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Seasonal Marketing for Small Businesses: Use Online Marketing Tools to Keep Competitive

November 2, 2017 at 9:50 AM

seasonal marketing for small businesses

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” That bouncy song plays in holiday ads all season long. It can be a wonderful time for your business, if you make enough sales. But to do that, your brick-and-mortar business must compete with the seasonal marketing power of e-commerce and big brands. How can your business handle that daunting task? By getting your products in front of your ideal customers’ eyes when they’re most interested in what you sell. The best way to do that is with targeted online advertising.

The growing strength of online sales and weakening performance of physical stores has local businesses nervous. Yet brick-and-mortars have the potential to thrive, even in the face of the online onslaught. A stunning 90% of U.S. sales still take place at brick-and-mortar stores. Successful small businesses excel at providing a local touch and a unique experience. Personal shopping experiences are in great demand. Local businesses still have plenty to offer holiday shoppers. The challenge? Getting shoppers to think of and visit their businesses to fill their holiday shopping needs.

Seasonal marketing bridges the gap between small businesses and harried holiday shoppers. You can put their holiday energy to work for your business. One way is to help them learn about your products over time with social media local awareness ads. Another is the more immediate approach: make sure shoppers find your business during their Google searches.

What Gives E-Commerce and Big Brands an Advantage?

Online and big brand businesses have access to vast banks of online customer data. It's easy for them to market to their most-likely customers. They already have customers’ names and contact info. Small-business access to that valuable customer data used to be expensive and hard to come by. Happily, ad platforms like Google and Facebook make it easy for local businesses to get in on the action. They’ve gathered billions of data points about potential customers. By advertising with them, you get access to that data. Then your business shows up in online searches and social media feeds alongside e-commerce and big brand businesses.

Most shoppers go online to research products and services. Having a strong online marketing strategy is crucial if you want to get your name in front of holiday buyers. Below you’ll find tips to help you lure potential customers your way using online data, tools and research. But it comes down to this: online advertising is the most effective form of seasonal marketing for today’s small business. We’ll show you how adding our specialty, location intelligence, to your online seasonal marketing makes reaching target customers easier, more economical and more effective.

seasonal marketing e-commerce competition

Get a Jump on the Competition

One way to rev your retail engine is to begin seasonal marketing efforts earlier. Start running local awareness ads early to build brand awareness and trust. Fill heads with visions of products and services you can offer them when the time is right. The more impressions you make, the more likely they’ll remember you during key moments.

Keep ads going throughout the season so your audience keeps you in mind when pressed for time and short on ideas. Soothe last-minute shopping anxieties. Address pain points with ready-to-go, in-stock gift and entertaining options when they’re most ready for your help.

Local Awareness Ads Keep You in Their Thoughts

People who search using Google know what they’re looking for. Advertising your business with Google means attracting an audience that’s ready to buy. But you also want to reach people who don’t know enough about your business to search for you. These people would like your products, but haven’t heard of them yet. Social media local awareness ads are the way to go for this group. And the most far-reaching and versatile social media platform is Facebook.

Social media viewers aren’t usually as ready to buy as people who run Google searches. So get your ads into their Facebook feeds when they’re most open to suggestion—advertise during the busy holiday season. Convince people that they have a need for products they weren’t even aware existed. While Google ads are served in response to a customer’s actions—they are searching for you—Facebook is different. Facebook ads are served to people who scroll through newsfeeds and don’t expect to find you there—you are searching for them.

Facebook users usually have less-immediate needs. They are more passive viewers than active shoppers, so local awareness ads are often a more long-term strategy. But if people are out near your business, a Facebook ad on their mobile can inspire them to stop into your business right then. Serving coupons, discounts codes or other content by mobile when shoppers are in your business area catches them during susceptible micro-moments and leads to impulse buys.

Marketing efforts that run around Thanksgiving and later are likely to pay off fastest. Holiday buyers are more suggestible and motivated. However, social media’s greatest strength is in building awareness and positive feelings for your company and products over time.

Couldn’t you share free Facebook posts on your page and get visitors without paying for ads? You do want to create a strong Facebook presence with regular, appealing content. But you won’t appear in newsfeeds unless people visit you, follow you or see your posts shared by others. Get your posts in front of potential customers (and not just people who already follow or search for you): advertise.

Remember, even if people follow you, your posts may not appear in their Facebook feeds. Facebook doesn’t show every post from your circle in your feed. Even if you have many Facebook followers, your non-ad posts won’t be seen by all of them.

micro-moments local targeting

When you’re ready to build awareness, make sure you reach an audience that makes a real difference to your business’s bottom line. These are your most relevant potential customers. Facebook has powerful audience-targeting filters, so you can get quite specific.

Even if you choose audience interests and demographics carefully, you have limited control about where Facebook displays your ads. Sure, you can adjust the size of the distance radius from your business to your hoped-for customers. Maybe you’ll serve ads only to people within three miles, or one mile, or maybe just one kilometer from your business. But old-style customer-location radiuses don’t account for traffic or impediments like bridges or lakes. They assume everyone who meets Facebook’s criteria and lives within a given radius is equally likely to visit your business. That’s just not so.

