Over the course of the year, shopping patterns ebb and flow. Sometimes the shops are full, and eCommerce stores are busy with orders. At other times, trade is slow, and you have to focus on bringing customers back through your doors.
In this post, we'll discuss how to harness that natural ebb and flow with a seasonal marketing strategy. Here's how to identify the high points in your brand's year, build marketing campaigns around them, and create seasonal content.
- What is seasonal marketing?
- How to build your seasonal marketing calendar
- How to create seasonal content
- How the seasons affect SEO and shopping searches
- Seasonal marketing strategy for social media
- Seasonal rewards and promotions
What is Seasonal Marketing?
Seasonal marketing is when you tie your marketing campaigns to specific events in the year. For example, many B2C brands run big seasonal campaigns for Black Friday, Christmas, and Valentine's Day.
It might seem counterintuitive, but a seasonal marketing strategy actually helps smooth out the bumps in your revenue over the course of the year. If you know there's a big event coming up, then you can focus on holiday marketing for that event. The boost in sales will carry you through quieter periods.
How to Build Your Seasonal Marketing Calendar
There is no universal calendar for holiday marketing. Every brand has a different seasonal marketing strategy, and there are a lot of different factors to consider.
- B2B and B2C. B2C marketers focus on major holidays such as Christmas or the summer break (that's particularly great for affiliate marketers). B2B marketers follow a different calendar, ruled by events like conference season or the start of a new budget cycle.
- Location. A major holiday in one country may be taboo in another. For example, Singles Day is now the highest-grossing day of the year in China. But in the UK, the same date is used to remember the First World War, and a gaudy seasonal campaign would be inappropriate.
- Relevance. Some holidays are significant enough that any brand can get involved. But for smaller events, you'll need to consider whether there's a real link to your brand. Don't be afraid to focus on industry-specific dates.
- Budget. You can't celebrate every last national day on the calendar. It's just not possible. Choose the events which are most rewarding for your brand, and focus the budget on them.
Start by compiling a list of all the holidays and events that you could potentially include. I find the National Day Calendar useful. Some social networks, like Twitter, also publish event calendars. Just be aware that these can skew towards fun hashtags and in-jokes, instead of viable retail holidays.
Next, use your local knowledge. In my previous place of work, we stuck a huge whiteboard calendar to one wall of the breakroom. Anyone could pick up a pen and add an event that was important to them. This is a low-tech solution, but your calendar will quickly fill up with the events that people really care about and remember.
Now for the final step before you narrow down the list. Don't be afraid to think outside the box, challenge established events, or even invent your own holidays. My favorite example of this is the REI #OptOutside campaign, which aims to replace Black Friday with a celebration of the great outdoors.
Once you have a master list of events, you can choose where to focus your seasonal marketing strategy. Try to pace yourself so that you have events spread throughout the year. And don't neglect your evergreen content – it's always useful for filling in gaps in the calendar.
How to Create Seasonal Content
The great thing about holiday marketing and seasonal advertising is… A lot of the work is already done for you.
Let's take Valentine's Day as an example. When you read the words “Valentine's Day”, what colors do you think of? Shapes? Gifts?
I'm willing to bet that you thought of red or pink, heart shapes, and traditional gifts for February 14th. My point is: seasonal events give us a library of images and ideas to work with.
So, unlike a campaign where you have to start from scratch, creating seasonal content is a kind of shortcut. For most major holidays, there's a visual language that we all understand.
Now for the detail. You can apply that seasonal shorthand to every marketing channel you use: store decorations, eCommerce banners, and pop-ups, email newsletters, social media posts, even emojis in an SMS blast.
Here are some of my favorite resources for creating seasonal content:
- Invideo for video templates. ou can filter by brand, industry, event… whatever. Pick a video template with music to match, and you can create an original, slick-looking piece of content in minutes. Don't forget to optimize your videos for YouTube SEO with Tubebuddy and other tools.
- Words To Use for writing copy. This website is a lot of fun to play around with, and it can really help with writer's block. Type in a keyword or choose a category, and it will suggest nouns, adjectives, and slogans for your seasonal campaign.
- Easel.ly for graphic design. They have a vast library of objects and templates, and the drag-and-drop interface is so easy to use. The app was ostensibly built for infographics, but I've used it for all shapes and sizes of content.
