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Holiday Marketing Tips with a Plucking Punny Twist

Headshot of the Author Matt Kreikemeier

I yam very excited to share some holiday marketing tips for your business, just in thyme for the busiest shopping season of the year. Check back each day to feast your eyes on a new tactic to help you stay ahead of the carve.

Corny jokes aside, the holidays can be both extremely stressful and extremely lucrative. If you thought the $106.1B revenue from 2017 was a lot, you ain’t seen stuffing yet. According to Shopify, the 2018 holiday season brings a projected $123.4B in sales! That’s a-maize-ing!

To take advantage of this highly active time of commerce, it’s important to be prepared and leverage the plethora of tools available to large and small businesses alike to create awareness and drive sales.

Alright, enough plucking around, let’s get started!

Pecan all make a difference by giving back to our favorite charity.

It’s our belief that when you’re blessed with good fortune that you share that good fortune with others.  We feel very lucky to get to come to work every day, do something we love (like writing silly puns for marketing tips) all while earning a nice living. We make it a point to be charitable all year long, but this time of year, we’re especially appreciative and look for opportunities to give back to our community.  Yes, there are business benefits in building a positive reputation, but that’s not why we do it.  That’s not why you should do it, but if that’s what it takes, at least it’s for the good of others too!

5  ways to give back

  1. Adopt a family. One thing we love to do is adopt a family. Not only are we helping a family in need, but it’s a fun team-building experience as well.  We make a Target run together, split up responsibilities, and try to spoil our adopted family.  Back at the office, we play some holiday music while we wrap the gifts and maybe have a couple drinks. We have a lot of fun, all while helping a family in need.
  2. Donate proceeds. Toms introduced us to the social cause business model by donating one pair of shoes for every pair sold.  Its success has led to the model being copied across most industries — which is great!  This holiday season, you don’t necessarily have to donate one-for-one (not a lot of small business can afford that), but set aside a portion of your proceeds to give back in some way.
  3. Volunteer.  There are so many organizations in need of help every single day.  Find a local soup kitchen and spend a Saturday volunteering your services with your family and/or co-workers.  Habitat for Humanity is another great organization that could use your help.  It’s a great cause and a great team-building experience for your company.
  4. Special discounts. Another idea would be to create some special discount offers for particular groups.  One group that comes to mind is military veterans and their families.  They’ve done so much for our country, the least we can do is offer them some special holiday discounts.
  5. Toy Drive. If you operate a company that gets a lot of foot traffic, you can run your own toy drive.  Set out some boxes to collect toys and notify your customers to drop off donations.  It’s a great way to rally your community and show leadership for a good cause.
Squash your fears of lost sales with a remarketing campaign.

Retargeting ads are 76% more likely to be clicked than a regular display ad.  In addition to that, our time and attention are extremely limited during the hectic holiday season — browsing the web may get interrupted by your toddler knocking over the Christmas tree (don’t ask). Because of this, it’s important to make sure we’re retargeting our ads at user’s who have shown interest but not yet made a purchase. There is also the famous marketing “rule of 7” that says that a prospective client needs to see/hear/feel your message at least 7 times before making a purchase (recent studies show this may be inching closer to 11 interactions).  All that said, remarketing is another low-cost impression with your prospect.  Even if they don’t click, you’re at least getting the awareness you need to lead them down your conversion funnel.

Retargeting tactics

There are numerous ways you can implement retargeting this holiday season.

  1. Products. Tracking pixels allow you to monitor a user’s actions on your site and serve product-specific ads.  For example, you may know that a user visited the buffalo plaid scarf product page on your site, but didn’t buy it.  You can then retarget that person on social media, display ads, or even email with an ad for that specific product.  Rather than serving generic ads, remarketing lets us use the information we know about a particular customer, creating a personalized experience that leads to more sales.
  2. Discounts. Using our buffalo plaid scarf-loving user again, we can serve that person with our holiday sales leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  We can use the scarf as the product image in the ad for that user.  This will help grab their attention and, hopefully, click to buy!
  3. Referrals. Another great approach could be to retarget loyal customers with special referral offers.  If we know someone has made a purchase, that’s great, but how can we turn them into a more loyal customer and/or leverage that loyalty into new customers?  An ad targeted at existing customers promoting a referral program shows them that you appreciate their loyalty by offering them an exclusive offer while encouraging them to share your brand with others.
Personalization delivers the right message at the right thyme.

