Here in the UK the nights are drawing in and the leaves are turning shades of copper and red, which is a sure indication it's time to get creative and look at your marketing for the Christmas rush. Of course some of our customers across the globe, will still be enjoying bright sunshine (the lucky things) but either way you need to start getting some marketing done. So here is the second installment of our 'Get Ready for Christmas' series to help you finish 2011 on a high and maximise those Christmas sales.It is essential that you are confident that your stock will all be in order before you start making promises you can’t keep. But once you’ve planned out your strategy around stock it’s time to go out there and tell potential customers what you’ve got and why they should be buying it from you.

Get your website ship shape and Bristol fashion

First things first; before you start driving customers to your website you need to make sure it’s looking good and working for you. It is much easier for people to go elsewhere when they are shopping on the web. At Christmas in particular people have a lot of shopping to do and not much time to do it, if your website isn’t up to scratch they will leave and most likely won’t come back.

Try to use your website in the way a customer would. Make sure that all your products are easy to find, have all the information a potential customer will need to make a buying decision, and that the checkout process is easy to follow, trustworthy and free from distraction. Try to catch problems that could otherwise affect the number of sales you make during the Christmas period. For instance, are there spelling mistakes on the site that might be causing customer to lose trust in your brand or are your products lacking enough information for customers to be comfortable understanding that they will meet their requirements? For more detailed information on giving your website a workout check out this free guide.

Remind your existing customers you’re here

So now your website is performing optimally it’s time to encourage people to visit. The easiest people to convince will be those people who have already bought something from you already. Hey, you’ve already convinced them once right! Hopefully, you have stored their contact details so you can get in touch with them in the future. If you’re not already doing this then it’s time to invest in a CRM system, this will help you to capture data about the people who buy your products. You can then keep in touch with them so that next time they are looking to make a purchase you will be in the forefront of their minds.

Email marketing is a great way to do this. It gives you a platform to outline what you are offering over the Christmas period. As they are already customers it’s always a good idea to reward them for their loyalty. Sending out an offer will make them feel special but will also encourage them to tell their friends about you. Money off or free delivery during the Christmas period where budgets are being stretched to the max will make you a popular choice.

The first three weeks in December are the highest for retail sales and Fridays are the highest converting days for email that are sent out. There are certain dates leading up to Christmas which stand out as being key days for shoppers to be buying for example Cyber Monday (28th November this year) which is known to be the busiest shopping day of the year. Target your email campaigns around these dates to get your highest returns. Remember other retailers will also have picked up on these trends so make sure you offer stands out. Making it generous and repeating one offer that is easy to remember often will help you to beat the competition. See Responsys’s 2011 Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season and Epilson’s Holiday Trend Report for a more in-depth insight into email marketing around the Christmas period.

Get social

Social media is a fantastic way to engage with customers and prospective customers alike. You can get involved with their conversations whilst they are going on, send out offers and marketing messages and see instant results, showcase your wares and even react to feedback as it is happening.

Around Christmas people spend lots of time online shopping but will inevitably look to the social channels for inspiration and reviews. If you can get in front of them with an answer as they are asking the question ‘Where can I buy…?’ or ‘can anyone recommend a good website that sells…?’ you are able to intercept them just as they are preparing to purchase. Another great place to get in front of shoppers is Facebook. According to there latest stats there are more than 800 million active users and more than 50% of them log onto Facebook in any given day. Facebook advertising is a great option because people fill out so much personal data on their profile meaning  your marketing can be very highly targeted. You can opt to pay only on a cost-per-click basis so if you get your targeting right you will only be paying for people who will be specifically interested in the product(s) you’re selling.

Tighten up your PPC

PPC, eh, you what? If you’re not running Pay-Per-Click marketing then you’re potentially missing out on huge volumes of sales. PPC is a great way to get yourself to the top of the search engine listings quickly. If you have products that you want to push around Christmas time when people are most likely to be looking now is the time to start investing in PPC.

Google Adwords is the first thing to concentrate on as they have the majority of the market share. But don’t forget the other search engines like Bing or Yahoo as they also run adwords and these are often significantly cheaper for the same search terms than Google is. To get up and running work out what budget you are prepared to spend for a sale to convert this will give you an idea of which keyphrases you can afford to bid on. Use Google’s keyword tool to research popular keyphrases and their approximate cost-per-click (CPC), you ideally are looking for high volume, low competition keyphrases that are relevant and specific enough to describe exactly what’s on the page they will be linked to. If the keyphrases do not give an accurate impression of what is on the landing page then visitors are less likely to convert and you will be paying for traffic that you don’t want. Read Google’s Adwords Beginner’s Guide to get started with PPC.

List your products on shopping channels

Listing you product on shopping channels such as Google Base will give you another channel for getting them to market. At Christmas shoppers are likely to spend a lot more time on these types of shopping comparison sites so it pays to be in front of them. It could be a good idea to consider other marketplaces like Amazon and Ebay for pushing your wares. Whilst there is a cost associated with adding your items the increase in visitors they are likely to see at this time of year might make these a cost-effective option for you in terms of the increase in your sales.

Measure your marketing

Marketing is easy to pump money into without really knowing the return. Make sure you track all sales back through your systems with a relevant marketing tag or data field, and make sure you keep hot on the reports. Use a tool like Google Analytics and set up goals for your different products so that you know which items were most popular and where the buyers have come from. You can then quickly up the amount of time you concentrate on these areas to increase your sales even further. This information will also be extremely useful when it come to doing this all again the year after this.

Just the tip of the iceberg…

These are just a few ways that will get you started interacting with your market. See our free guide on inbound marketing for a whole range of other ideas for driving traffic to your website. Remember though that it is essential you don’t make promises that you can’t keep. If you sell an item and promise to get it there before Christmas and it doesn’t show up you’re in for a whole world of complaints. Of course, there will always be some mistakes and sometimes you can turn these to your advantage if they are dealt with properly. Which is why our next post will be on customer service, tune in then for our lowdown on how to get your customer service ready for the Christmas rush.

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