5 Holiday Marketing Tips for New Retailers


From social media to direct mail, how to create your first holiday marketing strategy

By Jessica Thiefels

The holidays are the most important time of the year for retailers. For some, the sales during this time of year represent as much as 30 percent of annual revenue, according to the National Retail Federation. Don’t let your first holiday season pass without putting your best foot forward. With a focus on marketing, you can drive sales and build a loyal following that will buy from you all year long.

Use the following tips to create your first holiday marketing strategy. Consider goals, your brand story, and popular marketing techniques for a successful season of selling.


1. Set goals

Before you can create any strategy, you need to have goals. These dictate what you’ll need to do and set the stage for your entire marketing strategy. Start with resources like this guide to social media marketing to find different categories of goals you might want to set. Use these categories as a structure, making sure you have one goal in each area of focus. As you plan goals to drive your marketing strategy, keep the following tips in mind.

Make quantifiable goals: You should be able to easily track the success of any goal you set, which means they need to be quantifiable. This can get as nitty-gritty as making five sales via customer service requests on Instagram. You can then count how many sales came through this funnel by tagging them as such in your e-commerce platform or POS.

Stay focused on business goals: Remember that your holiday marketing goals need to be tied to your overarching business goals, allowing you to have more than just an online presence. For example, if one of your business goals is to drive brand awareness, perhaps you set a goal to increase your total follower count by a certain number during the holiday season. You may even add a metric for conversions from new followers to keep a clear focus on the end goal.

Be platform-specific: Tie each goal directly to each platform and marketing format you plan to use. For example, instead of saying, “Drive 50 sales from social media” break it down into, “Drive 10 sales from Pinterest.” This gives you more focus and direction.


2. Focus on your brand story

Your brand story separates you from your competition — it is uniquely yours and could be what attracts someone to your brand. Not only does this drive an emotional connection with your business, but a 2017 survey found that loyal customers who are engaged with your brand spend two times more than those who aren’t. The question is how do you bring your story to life? BigCommerce shares five steps to do that.

  1. Get intimately familiar with your ideal customer. “Pretend you are having a conversation with your potential customer. What do you know about their daily lives? What are their hobbies? How do they consume media? What situations will they relate to?”
  2. Create your position statement, or explain the value of your product or brand to that ideal customer.
  3. Find your brand hero. This could be in the form of a few great testimonials that can be shared throughout the holiday season.
  4. Be authentic. If you’re not sure whether you’re being authentic, take a look at the words you use, their tone and voice. Are they indicative of your brand? Could you set yourself apart even more?
  5. Design your story to be shared. Everyone loves sharing a feel-good story or reading something that makes them happy, restores their faith in humanity, or makes them feel empowered.

As you build your marketing strategy, you’ll weave your unique brand and story into everything you do.


3. Consider brand ambassadors

One of the most powerful forms of marketing right now is user-generated content (UGC), or any videos, text, and images that have been posted to online platforms by users. A 2017 survey by Social Media Today found that 75 percent of consumers believe UGC content is more authentic. Essentially, these users are brand ambassadors.

To bring brand ambassadors into your marketing plan, start with your current customers. As this guide for promoting a product, from Selz, explains, “Do you have a product or service that your customers love to gush about? Do you notice that some of your customers rave about you on social media without any prompting from you? They might be a natural brand ambassador that can carry your new product into spaces you couldn’t reach on your own.”

If you don’t already have a tribe of excited customers, your first step is to reach out to influencers who may be interested in becoming one. To make it enticing, Selz suggests paying your ambassadors or giving them free products to help them get started.


4. Say “Action!”

Not only are 81 percent of businesses using video in their marketing right now — which means your competitors are too — but 76 percent of marketers say video helps them boost sales. Meanwhile, 81 percent of consumers have been convinced to buy a product after watching a brand video.

All of this means one thing: Your holiday marketing strategy needs to involve video. Luckily, there are many ways you can step into this marketing medium, even with a small budget. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Ask brand ambassadors to do product or unboxing videos. When they share their video with their network, you can re-share the video with your own, allowing for organic reach, authenticity, and the repurposing of valuable content.
  • Share your brand story via Instagram or Facebook Live.
  • Ask customers for video testimonials. Again, even if they post a testimonial to their page or in their story, you can repost it.
  • Post behind-the-scenes videos of your team (even if it’s just you!) prepping products, handling orders, etc.


5. Think offline too

We live much of our lives online, but brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores shouldn’t forget about offline marketing. This is especially valuable for local storefronts that can use direct mailers to drive foot traffic.

While this may seem like an outdated technique, it’s actually holding steady. According to data from the DMA’s 2018 Statistical Fact Book, the volume of direct mail dropped to 149.4 billion in 2016, but the percentage of direct mail in overall mail increased. Not to mention, the consumer packaged goods industry is the second heaviest user of direct mail.

If you’re ready to add direct mail to your holiday marketing strategy, give these ideas a try.

  • Send a direct mail campaign to local shoppers if you have a brick-and-mortar store. Include a discount to get them in your store.
  • Send holiday cards to current customers to say thanks, driving loyalty and encouraging a second purchase.
  • Offer a first-time buyer discount. This works for both online and offline stores.
  • Send free shipping postcards to regions where shipping is cheapest for you, allowing you to spend less while giving your customers what they care about most.

Before creating and sending your mailers, remember FiveStar’s 40/40/20 rule. “Forty percent of your success will come from how effective your mailing list is, another 40 percent will depend on how compelling your offer is, and the remaining 20 percent will come from everything else (design, the copy/text of the mailing, the images you’ve chosen, delivery date and method, etc).”


Creating your first holiday marketing campaign

Use all of these tips and ideas to create a holiday marketing campaign that converts customers and drives a loyal following. With your brand story in place and the use of a wide range of techniques, you’ll be one step closer to reaching your holiday revenue targets — all the while, building a successful business.


Jessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, a content marketing agency. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes and Business2Community. She also regularly contributes to Virgin, Business Insider, Glassdoor, Score.org, and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect with her on LinkedIn.