This Autumn, Plan Ahead for Winter Marketing

Fall leaves with winter snow
Fall is here! While for everyone else this time means enjoying the changing leaves, rushing back to school and consuming pumpkin in every way possible, you’re already thinking of jingle bells and cranberry sauce. That’s because, as marketers, we have to plan ahead. Your marketing team should be thinking about the holiday season to come.

The winter season is when the biggest promotions and the most shopping occur. In fact, consumers spend $37.2 billion in online purchases alone during November and December. In order to get some of that money headed toward your business, you need to start preparing now. Here are some ideas for what you can do for your seasonal marketing.

Create a Unique Promotion

We’re all familiar with the Starbucks seasonal items like the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) or the Peppermint Mocha. People go crazy over those drinks and buy them by the millions. (Last year Starbucks passed the 200 million mark for with its famous PSL.)

Those are some pretty impressive numbers, but is the flavoring really that great? Or are these sales the result of some fantastic marketing? Starbucks is implying scarcity by only offering certain drinks during certain seasons. The “get them while they last” mentality drives customers to the coffee shop in droves.

Drawing from Starbucks’ example, you can use seasonal marketing to increase sales at your business. Even if the product you’re offering doesn’t relate to the winter season itself, you can associate special winter sales with your product so customers will be sure to rush in.

Prepare Your Media

Google is famous for its doodles, illustrated variations of their famous logo that celebrate seasons, holidays, events or people. Whenever a new doodle is introduced, it always makes headlines, even though it only lasts for a day.

Take a page from Google’s book and let doodles inspire your holiday marketing. Decorate your website with some holiday-themed graphics, for example. This could be as simple as adding some snow to the top of your logo.

You might also want to create seasonal imagery on your social media websites. Add a Santa hat to your Twitter avatar or change your Facebook cover photo to a scenic winter wonderland. These small changes can go a long way in your social media marketing.

Send Greeting Cards

Once you have your seasonal promotions set up and your winter graphics are all prepared, let your customers know that you like to get festive. Sending out greeting cards, either physical or virtual, is a tried-and-true way to show your holiday spirit to your customers.

Like other seasonal items, holiday cards need to be planned out ahead of time. From creating the graphics to finding the perfect wording to printing out the actual cards, this process will take some time. And it doesn’t stop there! The best way to personalize those cards is to hand sign them. That way, your customers won’t feel they’re getting a card from a robot corporation but from an individual.

And to track what kind of return on investment you’re getting from these cards, make sure you include a unique toll-free number with your company info. That way, when you get calls from your greeting cards, you’ll know where they came from and know your investment paid off.

The Pirate's Guide to Better Marketing

Avast there, ye landlubbers! Talk Like a Pirate Day is here and it's time to prepare for the upcoming barrage of "arrrrs" that will be coming your way.

In 2013, some astute businesses used the holiday to build rapport with buccaneers by offering free items. But talking like a pirate one day of the year and passing out freebies isn't enough. You have to think and act like a pirate all year long to produce great marketing for your company.

Not sure what we mean? Well, we could make you walk the plank, but instead we'll fill you in on a few marketing lessons we've learned from the most renowned pirates in history.

Create a Memorable Reputation

The fierce-looking Blackbeard stands next to a weathered skeleton.
Image courtesy of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Gallery 

Many considered Blackbeard to be the devil incarnate. Apparently putting lit fuses in your hair has that effect on people. Ships would even surrender without a fight when they faced him. The name Blackbeard has inspired fear for centuries because he knew how to create a strong brand.

Providing great customer service is one way to create a lasting brand — and it's safer than using lit fuses — because it builds brand loyalty. If your employees are steadily on the phones, consider using speech-recognition technology to encourage excellent service. It will identify whether or not employees are saying keywords that you specify, so you can address any miscommunication immediately. 

Embrace a Short Life

Bartholomew Roberts, who captured over 400 ships, once said "a merry life and a short one shall be my motto." Make this your motto, too. Well, at least when it comes to your marketing campaigns.

Even the best advertisements run their course. Adding a different toll-free number (TFN) to your campaigns will allow you to track the number of new customers each campaign brings in. When an advertisement becomes stale, the decreasing return on investment (ROI) will be a dead giveaway. End it so something better can take its place.

