8 Tips and a Few More Resources for Holiday Marketing

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digital holiday marketingNovember has arrived and the holiday season is officially upon us. Seven more weeks until Christmas and just a short few weeks until Thanksgiving. As marketers or business owners there often are two camps around the holidays: stressed and incredibly busy, or feeling the seasonal low. I tend to see only one camp, however, and there’s opportunity on both sides!

The holiday season presents marketers with a ripe opportunity to end Q4 with a bang. No matter your business, busy or slow, this time of year is your chance to harness the art of finishing strong. Having seen my fair share of holiday seasons I thought it would be great to share a few marketing automation tips and resources for the holidays.

Our readers are incredibly innovative; if you have ideas to share, please comment below!

1. Research & Strategy

Well-laid plans often start with a bit of research and strategy. Whether your holiday marketing season was slow or busy, refresh yourself with the measurement activities you performed last year.

Didn’t perform any? Gather as much historical data as you can from website analytics, vendors, Search Console, etc.. and evaluate what you can. What observations can you make? Which patterns can you infer?

Your data can help you do a few important things. Data helps in setting baselines and will aid in setting goals for your holiday season this year. Additionally, reviewing your data you’ll see content and other assets you have that drive traffic and conversions during this time of year. Those landing pages could be repurposed or updated for 2015, as well as spark ideas for new campaigns.

Third party data from tools is additionally useful. Consider the following:

  • Google.com: Good old Google will aid in your research when conducting competitive analysis or looking at your own content. Search your site or your competitor’s by using the parameter: site:insertyourwebsitenamehere.com. Add one space. Then add keywords such as “Christmas” or “Holiday” or “Thanksgiving” (etc.) after the space in quotes.

site holiday

Advanced searchers will limit the results to the last year or two, and suddenly you’re left with the most recent holiday content and indexed landing pages.


  • SEMRush.com: This tool will help you see which keyword queries content is ranking for not only on your own site, but (more importantly), on competitor websites. They use an incredibly advanced system to reverse engineer the keywords that your site or a competitor’s site is ranking for, which position, and the possible traffic from search engines. A great trick to try is:
  1. Insert a competitor’s domain that you know produces a LOT of content and click Search.
  2. Export the top organic keyword report and sort the report in alphabetical order, using the column that lists landing pages.
  3. The sorted list will show you any landing pages that are duplicated. Those pages rank for more than one keyword phrase, the most duplicated landing pages rank for the most keywords.
  4. Do this across a few competitors and get an idea of the type of content that ranks very well and the audience likes. Highlight content that is seasonal. hopefully at this point you’ll be inspired with a few ideas you never thought of. Create the same content, but in the words of Rand Fishkin make it 10x better!
  • Be James Bond of the Web: On the Kissmetrics blog several tools were provided along with reviews, showing you how you too can be James Bond on the web, ‘spying’ on your competitors. Plus, tools like Spy Fu help you review your competitors’ ad spend, web ranking tools, mention monitoring, and social engagement research tools. This can aid in competitive research, and be especially helpful during the holidays.

researchResearch can be a never-ending process, so don’t let it consume you. Find a good stopping point and start your holiday strategy after you feel confident you’re well-enough-armed. Writing down a formal strategy is a good exercise for just about everyone; without it you could be making your biggest content marketing mistake according to content expert Arnie Kuenn. And as Content Marketing Institute has noted, the #1 most important success factor is having a written content strategy.

Let your strategy actually guide your efforts vs. marketing on a whim. As you develop your strategy we hope you’ll examine these topics for integration into your campaigns this holiday season.

2. Audience

Anticipating your audience’s changing needs is an important skill marketers have to hone well to be consistently successful. With marketing automation we can make this process a bit easier on ourselves, as well as help ease the shopping experience throughout the sales journey by setting up useful campaigns. Hopefully the data you reviewed gives you a sense of what may work this holiday season vs. last year.

  • Examine visitor flow reports in analytics, understanding the path that users took most frequently to get to conversion. Are there changes to your campaigns you can make this year to help reduce, even just one click, along that journey?
  • An often-overlooked report in analytics is the data for your own search on your site. What words are users typing in to find what they can’t quickly throughout your site? These can give you some insights to help improve the experience this holiday season, (and other times of the year too, of course).
  • Consider polling your customers or using some other type of participation/opt-in item. Gather data that will be useful for setting up your campaigns this year. You may be surprised at the innovative ideas your own customers provide if you simply ask them to submit their suggestions. Set up the right questions to get the best responses for your purpose.

3. Email Segmentation

Careful segmentation is a great ‘gift’ to give back to your email subscribers. Email inboxes overflow during the holidays; a poorly targeted or poorly timed email could get buried – not to mention be very off-putting. Timing, personalization based on a visitor’s previous engagement, frequency’ and mobility are important for emails, no matter the time of year. But during the holidays, when volume rises, it’s even more critical.

Take a look at your campaigns this season and figure out what optimization you can do to improve the experience for your prospective customers. The Act-On blog has featured articles about email marketing during the holidays; if you haven’t read them we highly recommend checking out these tips:

4. Paid Advertising

Your PPC dollars are one of the ways you can really succeed this time of year. Collaborating with other forms of marketing, paid advertising and retargeting campaigns allow you to be everywhere your customers are – enticing their click and spend. Here are a few best practices to help you throughout this time of year.

Enticing Copy. Updating your copy may seem like second nature for some, but others may take this time of year to skate by on an already written piece of ad copy. Shake it up a bit, throw in some festive flair, and test out a few different CTAs.

