’Twas The Month Before Christmas

By Taylor Smithfield

While we barrel toward the holiday season and prepare to dust off our favorite traditions — like incredulously asking our co-workers if they can really believe it’s November already — retailers have been preparing marketing campaigns and strategies with the tenacity of Santa’s faithful helpers. New products, ad campaigns, sales and promotions are already bombarding mailboxes, inboxes, social feeds and everywhere you look. However, even though the Christmas season is undoubtedly the most profitable for businesses, it still requires thoughtful planning to maximize sales.

Busiest Shopping Days Of The Year

You’ll no doubt be gearing up for Black Friday sales, but is equal importance placed on other shopping holidays like Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday? Small Business Saturday, brilliantly created by American Express in 2010 to encourage more holiday shopping at local businesses, occurs on November 24 this year, the day after Black Friday. American Express reported 108 million consumers participated in Small Business Saturday last year by shopping or dining at local independently owned businesses. This equates to roughly 43 percent of Americans, an impressive turnout!

Another date to mark on the calendar is Cyber Monday, occurring on November 26 this year. In 2017, Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history, impressively beating out Black Friday. It’s easily one of the most important days for the online segment of your business, so now is an excellent time to examine your website to ensure it’s ready for the holiday shopping frenzy. You can encourage customers to shop small and shop online with the right preparation and promotion.

Get Creative With Advertising

Speaking of promotion, what plans do you have for ads? When it comes to holiday advertising, most retailers rightfully rely on social media channels to promote their products. Unfortunately, as you’re probably painfully aware, Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram don’t allow paid advertising that directly or indirectly link to the sale of firearms anymore. According to specific examples in Facebook and Instagram’s policy, you can only purchase paid advertising to promote a gun exposition or a firearms blog that isn’t connected to a gun store. Therefore, a holiday ad selling weapon-related products is a big no-no — Bah, humbug! This advertising ban certainly makes things difficult for gun dealers, so it’s best to get creative. But before succumbing to a Scrooge-like demeanor, let’s find other ways to reach your audience this Christmas.

Social IQ

Boost your social IQ by exploring the world of influencer marketing. We’ve previously discussed the power of social influencers (Outdoor Marketplace, “Under the Brand Influence,” July 2017), people who make a living promoting brands and businesses to their massive following. Influencers are a great way to sell product and build brand love. You can find both experienced and potential social influencers by searching firearms related hashtags on Instagram. This is a much easier partnership if you have an online store, because it isn’t limited to people in your area. Businesses court influencers on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook by sending them a personalized box of free products or promo items, including store discounts.

Also, be sure to utilize hashtags in social posts (just don’t go overboard; a few strategic tags are more than sufficient). Study social accounts from other gun stores or manufacturers to find the most popular hashtags. Social users on Instagram and Twitter can now follow a single hashtag, not just specific accounts. You can use both general hashtags like #ammo, for example, or one related to a holiday marketing campaign.

Target Your Audience

Targeted email marketing allows a business to directly and privately reach customers, bypassing the frustrating social media ban. You may already rely on email marketing management, like Constant Contact, but regardless of the chosen service, targeting campaigns is the smartest way to reach the right people. Instead of blasting an entire contact list with messaging that’s too broad (or worse, excludes a segment of customers), get picky with your emails. A service like Constant Contact can help segment contacts based their interests, so they always receive personal, relevant emails.

Creative Campaigns

One of the best ways to attract holiday gift shoppers is to create a themed marketing campaign. This is as simple as choosing a creative message and promoting it via a variety of a platforms: in-store signage, newsletters, mailers, social media and your website. For example, a Thanksgiving campaign might promote hunting gear or turkey calls and a Christmas campaign might heavily push gift cards, since they’re the easiest way to responsibly gift someone a firearm.

With these advertising parameters in mind, let’s quickly look at several festive ways to attract customers this season.

Gift Cards

Ah, gift cards, one of the most forgetful gifts. How many of these plastic presents find themselves lost in your junk drawer, purse or couch cushions? What an annoying reminder you can’t be bothered to spend someone else’s money. Except, for the gun dealer, what a convenient way to benefit from forgetfulness! Not only do gift cards make gun gifting easier, they’re a convenient grab at the checkout counter (even more so online!) and a great option for frazzled holiday shoppers.

Your Own Holiday Sale

How about creating your own shopping holiday or weeklong sale? Don’t let Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday steal all the thunder; keep the momentum up throughout the month of December by declaring a particular day or week the time to shop for friends and family.

Product Bundling

There’s a reason why the Happy Meal is so popular — customers simply love bundle deals. Whether or not you include free targets, ammo, cleaning kits or range time with a large purchase, holiday shoppers are looking for convenient deals that don’t require much forethought. Make things easier on your customers this Christmas by bundling products.

Charitable Giving

Perhaps you’d like to give back to your community by hosting a sale to benefit a local charity. Designate a portion of sales from a certain day or period of time to the chosen organization and advertise these efforts to consumers. Not only will a worthy cause benefit, you may garner positive favor with the community as well as possibly earn a helpful tax deduction.

Product Giveaways

Who doesn’t love a good giveaway? It seems like every company holds some kind of raffle or prize opportunity around Christmas. Whether it’s to gain new followers on social media (“To enter, simply follow us and tag a friend below!”) or grow an email list, the positive attention from giveaways could be worthwhile for your store.

New Year’s Resolutions

The new year is an opportune time to encourage new habits, so why not take advantage of people’s renewed sense of purpose and promote deals on new gear or shooting lessons? Advertise opportunities for new or young shooters, encourage current customers to gain new skills or cross-train, like how to hunt a different type of game, or improve their target shooting.

Mastering The Basics

Of course, the key to a profitable holiday season is mastering the basics. You can create dazzling holiday campaigns or launch massive e-newsletter efforts but it’s important to be intentional. In fact, be critical of marketing strategies in general. Not only should you examine your budget, but carefully consider the intended audience, your team’s willingness to support ideas and the successfulness of previous marketing efforts, too. Build upon the ideas in this article and let us know which prove to be the most successful!

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small

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