Despite growing privacy concerns, users still prefer and expect a certain level of personalization when it comes to interacting with a particular company.  In fact:

  • 74% of customers feel frustrated when website content is not personalized
  • 79% of consumers say they are only likely to engage with an offer if it has been personalized to reflect previous interactions the consumer has had with the brand
  • 87% of consumers say that personally relevant branded content positively influences how they feel about a brand

This holiday season, spend some time on personalized marketing strategies.  The data shows it won’t be a waste of thyme.

Maximize sales with these personalization techniques

  1. Segment your email list. First and foremost, make sure you’re collecting enough information to segment your email list into meaningful groups. You don’t want to send your Cyber Monday sweater discounts to users in LA or your wine opener to 17-year-olds.  With proper segmentation, you can personalize discounts and offers to the appropriate user.
  2. Send a real card. There’s nothing quite more personal than a handwritten note.  Whether this is a holiday card to your client list, or a short thank you note to a loyal customer that you sneak into their order package, a hand-written note shows your human side and helps customers feel recognized and appreciated by your business.
  3. Combine 1 and 2. Mailchimp offers a great service that sends postcards on your behalf.  Combine that with your segmented list and you can deliver personalized mail to customer’s mailboxes with holiday offers just for them.
  4. Use names. A recent study shows that simply using a person’s first name in the email subject line increases open rates by 42%!  It’s also just a polite thing to do. Try, “I thought you’d appreciate this, <name>” or “Happy Holidays, <name>!”
  5. Website personalization. Analytics tools are able to share a lot of information about our users.  Use that info responsibly to improve your website user experience with personalized content and offers.  Similar to segmenting your email list, isn’t it great when you visit a website and somehow the product you had previously looked at is there on the home page? With the proper analytics tools in place, you can create a customized website experience that makes it easier for users to purchase products they’re interested in.

One of the best sales tactics is….to not sell!  We are bombarded with special offers and sales pitches at every turn.  For a business, this is often necessary for earning new customers.  But, in addition to these more obvious sales and marketing tactics, we believe it’s important to provide value for your customers beyond product or service discounts.  A great way to do this is by creating valuable content.  In the spirit of giving – the holidays are a great time to try this approach.

Check out these content ideas that create loyal customers

  1. Gift list.  Creating a gift list is a great way to show your current and potential customers that you’re interested in them. You build trust with your audience by doing some holiday gift searching for them.  At Leverage, we aggregate a list of our Favorite Things, it’s a big hit every year.
  2. Family recipes or traditions. Every family seems to have unique holiday traditions.  Why not share some of those with the world?  Encourage your readers to share theirs as well.  This creates a fun conversation with your audience, humanizing your brand.
  3. Product reviews.  Similar to a gift list, a list of product reviews can be very helpful from a trusted source. There’s nothing worse than getting excited about the next great gadget, only to find out that it doesn’t live up the hype.  Do some of that research for your readers — it’s also a great excuse to try some new toys!
  4. Quiz or game. People love to test their knowledge.  A holiday-themed game or quiz is a fun way to do this.  One fun idea could be to match famous holiday movie quotes with the movie title.  There are lots of great tools out there that make this easy, Typeform is one of our favorites.
  5. Behind the scenes or a sneak peek.  We all love exclusive content. Give your readers a sneak peek into your holiday preparation operations.  Maybe it’s a video of your manufacturing process creating your product, a sneak peek at new products coming, or video from an office holiday party.
  6. Deals roundup. It can be hard to keep track of all the great holiday deals.  You can start a list for your customers that they can bookmark and refer back to for both ideas and great offers.
  7. Charities. Everyone is a little more selfless this time of year.  We all feel the urge to give a little more than maybe we normally do.  But, it can be difficult to decide which charities are most deserving and most needing.  Do a little research and create a list of the most deserving charities in your city.


Everything is butter with a great partner.

Partnership marketing is the perfect way to expand your reach into audiences that may have otherwise been inaccessible.  The idea here is that you partner with a complementary partner (not a competitor) and cross-promote your products in clever ways.  Beyond reaching a new audience, there is the additional benefit of sharing marketing efforts across two companies.  You’re also providing value to your clients by introducing them to a great, new product or service from your partner. This gives your brand additional credibility and shows that you’re looking out for the best interest of your customers.

