Christmas arrived at my house on November 4 with a thud. That was because of the added weight from the pile of Christmas flyers embedded in my newspaper that day. I had heard rumblings through the local media and Twitter about the immediate onset of Christmas advertising almost as soon as the last mini chocolate bar was passed out to the trick or treaters. However, three days later there it was…Christmas sprawled across my kitchen table.
So let’s case this jingle-jingle-jingle and yet another jingle bell scenario a bit further. Advertisers are obviously spending big dollars to get their products in front of the still-not-that-Merry-Christmasy crowd almost eight weeks out from the big day. Not only does that length of time rival a droning-on period similar to Canada’s recent national election campaign, but by jumping full out into Christmas mode advertisers also incurred the wrath and sentimentality of the November 11th Remembrance Day faithful. And many will agree, those thoughts are rightfully registered. Many consumers thought the blitz could have waited, and despite people's love of the holiday season I doubt there would be many arguments if they had.
However, in the small business world the decision matrix is a different beast. Timing and competition rule the advertising game and if your competitor is blitzing consumers on November 4, what choice do you have? Particularly, those with selective budgets that would be hoping to maximize their advertising plays with the greatest timing to bring targets into their stores. This early November advertising onset must furrow the brows of many small business owners who realistically can’t sustain an eight-week advertising campaign. So, what the pine tree fuzz is really going on here?
Paul Provost, President of 6P Marketing, a Winnipeg full-service agency that develops, implements and maintains cost-effective, results-orientated marketing solutions for clients, graciously provided his thoughts on the “Christmas Blitz.”
“It’s a bit early,” admitted Provost in an email exchange. “Usually, in my recollection, Christmas promotions began after Remembrance Day.”
So, what’s the rush? Is this simply the increasingly predominant marketer’s secret science of each consumer getting seven touches of a product before Ol’ St. Nick jumps in the sleigh?
“In part, yes, it is about getting more touches to audiences, but also getting to them first,” says Provost. “There is a competition to get to consumers first to gain top-of-mind awareness regarding what they will be buying over the season — the subsequent eight weeks. This is known as first mover advantage.”
But if one is a first mover, would they be creating a 'first fatigued?' Provost concurs; the strategy behind the approach for some retailers is an effort to expand the holiday purchase season. In that case, he explains, the store’s timetable and the consumer’s timetable may not be in ideal harmony. Still, true to his marketing roots, Provost found the win-win for all of us.
“While this does benefit the stores, it also benefits the consumers as it helps alleviate busy times for stores; aka the holiday crunch,” he says. “This allows people more time to find deals and overall reduces stress related to purchases. This additional time should also allow more time for planning. People don't want busy malls and this helps alleviate people's possible transfer to online options.”
Stand Out From Your Competition in the Christmas Marketing Madness
Okay, so there is a benefit of the early advertising blitz to the consumer after all. It gives time to plan, avoid busy malls and to visit local stores in person rather than the wide berth of online options from the comfort of their homes. But what about the small business owner? As they're watching the advertising bandwagon pass by faster than ever, how do they decide when to jump on?
Provost offers his suggestion for small businesses to stand out and make their best impressions during the cluttered holiday marketing madness.
1. Lead, don't follow. Don't just do what your competitors do, especially if they are large multinationals with seemingly unlimited budgets. Look for where your ideal customers are and what they do. That may mean using social media networks like Facebook or other media options to connect with your audience. In this regard, it truly helps to plan ahead. We are all busy and by the time the holidays are here, you have no time to plan. Instead, you will just react. Doing what your competitors are not doing may help to differentiate you.
2. Develop a quality message, campaign and concept…and then focus your message. You cannot say everything you want to everyone you want, so you need to prioritize and focus your messages. While customers are looking for discounts and value, they also need to know who you are and why they should visit you, and that isn't all about lowest cost. This often is derived from researching customer profiles and truly setting out to understand your audiences.
A good starting point is to create 'customer personas' that are examples of your main audience groups. Personas can help you understand your customers better by identifying key demographics, interests and preferences of each group. You'll become more strategic about how you connect with each type of customer and can then stand out from competitors who might not understand your shared audience as well.
3. Establish an online game plan. People often search online for ideas and options on where to shop before they go to the stores. Prioritize your website presence to ensure it is mobile friendly and covers the range and depth of products you carry. You may also consider adjusting some of the content on your site so that search engines can more easily identify you.
Consider writing a blog article each week of the holidays that gives your audience tips about using your products or services. Post the articles regularly on social media networks where your audience is most active, and make sure you stay on top of commenting and engaging with your network. This can be an inexpensive way to connect with real customers and drive traffic to your website or business.
Learn more about how to turn your website into a marketing powerhouse on the Business Hub.