5 Marketing Tips for a Successful Holiday Selling Season

Holiday sales results across the jewelry industry last year were mixed—retailers catering to the very wealthy fared well, but those targeting a more aspirational clientele teetered. This year, retailers face increasing competition from major chains, big-box stores, and Web-based retailers. Meanwhile, inflation, gas prices, and unemployment are rising, and incomes and consumer confidence are falling. Christmas 2008 will be a make-or-break season for many smaller and medium-size retailers, and marketing will be critical.

Following are five tips to make sure you stand out from the crowd this Christmas.

1. Establish and emphasize your unique selling proposition and keep it simple. Determine what makes you unique and weave that message throughout all your campaigns, whether it’s a direct-mail piece, a TV ad, or a search engine program. Emphasizing this point in all of your marketing efforts also helps ensure a consistent, integrated message.

Think about what sets you apart from other jewelers in your area. Have you been serving the community for the past 30 years? Do you offer free service or the best selection in your area? To help consumers identify and recall you more easily, your unique selling message should inform all of your campaigns.

2. Surround your target consumer with your message. Consumers are using an increasingly broad array of traditional and emerging media, or platforms, for information and entertainment. Immersing your target consumer with your message through a multi-platform campaign—one using a combination of media like radio, online, and TV—increases the odds that the message will stick.

Consider a customer’s typical day: He wakes up, reads the morning paper, and turns on the local TV news to check on the morning commute. In his car, he listens to morning talk radio and passes numerous billboards. At work, he does some personal online research, and visits his favorite Web sites. He commutes back home, listening again to the radio and passing billboards. At home, he spends more time with the paper, watches his favorite sports shows on cable TV, and goes back online.

Think about your target consumer’s routine and develop a plan that reaches him at these different times of day.

3. Don’t delay. Timing goes a long way toward a successful holiday. Run your mass media campaigns (TV and/or radio) during November and December, building up the number of spots you run as Dec. 25 approaches. While most gift buyers make their purchases in December, they make their decisions on what to buy in November, so it’s important to start a campaign in early November. Use TV and radio—two of the strongest mediums for influencing consumer behavior—as mass-awareness vehicles, and support them with focused efforts such as online, direct mail, and events.

It’s important to place TV and radio buys early. Holidays are a crowded period, and there’s a limited amount of airtime available, so planning your media buy in September will help ensure that you can run a complete campaign come November and December. It also will help you lock in competitive rates before prices climb. Since other businesses also rely on holiday sales for the bulk of their revenue, they’ll be purchasing airtime as well. You can place buys up to a week or two before the date you want your campaign to run, but inventory will be at a minimum and prices will be at a maximum. Don’t forget that Valentine’s Day, another key selling season, comes quickly. Consider taking advantage of the momentum gained during the holidays by ramping up marketing efforts again in January.

If your holiday advertising budget is limited, target the two weeks before Christmas for the bulk of your mass media buy.

4. Test new approaches in an intelligent way. Consider testing marketing techniques you haven’t considered before that might help you cut through the clutter. Technology that takes the complexity and cost out of the advertising process makes this a practical option.

The cost of video production has dropped significantly in recent years thanks in part to lower costs for production equipment and software. In addition, there are companies that provide high-quality pre-produced ads and a network of video professionals that can be leveraged to create compelling online video or TV spots. You don’t need the marketing budget of a Fortune 500 company to create a persuasive spot anymore.

Another component of your advertising is media buying and planning. State-of-the-art mapping—or “geo-targeting”—technology can help you create the most effective and cost-efficient media plans to target the audiences you need to reach most. Using digital geographical maps and syndicated and proprietary research data, plans that narrowly pinpoint consumers who would be most receptive to a particular message can be created, increasing impact and saving money.

Online advertising is another highly effective and cost-efficient way of marketing your business. Online options include search engine marketing, online video, and online directory submission. (See sidebar “Online Advertising.”)

Other tactics you may not have tried for the past several years, including direct mail and e-mail newsletters, can drive awareness during the holidays. In addition, in-store events like trunk shows and expert discussions about judging a diamond’s value can go a long way toward maintaining your reputation in the community. Mixing things up will expose you to new audiences and keep your marketing fresh.

5. Measure and track your campaigns. Define your objectives for each campaign and establish a way to measure effectiveness. When a new customer calls or walks into your store, ask how he or she heard about you and document it after the interaction. That will help you start getting a sense of which marketing vehicles are working best.

Use technology to your advantage when measuring your campaign. Create dedicated phone numbers to use in your online and off-line advertising to help track where the consumer saw that number, whether it was on the radio, online, on TV, or in the newspaper. The audio of the calls can be recorded, and reports of how many calls and which medium they originated from can be documented as part of your campaign. With online advertising, when someone clicks your ad on search engines like Google, MSN, or Yahoo!, that information is documented, so you can see which search engines are performing best for you and how much you’re paying for each lead generated. Work with an agency that will provide you with these types of reports to get a comprehensive look at your advertising’s effectiveness.