3 ways to execute partnership marketing

  1. Social media + discount offers.  What do you know, social media has yet another use!  Feature each other’s products on your social media feeds to reach a larger audience.  Often times, you can offer special discount codes for the partner company’s audience.
  2. Share shelf space. Local clothing line, Arch Apparel, partners with Nordstrom for limited-time shelf space.  Nordstrom is agreeable to the partnership because it gets the company’s loyal followers into their store where they may buy other products.  Arch Apparel, of course, enjoys the opportunity to showcase their great products to Nordstrom window shoppers, creating both brand awareness and creating additional sales.
  3. Guest blog.  Guest blogging is a great way to drive new traffic to your site.  You create content for your partner’s site and in return, they link back to your site.  This has the added benefit of giving a boost to your SEO efforts.
  4. Volunteer.  Tis the season to give back.  Try partnering with another local company to volunteer in your community or support a charity.  With 2 companies involved, you can have twice the impact!  Ultimately, it’s about doing something positive for the community, but a nice by-product is that your companies often earn additional respect and loyalty.
  5. Events.  Hosting a holiday event is another partnership opportunity.  Perhaps you can combine this idea with volunteering/giving back.  Find a local restaurant to donate food, maybe a local musician for entertainment, and throw a holiday party to raise money for a local charity.  Everyone gets to have fun, your company gets a little buzz, and a charity gets additional donations.
Try dressing up your brand creative.

The holidays are a time when we decorate the office, our homes, and sometimes even our cars (we’re looking at you antler lady). We do it because it makes us happy and puts us in the holiday spirit. So, why not extend the holiday spirit to your company branding? It’s pretty easy to do and connects with buyers’ nostalgia around the season.

  1. Email signature. One super simple way to implement the holiday spirit into your day to day communications is to make some changes to your email signature.  Something even as simple as changing your salutations to “Happy Holidays!” injects some holiday cheer.
  2. Social media. Update your social media profile and header images with holiday themes.  Maybe you implement a holiday color scheme, add a Santa hat, or pull in wintery snowflakes for effect.
  3. Website. One year, we strung Christmas lights across our website.  It was quite festive, but didn’t get in the way of the site functionality – it was a hit!
  4. Email templates. We’re now trained to expect great offers when an email shows up in our inbox sporting a holiday theme this time of year, so we read those messages.  Embrace that and update your email templates to incorporate some holiday themes to connect with users.
  5. Packaging. Starbucks is famous for redesigning their coffee cups each year.  In a similar fashion, think about the tangible items you’re sending your customers (from complex packaging to simple print collateral like letterhead), can you implement some limited-time holiday print work?
Referral programs lead to a latte more sales

Referral campaigns provide several benefits — 67% of Americans say they’re more likely to purchase a product after a friend or family member has shared it with them via email or social media. First, and most importantly, they drive awareness and sales from customers that may have otherwise not considered your product or service. Second, it encourages loyalty from your existing customers by incentivizing them to share your product or service to earn rewards for future purchases. Lastly, it redirects your marketing efforts into the hands of your existing customers, creating a kind of passive marketing strategy where current customers, in a way, do your marketing for you.

3 tips for your holiday referral campaign

  1. Incentives.  The foundation of a successful referral program is a great incentive.  Perhaps it’s a free holiday gift when a customer shares your product with 5 friends.  Free is great, but discounts can be just as powerful. Offer your customers an extra 20% off their Cyber Monday purchase when they refer 3 friends.  Lastly, you can offer loyalty rewards for sharing.  This is enticing because it allows customers to cash in those points however they please.
  2. Social media. There are a few creative ways you can use social media as a referral platform. One idea would be to promise your followers an exclusive Black Friday discount (something good, like 40%) if you reach a certain number of followers (say 10,000). This will incentivize them to share your account with others. A similar tactic could be used on a single post — once it’s been shared 100 times, a special discount will be shared. This a great way to grow your audience and create long-term customers.
  3. Sharing tools. In running referral programs for clients, we often reach for a tool like InviteBox. It’s affordable, easy to set up, and integrates with tools like WordPress, Mailchimp, and Shopify that you may already be using. Each customer gets a unique URL that tracks their shares and conversions on social media, allowing them to rack up loyalty points. If you’re looking for a more robust system, a tool like Ambassador proclaims itself as the #1 all-in-one referral software.
Instagram makes selling your products on social media plucking simple.

Instagram recently announced the ability to tag products on its platform which allows customers to purchase your product without leaving the app. It’s super easy to do after a little setup. First, create a Facebook catalog, then get approved by Instagram (this can take a few days so get started now!) Once approved, you’ll be able to make your products “tappable” within your post.  This opens your product page where the sale can be completed right within Instagram.  Without being able to include links on Instagram otherwise, this is a great way to get a (turkey) leg up on your competition.

