How to plan your Christmas marketing

It may only be mid-October, but if you haven’t yet started planning your Christmas marketing campaign then you need to get moving!

And to help you, Kara Stanford of The Marketing Spaces has some advice to help you plan your Christmas campaign, so that it’s effective and a good use of your time and money.

But first, it’s decision time: Are you going to do any marketing related to Christmas or a Christmas / seasonal marketing campaign? It’s a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer!

Saying, ‘No’ is an option – you might be too busy, it might be inappropriate for your business, or industry. Whatever you choose, decide now. And stick with it. Because if you say ‘no’ now and change your mind later, it can lead to huge stress mid-November / early December.

Don’t be a Christmas Grinch like me!

I speak from experience here. I make the Grinch look like a merry old soul, so one year I decided not to do any Christmas marketing. I run a marketing consultancy business, which relies on word of mouth and goodwill. I suddenly realised how stupid that decision was for my business.

This led to a frantic round of card and gift buying, and queuing at the Post Office, to ensure it arrived before people left the offices, while simultaneously hurriedly creating cheery Christmas memes for social media. 

So, Yes or No: choose now and stick to it!

What are your Christmas marketing aims?

All marketing campaigns work best when they’re designed to meet specific aims.

A good way to choose the goals of your Christmas Marketing at is to look at the buyer’s journey. You can then either have something in place for each stage or focus on one or two stages:

For example:

  • Unaware / Aware: You’re going to use Christmas as a spring-board to introduce yourself to people who haven’t yet heard of you / your business. For some businesses this might mean committing to attending as many Christmas networking events as possible, or running PPC campaigns to audiences that haven’t heard about you (yet).
  • Interested / Considering: Christmas is an opportunity to nudge over the line those who are interested and considering buying from you but haven’t yet. You could persuade them by offering discounts if they ‘Buy for Xmas’ or ‘Sign up before 24 December’.
  • Adopting / Loyalty: The season of giving is a great opportunity to thank and reward new and current customers and your network of ‘champions’. You might choose to send gifts, cards, e-vouchers – whatever it is, make sure it delights them and creates a warm feeling; the more personalised, the better.
  • Brand Reputation: Underpinning every stage of the Buyers Journey is your brand reputation. Christmas might provide the opportunity to run a campaign about, ‘Getting out there and known / remembered’. Think John Lewis and their seasonal advert – one huge exercise in building brand reputation and positive associations (‘Aww, look at the cute little animals helping each other…aww, I now associate happy, warm, fluffy feelings with John Lewis’).

By the way, you may have two or more aims with your Christmas marketing (I always have, ‘Brand Reputation’ as one of my Christmas Marketing goals).

Create your Christmas marketing plan

There are a few key elements to planning your Christmas marketing.

What’s your time frame?

When are you going to start your Christmas Marketing? When is it going to end? This sets when you put your marketing material ‘out there’ and when you stop. If in doubt, think about what your audience want – do they like / expect to Christmas Marketing from you in November? Or are they more ‘Christmas marketing should only be in December’ people? Think about the best times for them.

Which marketing channels and tools are you going to use?

These depend on your goals and your audience. Which marketing channels are best to achieve your goals? If it’s Brand Reputation, then social media channels could work. If it’s Loyalty then maybe use off-line channels, such as a hand-written or artisan Christmas card. 

What’s your creative idea hanging on?

Christmas is many things to many different people. What do you want to tie your business to? Is it a feeling? Is it the season? Is it the celebration element? Is it spiritual or family? 

It could be a combination of a few things. Choose what you want to ‘hang’ your Christmas Marketing Campaign off, then it starts to become easier to choose your creative e.g. My theme is often, ‘Reflection’ as I help people become more effective in their marketing but teamed with ‘Joy’ as I’m energetic and my clients like that – so my creatives combine both, often through a joyous image with more serious words. 

What’s your schedule?

Plan what do you need to do and when. Make sure you include time for creating the campaign, as well as: scheduling it, checking on it, adapting it and responding to people who engage with it.

Give your Christmas marketing campaign a reality check

Finally… apply the reality check. Once you have your plan, go back over it and ask yourself:

  • Do I have the budget to make this happen?
  • Do I have the time to make this happen?
  • Do I have the skills to make this happen?
  • Do I have the energy to make this happen?

Be realistic. I used to plan the most amazing Christmas campaigns then… I had to go to school nativities, source costumes for them, bake / find cakes for the school Christmas Fair, work with my clients to ‘get it all tied up before the holidays’, fit in the present buying and so on and so on…

My Christmas campaigns are now realistic – short, sharp, highly relevant, highly effective and highly manageable.

Kara Stanford is a Strategic Marketing Consultant with KMS Marketing, the founder of The Marketing Spaces and a tutor with Oxford College of Marketing. Tell her you read this article and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Photo by Ian Schneider