The holidays are on the horizon, which means it’s a good time for small businesses to check their marketing plans twice in order to cash in on the biggest buying season of the year. The following holiday checklist covers many different marketing tools and campaigns you might want to have in place before the holidays arrive; not every item on this list is appropriate for every business, and not every small business can budget for every possible marketing tool, of course. However, this checklist will serve as your guide to available marketing opportunities so you can decide which make the most sense for your business and will help you reach your targeted audience and generate a healthy return on investment, divided into two different yet complementary categories: print and digital.

Holiday print marketing checklist

Catalogs

If you sell retail products a direct-mail catalog can be the perfect way to introduce targeted prospects to your product line and motivate purchases.

Banners

Outdoor banners strategically placed near high-traffic areas and targeted areas your customers are likely to see can drive traffic to your location or website. In-store banners can promote special holiday sales.

Hang tags

Retailers can take advantage of special holiday hang tags to promote special offers in-store and motivate impulse purchases.

Posters and flyers

Similar to banners, posters and flyers can be strategically distributed for maximum impact. Flyers can also be handed directly to customers via street teams and retail/service partners. Posters and flyers work well for retail, service, and restaurant industries.

Postcards

Direct-mail postcards can be sent to highly-targeted mailing lists and include time-limited coupons and coupon codes to boost holiday sales.

Greeting cards

Connect with customers on a more personal level with greeting cards, which can be used to express your gratitude, deliver special offers, establish customer relationships and long-term customer loyalty.

Calendars

The holidays are the best time of year to distribute next year’s calendars to customers for 365-day marketing.

Brochures

Print holiday brochures to promote your holiday specials and season-specific services; for example, a mechanic might offer a special deal on making cars winter-ready.

Table tents and beverage coasters

If you operate a restaurant or bar, table tents and beverage coasters can be employed to promote your seasonal specials.

Window clings

Print bright holiday window clings to command customer attention and draw traffic in to your retail location.

Stickers and wall decals

Stickers are multi-purpose: you can print bumper stickers for on-the-go marketing, you can print directional stickers for walls and floors to lead customers to your holiday deals, you can print branded stickers to be affixed just about anywhere for holiday marketing. Wall decals can be printed to highlight special in-store displays.

Car door magnets

Make a big push for your holiday specials everywhere you go with car door magnets.

Invitation cards

Hosting a big holiday event? Use invitation cards to get customers in the door.

Rack cards

If you operate a business in a tourist hot spot, holiday rack cards can bring vacationing tourists to your restaurant, bar, theme park, museum, or other attraction.

Ad placement

Newspapers and magazines present opportunities to place your ads in front of local and/or targeted audiences so you can promote your holiday specials or brand your company as the go-to business this holiday season.

Billboards

Billboards can help you get noticed in a big way, provided you have the budget for seasonal billboard marketing.

Newsletters

If you publish a newsletter, be sure to promote your holiday deals in it. You can also offer relevant holiday tips and tricks to help establish credibility and authority.

Booklets

A holiday buying guide booklet that truly seeks to help customers make the best purchasing decisions for their unique situations can establish your credibility and authority.

Press releases

Even though PR is, in theory, different from marketing, there’s no disputing the fact that marketers take advantage of press releases to command attention and bolster search rankings. Determine what’s newsworthy about your business this holiday season, or come up with a unique and creative holiday marketing campaign, then write and distribute a press release that will make headlines.

Promotional materials

Pens, T-shirts, magnets, bags, and other promotional materials can help reinforce your brand during the holiday season and bolster holiday sales.

Holiday digital marketing checklist

Website marketing

Make sure your website features your holiday specials on your home page. You might even want to dedicate a special section of your website to holiday marketing. Look for opportunities to cross-sell and upsell in your online catalog and shopping cart.

Email marketing

Plan out a full holiday email marketing campaign to take advantage of Black Friday and last-minute shopping offers. If you offer expedited or discount shipping, you can compete with the big box stores via email marketing – provided you have a well-targeted emailing list.

Social media marketing

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms can be used to promote your holiday specials. Plan out holiday-specific posts to highlight your products and services, consider taking out ads, and be sure to offer customers value with your “regular” posts to keep them engaged and willing to listen to your message.

Digital ad placement

Strategically place ads on sites your customers frequent, particularly those relevant to your industry. You can also take out ads on search engines to promote your holiday specials. Online magazines, blogs, and local sites are perfect for digital ad placement during the holiday season.

Television ads

TV ads often seem expensive to small businesses, but you don’t have to launch a nationwide campaign to cash in on television. Most local affiliates offer local advertising programs with appropriate pricing. If you want to make a bigger splash but can’t afford to go nationwide, consider placing ads in large metro areas instead.

Radio ads

Radio is definitely still relevant, especially during the holiday season when many stations dedicate themselves to playing seasonal music – and many listeners tune in just to hear it. Place ads with radio stations that cater to your target customer base, and save money by purchasing local marketing.

Content marketing

Don’t forget about the power of your own blog, online guides, articles, and even guest blogging. The more you can get out there with great content for your audience, the more they’ll trust you and the likelier they are to buy from you.

QR codes

QR codes on your print marketing materials can drive customers to your website, special offer landing page, mobile app, or social media page right on their digital devices. Make your QR landing engaging and interactive – particularly easy to buy on – to motivate impulse purchases.

Mobile marketing

In-app advertising can fuel holiday sales, particularly if you can find an app or game popular with your target customer base. You can also take out targeted ad placement for mobile search.

Viral videos

If you have a great idea for poignant or funny videos, you can take to YouTube and other video platforms to promote your holiday specials with viral videos. Of course, you can’t make a video go viral, but you can study the characteristics of a viral video and heavily promote yours to give it a nudge in the right direction.

In addition to the print and digital holiday marketing ideas presented on this checklist, you can launch a publicity stunt, take out newspaper and magazine inserts, write and place advertorials, host special events, hold holiday contests, or come up with your own unique and creative way to market your products and services this holiday season.

Keep in mind one of the most critical aspects of successful holiday marketing is proper planning. Know who your target customers are and what they’ll respond to so you can deploy the right mix of marketing materials. Understand the power of repetition and market via multiple channels. Know your budget, capabilities, and expectations.

Plan your holiday marketing campaign out in its entirety, and set campaign goals: a specific number of sales, a percentage of return, total profit, etc. When you plan your holiday marketing campaign out in advance, you’ll be able to take advantage of last-minute opportunities because everything else is taking care of itself. Moreover, you’ll be able to relax knowing your holiday marketing is paying off, so you can enjoy the holiday season with friends and family.

Finally, try to incorporate tracking mechanisms whenever possible. If you know what works and what doesn’t, you can use that information to marketing more efficiently, powerfully, and profitably each subsequent holiday season. When something works, keep it. When something doesn’t, identify why it didn’t work: would a change in presentation or distribution help? Or are you better off nixing it and trying something new – something you should strive to do every year anyway. The more you test, track, and tweak your holiday marketing campaigns, the more successful you’ll be in the long run.

What are your favorite holiday marketing methods? What has worked for you in the past, and what hasn’t? Let us know in the comments!