Well, it’s finally October and you know what that means! It may as well already be Christmas. Maybe it  seems early, but the holiday season seems to pop up a little sooner every year, and for local businesses, that rush means you should make sure you’ve got your holiday marketing game plan ready to go before the trick or treaters come knocking. Here at Epic Nine, we’re totally in the holiday spirit – and lucky for you, we’re ready to share this list of ways to get your business ready to rock this holiday season.

     Small, local businesses are really seeing an opportunity to shine these days, and one of the most important factors in success for your business right now is digital marketing. An online presence that lets people know you’re here, you’re good, and your business is the one they want to spend their money on. The first step in that direction is to know where you stand on Local SEO (wait, what?). In short, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is how visible your business is online – when people search in Google for the kinds of things your business provides, does your business show up in the top three results, or is it hidden three pages later? When you use Google, are you going to look for results past the first page? Probably not. You want people who are searching for what you provide to find your business listed as close to the top of those results as possible. One of the main things you can do to make sure you have a chance at ranking well is to ensure that your basic business information (name, phone number, physical address) is the same everywhere it appears online. This will help to not only improve your SEO, but also to give your business more credibility – people expect to have easy access to your site, your address, and a way to contact you, so give the people what they want!

     Another important piece of digital marketing you may have overlooked (or actively avoided) so far is Social Media Advertising. Having a Facebook business page is excellent. Facebook Ads Manager may be complicated and scary, but in most cases we find that using Ads Manager to create sponsored ads has better return and reach than boosting posts. Boosted posts are tempting – two or three dollars could get quite a lot of “likes” on a single post – but sponsored posts can and will do more as far as upping your page engagement overall or leading traffic to your website – or even targeting people who have visited your website! Retargeting customers to encourage them to return, or to go back to the online cart they left without checking out gives your business a lot of power.

     While we’re at it, there are also quite a few things you can do with your Facebook page to help your business get some traction for the holiday season without spending money. Take advantage of the space you’re given on Facebook for a cover photo or video. Something that would make you want to learn more about the business you’re presenting if it weren’t your own. Take this approach to your daily posting too – if you follow a business on Facebook that annoys you with their “salesy/gimmicky” posts, take note of what those look like, and do your best to avoid posting those types of things. Pay close attention to the social media habits of your competitors and businesses like yours outside of this area and take inspiration from them, too. Engaging in your community and making your social media presence one that people want to follow and see in their newsfeed goes a long way.

     Google Ads is another irreplaceable source of opportunity for your business to grow and thrive this year – Google Adwords can put your ads online in places where your audience is going to find them: Google Search Results, YouTube ads, and mobile ads within a whole network of apps. Visibility is the name of the game, and Google makes the rules.
If you’ve already been thinking about your holiday marketing plan, and if you’ve done any research, you may have come across the phrase “hyper-local marketing.” If that sounds scary, don’t worry – we’re thinking past Halloween here, remember? Hyper-Local Marketing is literally what it sounds like – marketing to the people that are already where you are. A huge rise in mobile searches, and a trend towards searching for  “near me” results is like a dream come true for small and local businesses. For example, if your business is located in a mall, you pay for ads to be “targeted” to the geographic location of the mall. So all those people that come out of the woodwork to be at the mall from the moment it opens to the moment the doors are locked have a pretty high chance of seeing your ad right on the smart phones they’re all looking at anyway. Or, similarly, maybe your business is in a downtown area – so your ads would be shown to those in the downtown area, who are likely shopping, hanging out, and scoping out local business to begin with. So if they are on their phone looking at a mobile site or using an app that shows sponsored ads, you may as well make sure that one of the ads they see is yours!

     Email marketing is one of those old faithful marketing tools that’s always there in your back pocket – don’t forget about it this holiday season. You know who’s likely to give you their business? People who already have! Sending out an email blast to your existing customers can remind them to keep you in mind as they think about holiday shopping, and if they really love you, they’ll encourage their friends to do the same. Any opportunity to get some word of mouth business is one you should take advantage of.

     All that to say: we figure that it’s not necessarily the early bird that gets the worm, but the bird that is early, strategical, and up to date on the latest worm-catching technologies. So don’t just run a holiday sale. Target your audience where they are (geographically AND online), and make sure the people most likely to become customers are the ones you’re reaching with the ads you pay for. Be critical, and make sure that the content you put out to market your business (whether it be a post on Facebook or a billboard in the middle of town) is something that would convince you to use your business if you were bombarded with options. Any of the options covered in this blog post could be used along with promo codes, sales, specials, etc. Get creative with your marketing, and don’t miss out on the Most Wonderful Time of Year to promote your business.

     This holiday season, give yourself and your business the gift of a well-informed, modern marketing plan. Not sure how to get started? Give us a HO HO HOller from our contact page! Happy Holidays from Epic Nine!