5 other ways to use social media to make more sales

  1. Sneak Peeks. Share new products, sales, and incentives with your social media audience first.  This will give them incentive to follow you to be the first to know about your holiday offers.
  2. Gift Ideas.  Feature a new product or deal every day (maybe 8 days for Hanukkah or 12 days for Christmas).  It’s okay if they’re not all your own products.  In fact, you’ll earn user trust if you share other great gift ideas. The goal here is to get users excited, build brand loyalty, and keep them coming back to see the next gift idea.
  3. Exclusive Offers. Encourage people to follow you on social for exclusive offers. This is also a great way to track engagement of your different accounts. By using unique offer codes for Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, etc., you’ll be able to analyze which platform is driving the most sales.
  4. Contest. Contests and sweepstakes are a great way to grow your social reach.  A very simple way to enter your contest and grow your social media audience would be to encourage users to share, like, or comment on your posts to be entered for a prize.
  5. Hashtags. Come up with a holiday hashtag that relates to your business – promote it across social and encourage people to use it.  This is also another great way to allow users to enter your contest.
Make sure your site can load very fast.

Mobile devices account for 56% of web traffic (yes, MORE than desktop), yet only 33% of revenue comes from mobile devices. That’s, potentially, billions in lost sales. One of the main culprits is the landing page experience, specifically, the page load speed – we expect sites to load almost instantly and help us accomplish a task as quickly as possible. When they don’t, 64% of us just leave.

5 tips to optimize your site and make more sales this holiday season

Note: Truly optimizing your site for performance and speed often requires help from a developer. But, we think it’s very much worth the investment. If you need help getting started, we’ll provide tips and recommendations for free – just give us a shout.

  1. Run a page speed test. Services like webpagetest.org or Google’s PageSpeed Insights provide an abundance of information to help you identify and adjust your website code so its optimized for mobile users. Test the URLs of the holiday offer landing pages that you’re linking to and make sure everything loads quickly.  Pro Tip: change the webpagetest.org settings to emulate slow connections (3G) for users in areas with poor service — they buy stuff too!
  2. Think mobile first.  With more traffic coming from mobile devices than computers this holiday season, spend extra time on your site’s mobile experience — big buttons, clear calls to action, and legible text.  Here’s a challenge — you should be able to make a purchase with one hand.  Grab a friend and have them navigate your site with only one hand while you watch. Can they get around okay?  If not, make the necessary tweaks so you don’t lose sales from busy, distracted users.
  3. Check your landing page content. If you’re running an ad for a sweater, link directly to that product on your website. Too often ads link to a home page or product category page, forcing the user to find the product that triggered them to click.  This creates a barrier to the sale – it should be easier than that, especially during the highly competitive holiday season.
  4.  Focus on the checkout process. Our time and attention are very limited this time of year. Be sure to incorporate accelerated checkout functionality like Apple Pay, Masterpass, Amazon Pay, Shopify Pay, etc. These services allow users to autofill and/or skip the data entry process and complete a purchase with a tap, fingerprint scan, or face scan.
  5. Upsell.  Whether it’s an add-on product or service, or simply an email address, look for ways to make the most of each site visit.  One idea would be to include a form that exchanges a holiday discount offer for an email address.  The user gets a great deal and you get a sale plus an email address – a win win win.
You will be a-maize-d how well email still works.

Nobody likes spam.  Except, possibly, maybe, unless…it offers a really good deal!  As much as we love to complain about spammy content cluttering our inboxes, email is still the #1 referral service for conversions (sales).  The holiday season is a great time to roll up your sleeves and master email marketing.

