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Getting a Head Start on Holiday Sales

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You know I used to laugh at the "Christmas in July" ads until I promoted my first Christmas-related book. We actually started the promotion in July and it was the perfect time. Why? Well, maybe no one is buying or thinking about December in July, but the holiday buying season is tough. In order to make any kind of headway you must start early, not just to capture the December sales but also to get in front of any early shoppers. Once those Christmas in July ads start to hit radio and TV, consumers (those who like to shop early) start to gather ideas for their own shopping lists.

When is it too late to start thinking about the holiday market? November is definitely much too late, October is iffy, but if you're staring September in the face and haven't done a lick of marketing towards holiday sales, that might be your last chance. Better to start early - mid to late summer is always great. Here are some tips to help you get a head start on the holiday buying season.

  • Events: Start early. If you'd like to do events in December I suggest you start calling stores now. Many stores don't do in-store events after Thanksgiving, but if you have local connections or some independent stores they might be open to this. Speaking at non-bookstore venues falls under the same category: start early.
  • Promos: Start planning your promos in the fall. I recommend starting the promo roll-out right after Thanksgiving and planning a succession of promotional announcements all the way through late December. If you need to get special pricing on books, or if you're going to bundle your book with some other items, this will give you plenty of time to plan for that.
  • Website: Now is the time to make sure your website is ready for your holiday marketing. As you begin planning your promos make sure your web designer is ready to go to make any changes your site might need.
  • Targets: Definitely define your target markets as soon as you can, the earlier the better. If you don't have a good, solid idea of who you're marketing to yet don't use your holiday campaign to test this. Test market early. You'll be glad you did. Don't waste a holiday promo if you don't have to. Knowing who you are going after will save you in costly marketing mistakes (and this goes for any time you are marketing).
  • Ebooks: I suspect with all the e-readers that have hit the market in the last 12 months - and with both Target and Best Buy carrying e-book readers - you're going to see a lot of promotion for this over the holidays. Make sure your book is keyed into this market, what I mean is: if you had planned to get your book converted to an ebook, now is the time. Also, you might want to offer a special promo, if someone buys your e-book have them forward you the receipt for an additional special holiday bonus.
  • Social media: If you're not on Facebook or Twitter yet, now is the time to join, and even if you are this is a great time to maximize your efforts and plan how you'll use your social media to enhance your holiday promos. Will you offer specials to your social media "tribe" only? Will you have exclusives just for them? Consider early on what your social media strategy will be.
  • Exposure: If your exposure online is minimal, now is the time to ramp it up. Contacting blogs, websites, doing article syndication, participating in blogs, doing guest blogging... all of these things are great ways to gain exposure online. Remember, it's not just about the holiday promos, it's about making sure you are searchable online. That way, if someone searches on what you're offering, you'll come up in the search results. This will help you capture holiday shoppers who haven't been exposed to you or your message yet.

The key to successful holiday promotion is planning along with enough advanced marketing so that you're not spinning your wheels in the fall wondering why you're not making any traction. If you're ready to explode your holiday market start early, it's the best way to make sure you have a spot waiting for you when the busiest shopping season of the year comes around again!