It's almost that time of year. In fact, for many online retailers plans are already finalized and subtle changes are already beginning to show evidence of a strategy to take us straight from back to school to labor day through Halloween and into the gift-giving seasons. For others, their high season might be spring or summer. Whatever the high season for your business you need to approach it differently to maximize the opportunity it presents. Below are some tips to help you plan for a successful sprint that can extend into longer-term success.
To maximize revenue opportunities make sure your budget caps are not limiting your yield. Spend needs to expand to absorb the increased demand. Challenge your media and search providers to do some forecasting to see what the high limits of spend might be under ideal circumstances that fit your cost of marketing goals.
Grow your customer base. Take advantage of the buying or gift-giving mindset of the season to encourage referrals and passalongs. Consider treating each new customer to a coupon opportunity for future purchases either for themselves or for a friend.
Grow your customer e-mail list. Add opt-in language in multiple places to help.
Use this time of heightened activity to learn more about your customers. If you have high enough site volume and you crave feedback or demographic validation, consider an exit survey that doesn't interfere with your commerce goals. You may need to sweeten the survey with an incentive to get participation. If you make that incentive a coupon, you both win.
Factor in gift giving so you don't confuse your customer profiles with personal profiles. Flag purchases during this period in your database as seasonal and treat remarketing and recommendation engines with care to avoid the probably false assumption that 20-something males are regularly buying fuzzy pink slippers.
Scout for competitive weaknesses. If they're not taking advantage of the season perhaps you can scoop up their traffic or entice their customers. Beware of starting an unproductive war though.
Adjust your creative and messaging. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to bathe everything in shades of red and green and tie a big bow on it, but reflect the holiday state of mind. It's important to signal your customers.
Remember that many of the people you will reach during seasonal craziness may know less about you then your usual customers. Factor that into your messaging and promotions.
Draft off of holiday or seasonally specific events, sites, and promotions that occur to reach customers in places you may not have been before or ways that you haven't used. Customer volume and traffic appears in new places during this time.
Try a joint promotion with an audience-compatible but non-competitive brand to extend your reach and to provide a truly unique product bundle or promotional opportunity. Look for a potential partner with a high quality brand and a solid CRM program with an extensive customer e-mail list to cut your costs of marketing as you each leverage your e-mail and other customer touch points like product shipments or e-mail confirmations for joint benefit.
Accelerate your optimization schedule if you can afford to do it. That will allow you to make the quick shifts that mean the difference between acceptable and exceptional performance. Don't be afraid to drop non-performing elements of your plan. When volume is high, you can and should make faster decisions as you have more data, more quickly to validate what you are seeing.
Negotiate rates aggressively. While premium inventory is always at a premium there are also more page views available for sale during seasonal periods.
Click prices will almost definitely be bid up for seasonally affected categories. Be prepared for that ultimate manifestation of supply and demand by knowing what each click is worth to you – during this time period. Don't cling to off-season click price averages. They don't apply for now.
Use what you have learned the rest of the year to hone your seasonal strategy, but treat this time of year as the unique opportunity that it is. Hopefully you've been testing both onsite and offsite elements to have a really good idea of how to drive business productively and can end the year with more customers and great potential.
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Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.
Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.