When you use Spatially Ads to place Facebook ads, you get all the benefits of Facebook’s filters, plus you get our powerful spatial behavior analytics. Using Spatially’s location intelligence, you find only people who match your targeting choices and already spend time near your business. Spatially Ads finds clusters of those most relevant potential customers, then serves your ads to them. But this extra power doesn’t mean extra work for you: Spatially Ads includes prompts that make ad set-up quick and easy.

Capture Customers During Micro-Moments

Once Black Friday approaches, consumers are ready to buy. They search online in earnest. They want to spend money that day. Make sure your seasonal marketing helps them find your business when they’re itching to spend. Investing in Google AdWords ads to reach people who are ready to buy is a great way to get your most relevant audience to see your offerings. Make it easy for them to find you in the moments that matter most.

You could go straight to Google to set up an AdWords ad and use Google’s built-in customer targeting options. However, Google, like Facebook, uses an old-style radius to set the limits of your advertising. As with Facebook, when you use Spatially Ads with Google AdWords, our location analytics find your most likely customers among clusters of people in your area. We help you zip through the process with useful prompts and suggestions.

We don’t just guess how far customers will travel, as Google does. Spatially Ads uses verified, actual customer travel patterns to determine which groups of people are most likely to visit you. You benefit from Google’s demographic and keyword-based filtering and add the power of location-based customer data. This means no more “spray and pray” approach. No more broadcasting ads in hopes that some reach relevant customers. With Spatially Ads, you pay for fewer but more relevant ads, which results in cost savings and more conversions. And what business doesn’t like that?

Keep Up with the Joneses

Make notes about what competitors do to drive sales. Research other businesses’ past seasonal marketing successes and failures. Adapt the best and avoid the worst. What trends or methods were popular last year? Keep up with competitors’ websites and social media pages. How can you differentiate your business from theirs?

seasonal marketing keep up with competitors

You’re not in a race to be seen by the most people. Local business marketing isn’t about getting ads in front of as many people as possible. It’s about reaching people close to you who have an interest in your product and who are ready to buy. This is your most relevant audience. Paying to advertise to people who don’t fit those criteria is a waste of money.

Review Your Previous Holiday Sales

You can get some idea about what might work best for this year’s seasonal marketing campaigns by looking at previous years’ marketing and sales history. When did you get the largest crowds and sales? What offers or techniques got the best response? Did coupons, customization, special events or teaming up with complementary businesses help? Don’t be afraid to repurpose your “greatest hits.”

Don’t Slack on Social Media Engagement

Extend your seasonal marketing budget even further by spending regular time on social media posts year-round. This helps you reach an established following when holidays return. Posting social updates gets you get cheap, positive exposure and customer engagement. Key tips to remember:

  • Include attractive visuals—these get more likes (which boost chances of appearing in feeds) and more shares (which spread visibility)
  • Videos are especially appealing and shareable
  • Humor and surprise inspire more likes and shares
  • Cute animal images are always popular
  • Encourage engagement by asking a question alongside an appealing image to increase shares and likes. Consider adding text like “How will you wear yours?” or “Which one would YOU like to see in your stocking?” to your images
  • Encourage shoppers to buy treats for themselves while they’re shopping—show empathy while encouraging sales

Add Customized Services and Limited-Time Amenities

The holiday season is a special time. Your seasonal marketing efforts should make it even more special for your customers. Consider improving amenities and customizing services over the holidays. Think of customers’ greatest pain points and find ways to soothe holiday stresses. Mention these customer-friendly extras in ads, on social media and on signage. For example:

  • Offer after-the-holidays discounts: reward holiday buyers with coupons redeemable after New Year’s Day
  • Offer free delivery of large purchases
  • Offer stocking stuffers near the check-out counter or alongside customer queues —you make more sales; customers enjoy the diversion and convenience
  • Make more room in your parking lot by having employees park off-site (then reward your staff in appreciation for their inconvenience!)
  • Offer free gift wrapping services
  • Offer free warm drinks: cocoa, cider, coffee or tea are welcome on cold days
  • Offer free stocking stuffers or discounts for purchases of a certain size

Using Seasonal Marketing Tricks All Year Long

Your business can use seasonal marketing tips during other holiday and celebratory seasons, too. Run promotions throughout the year. Keep your customer pipeline filled so you avoid feast and famine cycles. Run inexpensive but effective special online promotions and seasonal ads and market seasonal products all year long. List all events, regional celebrations and high-sales times on your marketing content calendar. Then prepare appropriate promotions, images and videos ahead of time.

With a little foresight and well-targeted ads, you can use seasonal marketing to affordably and effectively build awareness and increase sales during the holiday season and throughout the year.


Did you enjoy this or another article here at the Spatially Blog? Feel free to share them! Have a local business challenge you’d like to see addressed here? Send your idea to info@spatially.com.

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