Labor Day has come and gone and that means it's time to get serious about the impending holiday sales.
Q4 is just a few weeks away from the time of writing this. This means that summer slowdown is finally over with and customers are gearing up to spend money on their friends and family.
With retailers like Amazon and Walmart releasing sales reports in the billions of dollars within just a few months, it can feel overwhelming trying to stand out.
But here's the thing: the best gifts are ones with great stories.
For example, I was just thinking about my favorite piece of wall art the other day as I was moving to my new home. As I hung up each piece on the wall, I thought: if I lost this, would I be upset?
I'll be totally honest with you: with all but three things, I decided I wouldn't be upset. And what were those three things?
A painting I bought from a street artist in Montemarte, Paris. I bought it because it reminded me of myself, it was beautiful, and the artist was totally charming. He even quickly sketched an outline of me and my suitcase on the packaging as I haded over the euros for the purchase!
A Seattle skyline my mom made me (from her company, Heavens Gate Metal Works). She created it for me because she knew how badly I wanted to live here. Then, I moved here and made my dream happen.
A world map where I pin every city I've lived in, visited, and want to visit. It's a personal story of where I've traveled and my future travel aspirations.
What do all three of these have in common? They have a great story and they mean something personal to me.
Now, how does this apply to your brand? In an age where people are tired of the perfection they see on social media, the bragging and over-promising they see in advertising, and the false "authenticity" of many big-name brands, we all just want a great story to tell.
In other words, this is a small business' time to shine. That’s because a strongly-positioned brand with a story to tell is worth a few extra dollars and can make your fourth quarter better than your entire year put together.
Let's walk through how you can position your brand to connect with your customers and increase your holiday sales this year.
Auditing Your Current Brand Position
The first step to positioning your brand for the holidays is conducting a brand audit using the content you've promoted previously. The first step is to review every channel you're currently marketing yourself on.
Create a checklist of the following:
Your social media platforms
Your email marketing
Your print marketing materials
Once you have a list of channels created, put together a list of things to review for each platform. These include:
Your value proposition: Is it being conveyed clearly?
Your brand voice: Is every channel consistent with one another?
Your values: Are they being conveyed and connected with?
Your competitors: How are you standing out from your competitors? Is there a clear differentiator with each of the top three?
Your target audience: Is your buyer persona resonating with your content?
Your call-to-action: Is it clear on your website what you want your audience to do? What is your main goal with your social media, and is it being met?
As you review each platform, ask yourself if there's an emotional connection with your content. Why? Well, even science says our brains connect better with emotional stories.
And I'll let you in on a secret: the better your audience connects with your content, the more likely they are to buy - just like how you're more willing to support a friend than a stranger!
Coming Up with a Winning Brand Strategy
By now, you should have a basic strategy in mind for the holidays. After all, the season is just a couple of weeks away.
With that said, it's still possible to put together a basic strategy - and even a simple strategy is better than none at all!
The first step to putting together a mini brand strategy is determining how you want your audience to feel about you and your products. After all - a brand is more than just a logo; it's what people think of you when you're not in the room.
Let's take Apple as an example. They design and manufacturer computers and other consumer electronics. But they create more than that - don't they? They create an atmosphere of classiness, sophistication, and creativity.
In comparison, my big, clunky, 8-year-old ASUS gaming laptop is a complete contrast of that. It's heavy, it's huge, and it's anything but sleek. Using this laptop makes me feel different than using a Mac.
That, my friends, is all branding.
So, ask yourself: what story can you tell about your product? More importantly, what story will your customers tell themselves about using your product?
How can you turn your product from something that's just going to sit around the house and collect dust to being someone's prized possession?
To get a little more tactical, here are a few other considerations to keep in mind:
Consider how you can use the concepts of exclusivity and urgency to decrease cart abandonment rates
Think about how you can personalize your products (or at least your customers' experience with them)
Come up with a concrete plan for each channel and outline your strategy on paper (a calendar is a great way to do this!)
Implementing Your Marketing Strategy Without Burning Out
Okay, so you've got a lot on your plate. Not only are you running a business and preparing logistically for the upcoming influx of sales, but I've also just now assigned you with more homework.
All of this can easily lead up to a crippling case of burn out. At the end of it all, you may end up too tired to even enjoy the holiday season personally!
So before you get completely overwhelmed, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
First of all, don't try to do it all at once. The key here is to plan ahead. As I mentioned before, the holiday sales are almost here, but that doesn't mean you can't break this down into small blocks of work.
Create a checklist and implement any "productivity hacks" that you've found work for you - and stick to it! I find that time blocking helps me a lot, personally. Once something's on my calendar, I'm way more likely to follow through with it than if it's just floating in my head.
Secondly, focus on just a few primary channels that work for you. Instead of trying to tackle all the things, dive into your analytics to find out which sources give you the highest quality traffic. Then, put everything you have into those platforms.
Thirdly, if you haven't already, create systems and processes for every ask and automate everything you can. Creating an email workflow, for example, is a lot easier than manually typing up follow-up emails to customers.
And finally, if you find you're working 16-hour days or simply can't manage it all, it may be time to outsource the projects you're not as good at or don't love.
Handing off these tasks to someone else can be a little nerve-wracking at first, but it's a good way to give you more time to work on the parts of your business you love.