How To Use Holiday Gift Guides To Your Advantage

With pumpkin spice lattes back in season, it is hard not to have the holidays on our minds. Halloween is creeping up on us, and we’re about to be in full-out holiday season. What could be more exciting!

The content here in is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. Marketing your gift guides is just as important as posting them to your blog. If your goal is to boost your sales, you should use the two main sources of marketing to reach as many people as. Suggested Amount or Gift: Up to one evening’s pay and a small gift from your child(ren). Day care provider. Options: Cash or a gift for each staff member who works with your child(ren). Suggested Amount or Gift: A gift from you or $25-$70 for each staff member who works with your child(ren) and a small gift from your child(ren). Use this to your advantage and leverage offers to encourage referrals. You can choose to give a deal to the person referring, the person being referred, or both. Example: Meal-delivery brands like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are well known for their referral marketing.

We’ll be rolling out gift guides from now through the end of December. You can find our other guides right here. Even in a normal year, the holidays can be an anxiety-inducing hellscape.

While it might seem early to plan for winter, it isn’t! The earlier the better. After all, Mariah Carey already has her Christmas tree up…

While not all of us love baking reindeer-shaped cookies and belting our rendition of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” the holiday season is a perfect time to connect with your customers in a cheery way. Whether it be to show your loyal clients you care, to warm up current leads, or even entice new ones with some powerful branding campaigns, there’s a tremendous chance to use the seasons to your marketing benefit.

How

Here are 14 captivating holiday marketing ideas to get the wheels turning.

#1: Create Seasonal Google Ads Campaigns

Whether you’re in retail, B2B, finance, or insurance, Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) is a great place to get seasonal! How can one do this? Create a campaign targeting holiday shoppers!

For instance, if you sell women’s apparel, you can target keywords like “gifts for mother” or “holiday sweaters.” Then create specific ads and landing pages offering incentives to shop with your store during the holiday season.

Perhaps you give free shipping if they purchase over $100 worth of clothing? Or let’s say you gift wrap for free? Maybe you offer $20 off if the gift is ordered before a certain date? Highlight these benefits and make sure your landing pages capture the spirit of the holidays.

Not in B2C? Not to worry! There are still ways to get creative with your Google Ads campaigns during the holidays. As holiday shopping goes underway everyone is looking for ways to cut costs, so promote some special seasonal discounts on AdWords. Take advantage of ad extensions to take up more space in the results, get a higher chance of site visits, and highlight the special things your company is doing for the season.

Here are a few quick Google Ads holiday marketing tips to remember:

  • Use seasonal ad copy! Include words and phrases like “holiday” and “tis the season.”
  • Ad extensions are your friends – Eat-up more real estate on the SERP during this competitive time.
  • Highlight special offers and seasonal deals.
  • Instill a sense of urgency with copy like “40% off if you order before Nov 15!” or “Take Advantage Before It’s Too Late!”
  • Make sure you’re relevant – Conduct holiday-related keyword research.
  • Set up ad scheduling to bid on the times when your shoppers are searching.

Keep in mind that everyone is looking for a deal during the holiday season! Pairing this with a sense of urgency in your ad copy is a way is a great way to win over hectic seasonal shoppers.

#2: Gift Yourself with Some Shopping Campaigns

If you sell physical products and you’re not using Google Shopping, now is the time to treat yourself to your first Google Shopping Campaign! These are the perfect treat for your busy online holiday shoppers because they’re extremely convenient and can lead to purchases happening almost instantaneously.

Of course, the challenge will be standing out next to your competition in such a visual manner, but as long as your images are enticing and your campaign is set up properly, these babies can work wonders on converting shoppers during the holiday season. Check out our guide to get started if you’re new to Google Shopping.

#3: Break into the Instagram Ads Game

Instagram is the perfect place to make your holiday game shine! Users are already there posting family selfies and pictures of their decorations, so why not break through the clutter with a fun holiday ad? While posting organically to your account is great as well, to really stand out it’s worth throwing some money behind your very best holiday pics.

Whether it be your team dressed in ugly sweaters or your office dog with a monster mask on, get creative and cheery and bring in those Instagram hearts! Check out this example from a restaurant in my neighborhood. Not only did they get seasonal with a new drink recipe (pumpkin margarita, yum!), but they placed it near a carved pumpkin and used some seasonal emoji’s in their ad copy.

How To Use Holiday Gift Guides To Your AdvantageHow to use holiday gift guides to your advantage account

Here are some more great tips for marketing a restaurant on Instagram.

#4: Run a Holiday Giveaway on Social

Speaking of Instagram, another great way to utilize the platform is by running a social holiday giveaway. I’d recommend running a social campaign across all the major platforms your business uses (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.) to get more and more eyes on your business.

And who doesn’t like free stuff, especially during the holidays (hello, re-gifting!)? Whether it be a big discount, a free add-on with an order or just something completely for free, get into the holiday spirit of giving. Typically, asking followers to comment, share, like, etc. are great tactics to get even more engagement on your giveaway.

