retailers
The impact of the holiday shopping season on retailers is clear to see. But from a business standpoint, it’s important to understand whether the holidays and the closing of another year offer an opportunity for your business.

For instance, consider the examples below highlighting opportunities for end-of-year marketing in different industries.

Doctors, dentists, optometrists/opthalmologists, chiropractors
and other medical professionals
Prospective customers may be looking for ways to ‘use up’ their employer sponsored health-care reimbursement plans before year-end. While the specifics will vary by business, you may benefit from sending a gentle reminder to existing patients/customers, as well as developing a strategy for being found by new ones, particularly those who are looking for you online.

Accountants, tax planners, financial advisors
As individuals and businesses prepare to close out the year, many will seek guidance to ensure they’re in the best possible position from a financial/tax planning standpoint. Does your marketing plan (you do have one, right?) include strategies to reach those almost-ready-to-buy prospects?

Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other venues
While the economy may lead to cutbacks in office holiday parties this year, you can design a successful strategy that reflects the current situation. If you typically see a lot of ‘holiday party’ business, you should have started a full-fledged campaign already. (But don’t worry; it’s not too late… yet.) Even if your restaurant isn’t a party destination, keep in mind that holiday shoppers tend to be a hungry bunch, and market your way into their shopping plans with creative offers and discounts.

Business to business providers
While many view the last part of the year as slow season for bringing in new business, remember that your customers and prospective customers who operate on a calendar year basis may have a budget they have to spend. (The old ‘spend it or lose it’ mentality is still alive and well in many companies.) Don’t automatically write off the potential of winning new clients in the last few months of the year, and be sure to have a plan in place for how you can reach them.

Ahhh, yes… retailers. If you are one, it’s no surprise to you how important the holiday shopping season can be. For many, it can determine whether the doors are open or closed in 2009.

Have you built a careful plan to reflect the economic realities of this year and the prospect for changing consumer behavior? As noted above, there is an expectation that a growing amount of holiday shopping will be done online this year, even by those who have yet to experience the joys of e-commerce. Retailers who have adopted a strategy to capitalize on that may buck the trend and have a very successful season.

If you’re selling online, are you prepared to capitalize on the expected growth in the number of consumers using e-commerce sites to buy gifts? Will those people find you online when searching for your products? How will you ‘close the sale’? Are there changes to your website that you can make NOW to increase conversions?

Even if you’re not selling online, you may still benefit from this year’s environment. Used correctly, online marketing tools can be extremely useful in delivering interested customers to your brick and mortar location. A search engine marketing campaign, for instance, could send targeted traffic to your website or landing page, which can be designed to entice visitors into the store.


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