Try to create seasonal content with your customers in mind. It's not just about messing around with Christmas decorations (although that is one of my favorite things about seasonal marketing). You also need to offer real value through your seasonal content.
That's right. I'm talking seasonal content marketing. If you're a B2C brand, create a gift guide or send out some decorating tips. If you're a B2B, serve up some industry statistics, or offer your guide to the top conferences this year. This kind of seasonal content is genuinely useful to your customers… and it will help you climb up the search engine rankings.
Speaking of searching rankings…
How the Seasons Affect SEO and Shopping Searches
Seasonality has a huge effect on how people search and use the internet. There are obvious trends, like more people shopping online for warm clothes in winter. But there are also more subtle, or less well-known, effects.
For example, more people switch to mobile instead of desktop during the summer, when they're more likely to be out of office and on the beach. Something as simple as this shift could have a big impact on your sales if your eCommerce site isn't mobile-ready!
More positively, tracking seasonal keywords on search engines can reveal hidden opportunities. Take this graph – the result of 2 minutes' work on Google Search Trends.
As you might expect, there's a peak in search interest in “gifts for moms” just before Mother's Day. But there's also a small bump starting in October, with an even higher peak just before Christmas. Conclusion: you can re-use content from Mother's Day (with a little re-packaging). And re-usable content is a gift from the marketing gods.
You can use trend information from previous years to time your campaigns. What's most notable here is that search interest begins well before the major holidays. So you should be planning your campaigns to reach consumers just as search interest starts to rise.
Seasonal Marketing Strategy for Social Media
We've mentioned several different marketing channels and content formats so far. But I want to take a moment to focus particularly on social media.
Why? Because social media is led by consumers, not brands. So it's a great place to spot trends, pick out the most important events in the calendar, and outsource some of your seasonal content creation. If you spot a new event on social media this year, make sure you add it to your seasonal marketing calendar for next time around.
There's nothing wrong with posting a cute gif and a nice message to mark a holiday. But if that holiday is part of your seasonal marketing strategy, then you need to do more. Here are just a few ideas to start you off:
- Posting social media polls about holiday plans and traditions
- Sharing videos from your team about how they're celebrating
- Running quick contests and giveaways for seasonal rewards
- Asking consumers what they want to see from you
The whole point is to humanize your brand and interact with your customers. Social media should always be a conversation.
As part of this, you can reshare seasonal content that your followers and customers share. This can be a really powerful strategy because it ticks so many boxes:
- Rewarding loyal followers for interacting
- Providing social proof to other followers and customers
- Getting more reach through the original poster's friends
- Showcasing your products or seasonal content
- Saving your time and content budget
If you're worried about losing sight of your brand, then simply add a branded frame to photos, or run user-generated videos through a branded template. Templates like this are an effective way to put your stamp on user-generated content and stay on-brand and on-theme. Just make sure you always ask people for permission to re-share their posts.
Seasonal rewards and promotions
No discussion of seasonal marketing would be complete without a quick mention of seasonal sales and seasonal advertising. Offering extra rewards, discounts or deals can add a little extra rocket fuel to your seasonal campaign – just as retailers have traditionally done on Boxing Day, Black Friday, or the Spanish summer sales.
However, in modern marketing, a long list of discounted items won't impress most customers. Instead, you need to focus on the modern shopping experience. People are looking for entertainment, personalization, and brands which focus on customer service above all else.
So your seasonal promotions should be… you guessed it… entertaining, personalized, and supported by great customer service.
If you decide to run a special promotion, try to make it relevant to the season and the individual consumer. For example, an eCommerce beauty store could offer a range of free gifts as part of their summer campaign – and let individual shoppers pick the gift that works best for them. Here's an example from Ecco Verde, an ethical online store:
Another, slightly more hi-tech option, would be a product recommender or interactive gift guide.
There are times of the year when consumers might expect big sales. But you need to ask yourself the hard questions: Will a sale at this point in the year be financially worth it? And does it match the brand image that you work so hard to present?
Summing up seasonal marketing
If you weren't sure where to start with seasonal marketing, I hope this article has given you some direction. You now know how to put your seasonal marketing calendar together; how to create and time seasonal content to support your strategy; and you have a few extra ideas to try out on social media and in seasonal promotions.
The most important thing is to focus on the events and holidays which are meaningful for your customers and your brand. If you keep that in mind, you will find your audience.