If you’re reading this post, you already know that running a small business is hard work. And it only gets more difficult during the holiday season. As a small business owner, you may feel that each day with an “open” sign is a reason to celebrate. We get it.
HostGator is turning 16 years old, but like so many other businesses, HostGator started as a small business with a single client. Our customer base grew quickly from dozens to hundreds, and hundreds to thousands, and so can you!
We may be turning 16, but we’re celebrating you – small businesses – and helping you succeed with a birthday sale and 16 tips to promote your small business website during the holidays. Let’s get started!
1. Determine your holiday marketing budget.
Hopefully you have a regular budget set aside for online marketing. If not, it’s likely time to think about a budget, even a small marketing budget, particularly since some social media channels require a small “pay to play” amount. Yes, your Facebook business page is still free, but the Facebook algorithm gives high preference to sponsored posts and ads. As such, it’s harder to be seen in the busy news feed.
One solution is to work incredibly hard at organic posts – publishing your posts multiple times or offering giveaways if your fans will share your page. The quickest solution, however, may be to buy small ads or promoted posts to ensure that fans see your posts.
If you already have a marketing budget, great! Think about how much additional money you can contribute to your marketing budget during the holiday season.
2. Make a “set it and forget it” plan for social media marketing.
In the hustle and bustle of trying to work your business during the holiday season, give yourself a break by planning and pre-scheduling as much as you can. Social media may be the last thing on your mind when the holiday season ramps up, so create a social “set it and forget it” media promotion plan.
Creating and scheduling social media posts in advance can save you a ton of time during the busy season, and it will free up your mind to be more creative in the moment. Make a list of at least three posts per week that you can pre schedule. Your scheduled post can be as simple as a reminder of your holiday hours or as detailed as a featured item of the day or a blog post you’ve already written.
If social media content seems too overwhelming during the holiday season, consider hiring a freelance social media manager. You can find affordable freelancers on websites such as Fiverr. But hiring a freelancer doesn’t completely eliminate your need to be involved. A freelance social media manager will likely want to schedule a meeting with you to go over ideas, and may even request your approval of the content before posting to social media. A freelancer can certainly be helpful with on-demand needs such as if you expect to get more inbox messages on your page.
If you have social media-savvy staff members, consider giving them access to post on your social media accounts during the holiday season. Ultimately, be smart about what will pose the least risk for your business and will also help maximize your time during the holiday season.
3. Be sure that your physical location and office hours are correct and consistent.
Be sure that your physical location and office hours are correct and consistent across the internet. Don’t forget to check all mentions on your own website, all ‘about’ sections on social media, your Google My Business listings, and any other local listing websites.
In the long run, consistent information will give you credibility with search engines which may, in turn, list your website higher in search results. Take a few minutes to be sure all your information is correct and consistent.
If you have special holiday hours, be sure to list them and consider noting that they are, in fact, holiday hours. Customers are more likely to shop with you if they can trust that you’ll be open when your website says you will be open.
4. Offer a holiday coupon.
According to a 2016 CouponBox survey, coupons can increase revenue for retailers up to 40 percent. But what type of coupon should you offer? First of all, determine your profit margin and create a coupon that brings revenue without cutting into your profit margin. Create a coupon that will be intriguing for your customers, and share the coupon as often as you want – on social media, in email marketing, or even a traditional printed coupon stuffed into shopping bags for future purchases.
Create unique coupon codes for each coupon that you offer in order to track which coupons are most popular. For instance, have a coupon code such as “EMAIL” for email offers and a different code, such as “SHAREME,” to indicate coupons found via social media. At the end of the holiday season, count the coupon codes to know which coupons were most profitable for your business so that planning for next year will be easier.
Online coupons are very shareable, which can be in your favor, but keep in mind that online coupons can also be picked up by sites like RetailMeNot. Be sure you are able to sustain a coupon (and orders) on a large scale.
5. Develop an email marketing campaign to promote your sales & holiday promotions.
Email marketing is an efficient and cost-effective way to communicate with your customers. As social media feeds continue to limit timely exposure to your fanbase, email marketing allows your customers to see and open your emails on their own schedule. To make it easier on you, set up email automation by scheduling a series of emails to distribute throughout the holiday season. Use your email campaigns to promote the coupons, holiday gift guides, and other holiday sales you have going on during the holiday season.
6. Develop new ideas for your holiday campaigns by reviewing last year’s analytics.
You know that statement about learning from your past? You can apply the same concept to your holiday marketing efforts by looking at last year’s data to find ideas you can apply or tweak this year. Create a list of all your data and analytics that could be helpful such as Google Analytics, analytics from your email marketing software, and social media analytics for paid and organic posts.
Review your data from October to January, and look for trends such as what your audience reacted to, which posts received the most traffic, and what time of day your website received the most traffic. You can learn a lot from last year’s analytics that can help shape your holiday marketing strategy this year.
