It’s the beginning of November, which means conversations about Christmas haven’t just started, they’ve been going on for weeks.

My local Lowe’s started rolling out the Christmas decorations in October.

Christmas Creep

While I can’t stand how early the holiday season starts these days, for your business it’s essential that you plan ahead to ensure you get maximum value out of a season that makes up a huge portion of many businesses' annual revenue.

Here are some ways you can do that for your business.

1. Use Facebook to Remarket Holiday Specials to Existing Customers

You do keep an active email list of your clients, don’t you?

If not, forget the New Year’s resolution and start building one now so you have it to use next year.

If so, it’s time to use it.

One of the most powerful advertising features on Facebook is the ability to create custom audiences.

Facebook Custom Audiences

Facebook custom audiences allow you to import your email list and serve ads to anyone on the list that has a Facebook account using the same email address.

Create a custom audience on Facebook

(This particular feature is far more useful for B2C companies as most B2B organizations likely have databases filled with work email addresses and not the personal emails that would be attached to someone’s Facebook account.)

 Custom Facebook audience from file

Once you've created your custom audience, create your ad targeting the new list of customers you just uploaded.

Now you're only paying to show your ad to users who you know are interested in purchasing what you sell.

2. Then Do the Same Thing On Google!

Google offers the same ability to target users based on their email address.

These don’t have to only be Gmail addresses or accounts, Google will try their best to match any email addresses you upload (and they do a pretty good job).

To create one, click on the "Shared Library" option on the left hand side of your AdWords account, then click "Audiences" -> "+ Remarketing List" -> "Customer emails" to upload your list.

AdWords Custom Audiences

After you've created your list, create your ad targeting the new audience you just created.

3. Take Advantage of “The Big Four”

The four big events to prepare for are Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday for non-profits.

All of them occur within a 5-day window so this is where planning ahead goes a long way.

Black Friday doesn’t have to apply only to large businesses.

People simply expect a great deal, but there’s nothing that says the smallest of businesses can’t find a way to offer those and take advantage of massive amounts of buyer traffic.

The key is not to give anything away for free.

Businesses exist to make a profit, so if you’re going to cut prices to the bone, you need to make sure you get something in return.

Remember the discussion of an email list earlier?

Maybe your Black Friday deals are only available to those who are on your email list.

Just be sure you have a way to allow them to sign up in the store!

You could do the same thing targeting only those who check in to your store on Facebook, like your page, write a review on Google or Yelp!, etc.

Like our page to save

Your other option is to only offer deals on loss-leaders or other items that encourage or require repeat business.

If you sell a product that requires individuals to regularly purchase supplies or services from you to continue using the product they bought (think the Swiffer Sweeper, Diaper Genie, DIRECTV, etc.), it’s pretty easy to justify selling these things at cost one day a year and make up for it on the repeat business from everyone that got such an amazing deal.

You can execute your Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday deals in much the same way.

Just be sure to get word out about the great deals you’re going to be offering ahead of time.

Use social media, use your email list, hang up flyers, send out postcards, advertise in the paper, and definitely advertise in the local discount circular where buyers are already hunting for great deals!

Black Friday Deals

For Giving Tuesday, set up a campaign with a goal to try to achieve throughout the day. Engage your followers and fans in helping you reach your goal.

Make sure you ask them to share the campaign with everyone they know, providing all of the creative and material they need to engage their own contacts.

Work with one or more of your larger or more regular donors to set the campaign up as a matching campaign.

People are much more likely to give with the knowledge that their dollars are going twice as far, and they're more likely to share if there's a consequence to not achieving the goal (i.e. you won't get the matching funds).

4. Develop a Holiday Buying Guide

Get together with a few other local (but not competitive) shops and pool your resources to develop a small (10 items or so) buyer’s guide with unique gift ideas for different people on your list.

Pet gift guide

Have each business pick something they sell in their store to feature as a gift idea for a specific persona (e.g. “For the New Mom” or “Great Gifts for Dad”) and work with a designer to put together a small catalog featuring the items, the price, and, of course, where they can purchase it!

Pool your mailing lists, use the USPS’s EDDM (Every-Door Direct Mail) service, and/or buy a new list of targeted prospects.

Develop a digital version with links to your website(s) and distribute it to all of the participating stores to put on their own websites and share on social media too.

5. Take Advantage of Post-Holiday Deals

The holiday madness is over? Great!

Almost everything is cheaper after the holidays when retailers are either looking to make room for new inventory or are simply trying to generate some revenue after everyone blew their paychecks in December.

One of the best (and least publicized) deals you can pick up is cheap advertising.

Just about every advertising outlet will offer deals in January.

Radio stations need to fill airtime, magazines and newspapers have excess inventory, as do websites and social media platforms.

For the traditional outlets, it’s important to have an idea of what the rates are the rest of the year so you can decide if you should negotiate further or jump on the deal of a lifetime before it goes away.

On digital outlets, as long as your campaigns are still running you should get better deals almost by default since most digital inventory is sold at auction to the highest bidder.

Less bidders generally means lower prices; just be sure to adjust your bids on all of your campaigns after the holidays to ensure you get the best rates possible!

Chris Searles is President of Searles Media and specializes in helping small businesses maximize their available resources to market themselves effectively using a wide variety of media. Visit Website

This article originally appeared on Searles Graphics

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