Find a Treasure Map

Maps have been a huge part of pirate lore since Treasure Island was written. Long John Silver's fictional quest to secure a map and its treasure has inspired countless treasure hunters. Marketers also know the value of a good map, except the treasure they seek is an abundance of new customers.

A map marks the way to buried treasure.Using TFNs to track your campaigns produces a map showing where calls originate. In other words, X marks the customer. By analyzing the map, you can identify locations with the most prospects and increase geographic segmentation in those areas. Advertising to the right locations will increase your ROI and help you avoid losing money in low-performing regions.

Follow the example of these seafaring rogues and your company's marketing will be top-notch. 

[INFOGRAPHIC] 7 Social Media Marketing Trends

Social Media Examiner recently released its 6th annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report, noting a jarring stat: A whopping 92 percent of marketers say that social media is important for their business. Ninety-two percent!

If you've hopped on the social media bandwagon but haven't quite nailed your strategy, throw on your reading glasses and grab a pen. Social Media Examiner has laid out some of the most important upcoming trends in this infographic, so you know what to do to stay successful on social media.

Social Media Examiner marketing trends infographic
Social media marketing trends for 2014 from Social Media Examiner.

Keep your social media efforts aligned with these trends so you're always relevant, and make sure you have a solid plan for using social media as a marketing tool (because it's a big one). For more social media tips, check out our tweet spectrum.

Rumor Has It: Dealing With Social Media Gone Amok

Close-up of panicked womanDid you hear? Louisville, KY went nuts on August 15 after a high school student announced on Twitter that the city would get one day to commit crimes without any consequences.

The student says the post, which was inspired by the film "The Purge: Anarchy," was never meant to be taken seriously. But, unfortunately, it was.

As the rumor quickly circulated across social media, Louisville erupted in violent outbreak. Soon the rumors also spread to other cities, like Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York.

The "purge" drives home an important point that you, as a marketer, need to remember: Word travels fast on social media. Thankfully, your business probably won’t ever experience anything as severe as what happened in Louisville, but when word of mouth goes wrong, the effects to your business can be detrimental.

So what can you do to take back control of rumors before they get out of hand?

Stay in the Loop

Closely monitor everything people are saying about your business on social media channels so that you can take action as soon as a rumor rears its ugly head. Whether you use a free search alert tool such as Google Alerts or pay an agency to dig up news about what people are saying about your company, you gotta stay in the know.

Bonus tip: If you’ve started seeing some buzz around a particular rumor, you can use intelligent speech-recognition technology to see if your customers and prospects are bringing it up during their phone conversations with your company.

Respond Appropriately

A few years ago, Forbes did a study testing a few different strategies for stopping a rumor:

  • Denial — Simply state the rumor is untrue.
  • Re-association — Focus on the upsides of the rumor.
  • Questioning of Confidence — Ask consumers if they can be confident the rumor is true.

The moral of the story? Don’t just deny a rumor. Redirect it.

Instead of trying to stop people from talking about what’s going on with your brand, encourage them to talk about the right things!

Seek out Some Role Models

If you find yourself faced with a nasty rumor, know that other brands have been in your shoes before. Find some brands that successfully handled rumors and learn from their examples. Here are a few to get you started:
  • Taco Bell — When people started claiming the fast-food chain didn’t use real meat in its tacos in 2011, Taco Bell released a full ingredient list of its tacos. (Spoiler alert: There was no fake meat listed.)
  • Coke — The Coca-Cola Company is no stranger to rumors. People have claimed that Coke used to be green, the aluminum in the drink cans leads to Alzheimer's disease and rat urine on a soda has killed a consumer. To keep on on top of all the rumors, Coke started a Rumors and Facts page on its website, where it reveals the truth behind common myths. 
  • Beneful — Misinformed animal lovers discovered something horrible (but untrue) in 2007 and 2013: Dogs who ate Purina’s Beneful dog food dropped dead! Beneful knew this wasn’t true, so the company had vets run tests on dogs who’d ingested the food and then released the results of the tests to the public.
There’s no doubt that social media rumors can be harmful to your company, but with a little research and a lot of finesse, you can get through it.

What other tips do you have for dealing with social media running amok?