5 tips for incorporating email into your marketing mix this holiday season

  1. Use an email service provider.  If it’s not obvious, don’t try to do this on your own.  Email service providers like Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor (two of our favorites) allow you to implement advanced email marketing tactics with little to no design or development experience.  Best of all, they have holiday templates pre-built, ready for you to drop in your holiday offer.  If you want to do something more custom, that’s what we’re for!
  2. Be picky about your subject line.  Open rate and even deliverability of your messages are reliant upon the language in your subject lines.  Certain words and punctuation tactics (ALL CAPS or lots of !!!) can trigger spam filters.  Alternatively, phrasing that expresses a sense of urgency or using someone’s first name can drive higher open rates.  The inbox is highly competitive this time of year, try some subject lines that create a sense of urgency for your user like “limited time” or “last chance” and you’ll be more successful.
  3. Implement automation tactics. Email service providers enable you to create automated campaigns that allow you to create targeted emails that send when triggered by a specific date, event, or contact’s activity.  This is perfect for automating your Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns to send at the most optimal time(s) — when a user visits a particular page on your site, if they leave without buying, or at a certain time when they’re most likely to read your message. Explore all the creative ways you can automate email and drive sales while you focus on other tasks.
  4. Don’t forget about transactional email opportunities. Transactional emails are those that are automatically sent when certain actions take place.  For example, when someone makes a purchase.  Use this as an opportunity to drive further action or make another sale like offering a limited time holiday offer for referring 3 friends to your site or service.
  5. Enable abandoned cart emails. 69% of online carts are abandoned!  Abandoned cart emails automatically send a gentle reminder to the user that they did not complete their purchase if he or she adds items to the shopping cart but never checks out.  With open rates of around 40%, automated abandoned cart emails are a great way to close sales that may have otherwise been lost during our hectic holiday schedules.
  6. Bonus: start early! Don’t wait to start your email promotions.  Build some excitement for your upcoming promotion with teaser emails that hint at something great coming.  This helps you begin to create some inbox recognition so that when your offer goes live, your recipients will recognize it, open it, click it, and buy!
It always a gourd idea to update your keywords.

If you’re already running a Google Ads search campaign, 1) 👏 2) it’s a good idea to pop into your account and add a few keywords specific to the holiday season. For example, “ black Friday sale” or more generically “gift ideas for husband”. If you haven’t yet tried search marketing, now might be a good time to dive in — paid search was the #1 driver of site visits during the 2017 holiday season. Plus, you only pay when a potential customer clicks your ad in Google search results! Just remember to optimize your landing pages to align with your keywords.

Avoid this mistake when bidding on keywords during the holiday season

The cost for search ads increase this time of year (and social media ads for that matter – Facebook CPC may increase as much as 140%). When you combine the increased cost for clicks with highly discounted products, companies that are not careful can end up taking a loss, despite increased sales. For some additional context, search marketing is largely driven by competition and bidding. When you run a search campaign, you input an amount of money you’re willing to spend to receive a click – hence the name “pay per click.” This is your “bid.” Behind the scenes, when a user searches for your keyword on Google, an auction takes place and the ad server analyzes a few variables, one of those being the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a click – again, your “bid.” Assuming everything else is equal (the quality of your landing page, relevance of your ad, etc.), the user with the highest bid gets often gets the highest spot in the search results – an incredibly valuable spot to have. With an increased focus on actively driving sales this time of year, the bidding process becomes much more competitive, which in turn makes the cost of popular keywords more expensive. Make sure you take the time to analyze the math on your ad spend versus expected return from a conversion so that you’re not overspending for a sale and losing money!

Carve Out Time for Analytics

Before getting too far ahead of yourself, it’s important to have some tools in place to ensure you can measure the results of your campaigns – clicks, referral sources, and user journeys. This data allows you to both optimize your campaigns on the fly as you learn what is and is not working, but also to make larger strategic adjustments for next year.

Analytics Services to Try

  1. Google Analytics – this is a must-have, foundational tool for all data analysis online.  Google’s unique insights and machine learning capabilities will provide a multitude of information to drive future decisions.  Most other platforms will integrate nicely as well, making it your central hub for data analysis.
  2. HotJar – HotJar is all about improving the user experience, which as we’ll see in future tips, is crucial for making sales.  It allows you to look at data in interesting ways through heat maps of where user’s click, scroll, and hover, helping you optimize your marketing funnel. Polls and surveys let you gather feedback from users as they peruse your site. You can even record live sessions to watch real users interact with your site to gain insight into what is and is not working.  Don’t worry, it’s all GDPR compliant!
  3. FullStory – FullStory is another great service for monitoring user experience.  The self-prescribed “DVR for your website,” FullStory allows you to replay your customer’s journey to better understand your site experience.  It has a fun feature called “rage clicks” that can alert you when users are frustrated with certain functionality. While the name may be a bit dramatic, it’s a useful feature to ensure we’re creating enjoyable experiences for our customers.
  4. Facebook Pixel – The Facebook pixel allows you to measure the effectiveness of your advertising by monitoring the actions people take on your website. You can use pixel data to optimize your ads and ensure they’re being shown to the right people by building custom audiences.  It also allows for retargeting your ads to interested buyers and tracks those users across devices.
  5. SEO Tracking – We also recommend an SEO tracking service. Some of our favorites are Moz, Ahrefs, or Semrush.  These tools provide information around your search engine optimization and can provide valuable insights about ways to improve your organic SEO as well as information about the tactics your competitors are using.

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