Landing Page Consistency. Is it just me, or do you get annoyed when you click on an ad expecting to see something the ad referenced and, lo and behold, it doesn’t exist on the page? Don’t be that website. Use this time to prep pages and update copy to ensure that your call to action matches what your new and hopefully improved web copy has to say.

Existing Customer Upsell. Retargeting campaigns to your existing customers may present upsell opportunities when used in a strategic way. Think about products that have additional accessories or are associated in some way, and retarget to those customers you have information on – in a thoughtful way.

Gift Giving Keywords. Do you know exactly what you’re going to give this holiday season? If you do then you deserve a trophy. As for the rest of us, we’re often searching things like “women’s gift ideas” or “christmas toy ideas for two year olds from an aunt who doesn’t have kids” if you’re really specific. Think about gift-giving words and look at bidding on them.

5. Landing Page Optimization & Testing

landing pagesBefore the busy holiday season (or during the lull if that’s your seasonality), consider testing. Some call this conversion rate optimization (CRO) and apply the phrase in a broad sense.

For the purposes of this post we’ll focus on landing page optimization. (It’s worthwhile to note that CRO opportunities can be found throughout the year, not just at the winter holidays. OK, back to our regularly scheduled programming) The website Nabler suggests running these simple landing page tests before the holiday season officially kicks off:

  1. Test above-the-fold page content
  2. Test HTML text elements
  3. Test different promo offers
  4. Test CTA variations

You can also build a hypothesis and test it. These tips are key to improving your landing pages … or simply refreshing them. No time like the present to reexamine your pages and make sure each is primed to perform. Simple things like a color scheme refresh could be considered, along with seasonal images updated throughout the site.

Reposition gift card and gift-giving content for easy access and better user flow. The process of landing page optimization can sometimes mimic user experience optimization; check out a few resources on the topic to update your own landing pages this season based on user experience.

6. Follow-Up Campaigns

Don’t use marketing follow up campaigns? You’re leaving money on the table. Follow-up campaigns should be well thought-out and developed, but they don’t have to be complicated. Think about some common follow-up campaigns:

Action Triggers. Auto responders, double opt-in and re-subscribe confirmations are action triggers to consider.

Behavioral Triggers. Behavioral triggers for when someone clicks on an email for example, can be set up during the holidays to retarget to individuals possibly interested who simply didn’t click.

Post Purchase Campaigns. When someone purchases, consider a specific follow-up to thank them for their purchase. Or, you could suggest accessories for what they purchased.

Shopping Cart Abandonment Campaigns. If you’re able to access a list of individuals who abandon their shopping cart, with data about the products they left, why not set up a follow-up campaign to remind them of the items they discarded? If you’ve ever received these emails yourself and purchased something, you’ll know how effective they can be when well timed.

7. Cause-Based Marketing 

Giving back to the local community should be something your organization does without question. On top of the already-in-place donations you provide each year, consider partnering with a local non-profit for a cause-based marketing initiative. Organizations depend on the donations of the local community and support to run programs that give back. Match programs aimed at donating based on the # of retweets or hashtags, clothing drives, pin up campaigns, scholarships, and picking a family for a giving tree are a few examples.

8. User-Generated Content 

I’ve worked with a few brands that often take the holiday season as a time to encourage user-generated content. From a holiday greeting card company awarding scholarships for young artists submitting their holiday card designs, to Instagram-themed match campaigns, the possibilities are endless.

Use your staff to brainstorm ideas that will require your prospective or existing customers to submit a piece of content no matter what media (video, photo, written, etc.…). If you can get away with it for free all the better! My local TV station asks watchers to submit their furry pets on Fridays to be shared live. See how you can back into an idea that results in user generated content? You can use this throughout the year, in next year’s holiday promos, or for other marketing initiatives.

Miscellaneous Tips for Marketing Automation  

  • Try using a content editorial calendar and a social editorial calendar. Each can help keep your team organized and on track with publishing those landing pages, social posts and other content on your site. Some free downloads are available, my favorite free content editorial calendar is this one on VerticalMeasures.com.
  • The holiday times, for some, may be ripe opportunity to get more reviews on those local profiles like Yelp, Google, and others. I’m sure you’ve seen other businesses solicit these reviews, do so in a tactical way through specific email campaigns, follow-up emails after purchase, or even on a case-by-case basis. Think about what will work for your business and use the holiday season to get that valuable user-generated content – in the form of reviews.
  • Successful marketers have started using “tripwires.” Tripwires are offers made to individuals who have already reviewed one of your lead magnets, possibly a free guide or another piece of gated content. Tripwires should be geared to the audience, low cost but juicy and enticing. In the end, a tripwire should be something that leads them even farther down the path to convert.

  Digital Marketer calls this process Customer Value Optimization. Check it out and learn a bit more. Try a tripwire this holiday season and tell us about it.

  • Test, test, test! Whether it’s your slow season or your busy season, test what you can to give you even more insights for 2016. Use campaigns this holiday season to prepare you for what’s to come. Landing page testing using your Act-On software is a great way to put your ideas to the true test.

Time is quickly running out, but armed with data and a few new resources the holiday season should look bright. Don’t let another holiday season go by with a reactive marketing strategy. Sit down and start planning today – it’s not too late!

View Act-On’s free webinar, Holiday Email Best Practices, to learn tips and tricks for making sure your emails not only standout, but make it to your prospects inbox this holiday season.