Small Business: Smart marketing during holiday season

To keep a business focused during the harried

To keep a business focused during the harried holiday shopping season, create targeted promotions based on shoppers' past purchase history and preferences, experts say. (Credit: iStock)

Jamie Herzlich

Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.

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Every year, consumers are bombarded with holiday marketing messages and promotions.

This year, it's happening even earlier, with the first night of Hanukkah falling the night before Thanksgiving and the holiday selling season being six days shorter than a year ago.

This puts more pressure on marketers to break through the clutter with targeted, meaningful promotions, say experts.

"One of the core differences of the 2013 holiday retail season is the actual shortness of the season," says Nicole Larrauri, managing partner of EGC Group, a Melville-based marketing and digital services firm. "The difference of the six days is huge for a lot of retailers."

It means consumers are more harried, and a lot of retailers started their holiday marketing earlier this year, she notes.

Smart marketers will be creating special sales and promotions from now until Dec. 25 and not just focusing their sales efforts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, says Larrauri. Last year, deals began as early as the Wednesday before Black Friday, she notes.

By creating targeted promotions based on shoppers' past purchase history and preferences, you can have more communication with customers because they don't see it as spam, she notes.

A multipronged approach. Consider consumers' multiscreen habits when planning your marketing, she advises, noting the lines between shopping online and in-store are blurred.

London Jewelers uses a multipronged marketing approach, says marketing director Sherry Mesh. The high-end jeweler with locations in Manhasset, Greenvale, Glen Cove, East Hampton and Southampton, uses email, print, TV, digital media, direct mail and social media to advertise and inform customers about upcoming events or special product launches. "I think you need to hit all touch points," Mesh says. The company is starting its holiday marketing efforts about 10 days earlier this year because of Hanukkah falling earlier, she says.

Retailers have to create a seamless shopping experience on all platforms, says Danielle Conte, strategic development director for Sanna Mattson MacLeod, a Smithtown-based advertising and marketing agency.

Focus on mobile. Mobile will be a key driver this holiday season, Conte says. Retailers are using mobile apps and texting programs, in which stores text customers who've opted to receive information on discounts and specials.

The Stony Brook Village Center recognizes the power of mobile and got its own mobile site, stonybrookvillage.mobi, about a year ago, says Marie Gilberti, communications manager at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which operates the center. It will use the site to promote specials at the center's 35 stores and restaurants. Gilberti says holiday promotions will start about two weeks earlier this year.

Hit up social media. Another holiday marketing driver will be social media sites such as Pinterest, Conte says. The use of video is also popular with retailers, she notes. You can use it to showcase hot holiday products or people talking about the products.

Also, don't ignore your online search marketing campaign, since search is a starting point for many customers, adds Larrauri.

And don't discount the use of email marketing this season, says Ellen Williams, regional development director for Constant Contact, an online marketing company. She says businesses should set goals as to what they're looking to accomplish in their promotions, noting that holiday promotions can be a great lead-in to promotions that happen after the holiday season.

Perhaps offer customers a discount as an incentive for a future purchase, she notes. For instance, "Spend $30 and get 10 percent off your next purchase" and extend that date into the New Year. Understand your audience and make your offer timely, easy and clear, Williams says. "Don't make them try to figure out what the offer is."