7. Build your following by co-sponsoring a giveaway with a complementary brand.
Word of mouth still has a strong influence on shoppers. One way you can capitalize on word of mouth is to partner with other small businesses or brands. Look for small businesses that offer products or services that would be of interest to your customers. Consider small businesses with a strong social media following that is larger than yours or has customers that are similar to yours. To double your exposure, both companies should tag the social media promotion.￼
8. Ask current customers for reviews.
Building on the word of mouth concept, customers are highly likely to read online reviews before purchasing. In fact, customers often read product reviews on multiple sites during their decision making process. According to research from BrightLocal, 88% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Online reviews are also important for search engine rankings. Websites may rank higher in search results if the company has reviews, especially positive reviews. If a customer has a positive experience with your business, encourage them to share it on one of the review sites. You can get started easily with reviews on Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, or even reviews posted on your own website.
One thing to note – search engines usually want these reviews to be and feel organic. If you were to run a contest and encourage people to complete a review in order to enter the contest, Google may see this flood of reviews as spammy. Bottom line, keep it organic and honest.
9. Make sure your website is ready to handle the holiday traffic boost.
Many businesses start with a small, shared web hosting plan, but eventually reach the point where they need to upgrade. Small businesses may choose to upgrade their website hosting for more server space, more speed, or if they want a more secure server environment.
But how do you know if it’s time to upgrade to a dedicated server? If you’ve experienced slow website performance or if you keep highly sensitive information, it may be time to consider a dedicated server. During the holiday season, you’re likely to expect more traffic to your website, and upgrading to a dedicated server could the perfect solution to ensure your website is ready to handle the traffic spike.
10. Update your website to a mobile-friendly design template.
The rise of website traffic from mobile devices, as compared to desktop computers, continues to grow. Some people who browse the web on their mobile devices don’t mind seeing the full website, but others want to find the information as quickly as possible. You can make your website responsive, meaning the layout adjusts based on the screen size of the user. As your customers are out on the road during the holiday season, they will certainly appreciate being able to access your website from their mobile phone or tablet. Added perk? Google will give higher search engine ranking preference to websites that are responsive.
11. Add social media links and feeds to your website.
Social media is a channel that offers high return for sharing content with your fans, but did you know that you can make it easier for your fans to share your content across social media? Add social share buttons to your website so fans can hit one button and quickly share your content without ever leaving your website. Consider adding a social media feed to your website, either on the sidebar or embedded in a page, so website visitors can easily see the sales or promotions you may have on social media.
12. Offer exclusive events for your members or top customers.
Throw a holiday-themed party for your customers to encourage brand loyalty. If you can, time the event with a product preview, product launch, or a “sip and see” for your new product line. Promote the event on your website, in an email invitation, and even on social media. Try to host this party early in the season such as October or November when your customers begin to think about holiday shopping.
13. Create a holiday gift guide.
As you know, shopping for everyone on your holiday gift list can be overwhelming. Make shopping easier for your customers by creating a holiday gift guide. A holiday gift guide organizes the best of your products and gifts into categories based on the gift recipient, dollar amount, or by theme. For example, sort products by gifts for her, gifts for him, gifts under $50, gifts for teens, gifts for the home, and more.
A guide will highlight your products, make shopping easier for your customers, and will be easy for your customers to share with their friends.
14. Reorganize your website by gift categories or themes.
Now that you’ve created a holiday gift guide, consider updating the main navigation of your website to match your holiday shopping categories. Many people visiting your website during November and December will likely be purchasing gifts. Make it easy for them to find your top recommended gifts so they will be more likely to purchase.
15. Bring customers back to your site by remarketing on social media.
Have you ever searched for a product online and later saw an ad for the same product on social media? That’s a feature called remarketing that allows you to reconnect with people that have visited your website. You can use remarketing ads on social media platforms, on Google search, and in other websites that support display marketing ads. A remarketing campaign is an effective method to ensure customers keep thinking about your product and have easy access to the link when they are ready to buy.
16. Take website security seriously. Get an SSL certificate.
Website security should be a top priority for you year-round, but especially during the holiday season. During the holidays, more people are shopping online, but so are hackers who are shopping for credit card information or personal data.
If you haven’t heard, in July 2018, Google Chrome released a security update that will alert your website visitors if your website doesn’t have security measures in place. An SSL certification is meant to create a secure transaction of personal information such as contact information and credit card data. If you don’t have an SSL certificate, your website visitors will receive an alert message discouraging them from checking out on your website.
What can you do about it? Many web hosting companies offer SSL certificates for purchase and they are usually a low-cost option to securing your website. If you don’t have an SSL certificate and aren’t sure if you can get one, switch to HostGator where a free SSL certificate comes with all web hosting packages.
With 16 tips for how to promote your small business website during the holidays, there’s bound to be a few that would work for your business. Try them out and let us know your results!
What are your “must do” tips for other small businesses? Comment below with your best advice for how to promote a small business website during the holidays!