As an advertiser you always have the feeling that the holiday season is unusually long. It starts in August when I start talking to our customers about the upcoming holidays and their significance. The majority of my clients are small businesses with small budgets, which makes this an important season. Not only do we have to be careful with our spending, but the revenues generated this season are also crucial. Many of the accounts I work with are heavily burdened in their business if they do not earn enough during the holidays to survive the slower months.
The unique limitations that small businesses face in advertising impact Christmas time. That's why it's so important to plan your calendar, to know what you are measuring, and to stick to your budget.
One of the challenges of keeping a small account during the holiday season is to plan exactly which campaigns you will run and when. There are three ways I approach the calendar.
Use historical data
First, use all the data you can access to see what worked and what did not last year. We have a customer who is in the hospitality sector and has been with us for three holiday periods. We have a lot of data about what worked in the past, and we use it to identify the platforms we want to use and similar campaigns we want to run each year. If you have no data from last season, use what you need to know to make a well-founded guess.
One caveat is making sure you're not just looking at campaign-level last-click data or ad spend. A look at the buying path and the supported revenue is important to determine what you think is successful. If a particular campaign plays an important role at the start of the shopping path, it will reduce overall revenue.
Another important thing to keep in mind is changing your audience or offers during the year. Ask yourself if you can really assume that what worked last year will probably work again if the platform or the audience has changed fundamentally. This also applies if a new competitor is in your area.
You may not have the budget to do anything you want to do. It is the reality with small accounts, there is not enough money to get around. The last thing you want to do is start a low-performing holiday campaign because the budget was too tight.
There are three things to consider when reducing your campaigns: budget, capacity, and creativity.
First, rate your ideal campaigns by priority. For us, high priority campaigns are the ones that have played the biggest role in influencing the overall outcome – a combination of direct and supported revenue. Consider the cost of last year's season and consider cost-per-click (CPC) and the season's typical season. Some of our customers will only display holiday ads from November 11th to December 10th, others from mid-October to December. You'll also want to consider any extra budget you need for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, if you're attending. In addition to their priority, assign your ideal budget to your campaigns and critically question what fits and what does not.
Second, consider the total capacity of the business. We have customers who are two-person companies, and although there is demand, we know that once they reach their capacity, they can not physically invest or buy any more shares. Take this into account when deciding what to do and what not to do. Is there a point where this will happen to you during the season?
Finally, there is a chance that some of your best performing and best campaigns this year or even in the middle of the season will require new motives. Some creatives can be reused year after year, but you generally want something new to avoid ad exhaustion because small businesses can have a small audience. If a high-scoring campaign that you really want to run requires a new creative, other things may need to be done, especially if creating that asset costs extra money.
Plan It Out
Once you've ironed out a plan, create a GANNT table with execution details for yourself and your team. We have clients who incorporate our digital marketing component into their larger GANNT charts, and while it's great to see where the digital component fits into the big picture, we find it extremely helpful to keep a copy of it.
This is also important as smaller customers usually have one point of contact, a team member who will help with their entire holiday campaign. I will engage in strategy discussions, but the implementation and execution of the campaign is a single person. This can leave a lot of room for error, and an individualized GANNT table combined with Asana tasks showing start / stop / end helps us run smoothly throughout the season.
Use historical data to find out which campaigns you want to run. Consider the overall contribution to revenue, not just the last click ad spend. Reduce it according to your budget, capacity or creative diagram, and complete the tasks
In assessing the success of your campaign, we adhere to the metrics used in the previous year to evaluate year-over-year growth. This is our biggest KPI during the holiday season. As we look at Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), increasing overall revenue generated is our primary goal. One exception is that we use ROAS as a measure of success when a customer is out of stock every season. If we've helped them sell faster and spend less on advertising, that's a success.
One note to the analysis is that it is so important to properly label and name your campaigns. Use UTM tags that not only match the platform and ad type, but also the Christmas season. You're doing a great deal of the future by tagging your campaigns and naming them to make future comparisons easy.
Follow similar readings year after year. Look at the overall growth / sales increase instead of the ROAS metrics at the campaign level. Tag and name your campaigns properly to avoid headaches in the future and to simplify reporting
Budgets are a hot topic these days. From stories about Google ads, where your own budget is not met twice a day, to the general increase in CPCs.
One of the best ways to make sure you're not spending your entire budget is to focus on smaller audiences that you think will increase your revenue. If you have a limited budget for the season, focus on proven remarketing and email lists. This is especially important in sales periods when customers you know and have previously dealt with are more likely to shop. This is a great way to approach Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
You can also use Lookalike audiences of people who have bought something over the last few years to narrow their focus to top-of-the-line campaigns.
Know Your Most Powerful Days
If you have historical data from the previous season, use it to set the start time of your holiday sprint. If you are seasonal, when did the traffic return last year? When did the purchases go up? Are there certain days of the week or times of the day that are more profitable? To maximize your budget, look at all this information and decide when to start your holiday campaigns, whether to advertise seven days a week, and where to use bid adjustments to maximize revenue.
Below is an example of a seasonal customer analysis. The holiday traffic came to their website earlier this year than we expected. We wanted to advertise on 12th November. However, given the increase in organic traffic in early October, we opted for an early bird campaign and noted an increase in revenue over the previous year, as we have been paying attention to the increased revenue early peak.
Use a script to facilitate administration.
The most recent budget tip for the season is to use a budget script to avoid making Google ads annoying. This advice comes from Duane Brown of Take Some Risk, who recommends this script to limit overspending. The only caveat is that you have to remember to re-enable what is stopped the next day, either through another script or rule.
Using a script to make sure your daily budget does not get out of hand is a useful way to maximize results throughout the season and prevent Google ads from overseeing your budget control.
Limit large sales days to your qualified audience. Know on which days and at what times you should charge your budget. Pay attention to the seasonal traffic and adjust it accordingly
One of the best things you can do for your future self is take notes on the go. What worked, what did not work, what UTM tags did you use, what graphics did you use, and why did you make the decisions you made?
We always remember that we will remember what we did with our calendars, how we managed the success and what budgets we used and why. But instead of starting each new season, you should take notes so that you can plan your 2020 campaigns something to relate to.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Employee authors are listed here.
About the author
Amalia Fowler is Director Marketing Services at Snaptech Marketing. She leads a team of strategists who develop holistic digital marketing strategies for clients. Amalia is passionate about testing, marketing psychology and digital strategy and speaks at industry conferences and events on a regular basis. Outside of marketing, she is a coffee, paddleboarding and Vancouver enthusiast. You can follow her on Twitter at @amaliaefowler to learn all about marketing.