Q4 happens at the same time every year – yet, somehow people are always surprised when it arrives! Often November rolls around and businesses haven't even started thinking about how to navigate the holiday season.
Regardless of your product or service offering, you should start planning for Q4 right now. Below is a checklist of strategies and things to think about nowto end the year the on a triumphant note.
Review Performance & Strategy From Last Year
- Analyze Trends from Last Year: Pull the trends from all of your available sources for last holiday season (Google AdWords, Bing Ads, Google Analytics, your third-party platforms, etc.) and the year before too – as long as you have reliable data. Create a picture of how your campaigns perform throughout the months of November and December. Base your future plans on historical data! Look for what worked (do it again!) and look for areas of improvement (make some changes!).
- Examine Offers from Last Year: Review all of the ads, landing pages, and offers that ran last holiday season. Some probably worked better than others. Take what worked and make it better. Often this step is overlooked so be sure you clearly understand your previous holiday promotional efforts.
Organize Your Messaging and Offer Schedule
- Determine Your Seasonal Offers: By now you should know what worked last year and what you plan to offer during the holiday season this year. Get those offers down in a plan and make sure everyone on the team knows what the offers are.
- Create a Promotional Schedule: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are important. But your entire holiday promotional schedule shouldn't revolve around a couple days. The motivation of shoppers changes each week during the holiday season. Earlier in the season people are probably looking for deals. As the holidays get closer, people are looking for easy gift ideas that will ship fast. Adjust your promotional schedule toward the goals and intentions of your audience.
- Review Your Shipping Requirements: You need a strategic plan for a sustained marketing effort throughout the season (probably 4-6 weeks long). This plan should include a launch date and it should certainly include an end date – meaning the last day you can take orders for holiday delivery. List this information on your website so visitors know when to order. In fact, in the past I've worked with retailers who have moved their drop-dead shipping dates in order to create a sense of urgency. For example, on December 12 you need to order by the 15th for holiday delivery. When the 15th rolls around we move this date to our actual deadline of December 19.
- Prioritize Your Products: Some products may be more "gift-friendly" than others. Go ahead and prioritize those holiday-related gifts now. If all off your products make great gifts, then you should determine which ones have the best margins and will sell well. Make those your priority.
Create a Holistic Approach for the Season
- Strategize on Cross-Channel Opportunities: No channel operates within a vacuum. Your target audience is moving between platforms such as reading email, conducting searches, as well as reading related content. For example, if you send an email out to your database, then you should create a specific remarketing audience for those visitors. Deliver ads to those individuals with a similar message as your initial email contact.
- Create / Review Remarketing Audiences: Thinking of cross-channel promotions, once you have determined your promotion/offer schedule, then you should go ahead and start building the proper remarketing audiences. Determine how you will target individuals, the messaging of these ads, as well as the cookie duration of these audiences.
Optimize Your Shopping Experience NOW
- Run Tests in Shopping Cart Now: Don't run conversion optimization tests during the holidays. Do this now! You should hit the ground running with the most highly-optimized shopping experience possible.
- Review Your PLA Structure: Product listing ads (PLAs) are gaining more and more importance within campaigns and the SERPs. Now is the time to review your product feed and the auto-targets within your AdWords account (as well your third-party PLA providers). Make your structural optimizations now.
- Launch Comparison Shopping & Alternative Channels: We have found that comparison shopping engines can provide additional leverage throughout the year as well as the holiday season. And if you aren't running ads on the largest online retailer, Amazon, you're missing out. Get your Amazon product campaigns running now.
Coordinate with all Stakeholders
- Review the Holiday Plan with All Team Members: Nothing will slow down a holiday promotion campaign like confusion. Get all of the stakeholders together and create the plan for SEM holiday promotion plan. Get your designers, coders, copywriters, and anyone else on the same page!
Do These Things Now.
Rushing your holiday SEM promotion plans will lead to poor execution and poor results.
Most SEM holiday-related articles are focused on e-commerce campaigns (like this one!). However, I haven't forgotten about you battle-hardened B2B advertisers. My next article will discuss what Q4 and the holiday season means for many B2B/lead-gen campaigns and how you can leverage this time of year to boost your performance.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!