Check out Dan’s guide on how to use an Instagram giveaway to grow your following, and for even more ideas and inspiration check out some Instagram Marketing Campaigns we loved!

#5: Get Seasonal in Email

If you’re not incorporating the holidays into your email marketing campaigns, you’re making a big mistake! Holidays instill powerful memories into your shoppers’ minds, so enticing them with fun seasonal emails is a great way to connect in their inboxes.

For instance, this marketing email from Rent the Runway instantly caught my eye. I may not have ended up renting for Halloween specifically, but it did remind me that I could use their service for an upcoming wedding.

Pay close attention to your email subject lines when marketing for the holidays. Similar to ad copy in your seasonal Google Ads campaigns,it’s important to give them an incentive to shop with you, and instilling urgency is a great stategy for your subject lines. Here are a couple examples that work well.

#6: Amp Up Your Remarketing Game

Remember that time you almost bought that dress, and then you saw it again and took that as a sign, so you went ahead and bought it? Sadly, that was not fate, that was remarketing! Remarketing is when you cookie your audience to later remind them what they’re missing out on.

Hopefully you’re already remarketing, but if you aren’t you need to be! Remarketing gives you a chance to remind potential customers that they abandoned their shopping cart or landing page. The holiday season is a what I like to call a mandatory remarketing season because people are busy and making decisions fast. Therefore, if they dropped off your website or left their cart half full, they might just need a quick reminder.

This is where remarketing comes into play. When configuring your remarking lists for the holidays, ensure your membership duration is shorter than normal. For instance, if you typically allow users to be added to your remarking list for 30 days, reduce that to 15 days. That will increase the chances of the individual seeing your ads more frequently closer to the holiday.

And make sure you’re remarketing on all the channels you’re running holiday advertising on (Facebook, Google, Instagram, Bing, etc.)

#7: Segment Users Based On What You Know

As a digital marketer, you and I know both know that you’re sitting on piles of user data that you can use to your benefit for future campaigns. The question is, are you actually using this data?

If not, there is no better time to get crafty with your segmentation messaging then the holiday season! Personalizing your messaging is a proven strategy to connect with consumers on a deeper level. If you have a large segment of mothers that express interest in your products or services, create content that shows how your business empathizes with how stressful the holidays can be with a full house of kids. Target a segment of leads with similar hobbies with ad copy relevant to those interests.

Utilizing the data you’ve collected through platforms like Facebook, Google Analytics, and Google Ads is a great place to start. Also take advantage of lookalike audiences on these platforms to go after a new segment of leads similar to a high converting audience.

#8: Conduct a Holiday Themed Webinar

Does your company hold a weekly, monthly, or even quarterly webinar for customers or prospects? Webinars are a great way to teach your audience in a more personalized manner, which can in-turn lead to a natural sale or upsell.

However, webinars are common. I probably get about 20-60 webinar invites in my inbox every month from various companies I’ve come across over the years, but the problem is those webinar invites often go unnoticed. This is where holidays can really help add a fun element to an otherwise rudimentary webinar invite.

HubSpot is no stranger to this strategy. They often take advantage of the festive season to promote seasonal webinars like the one below.

To make your webinar even more enticing, tempt your audience with a free gift. For example, at the end of the webinar offer attendees a holiday discount code or free shipping on their next order.

#9: Pull at the Heart Strings

When I picture the holidays I see Christmas lights, cookies, Santa Claus, and reindeer, but what I feel is that warm fuzzy feeling of enjoying time with family. While holidays may not be loved by all, most people have an emotional tie to them. And we all know that emotions drive action, so now is the time to get emotional with your marketing.

Emotional doesn’t mean you need to make every one of your audience members cry – even using humor in your messaging can go a long way during the holiday season. If you need some inspiration, check out Huffington Post’s article featuring some of 2016’s best holiday ads.

#10: Get Creative with Video

There is no better way to communicate a holiday message than with video. Whether it’s a festive webinar invite video that you send via email, a video added to your customer page to wish all of your customers holiday cheer, or a wacky video that you post on social media of your CEO dressed as a reindeer, get creative, and have fun with video to spread the cheer throughout your marketing campaigns.

A fun fall-themed video from the team at Wistia

#11: Throw a Holiday Party

Throw a holiday party? Ho-ho-hold up! That sounds expensive… Well, it can be, but you can be strategic as to who you invite. For instance, you may decide to focus your invitations on a select group of your hottest local leads, and simply have them come to the office for some holiday drinks, appetizers, and games. There’s no better way to build strong relationship with prospects and customers then giving them actual face time, so why not use the holidays as an excuse to do just that. Create a festive e-invite, and get the eggnog cooking!

#12: Advertise on Amazon

If you’re in the retail business, you need to be putting some money into your Amazon ads.

James Thomson, President of Prosper Show, has some advice for Amazon advertisers to abide by during the holidays. “If you sell on Amazon, be sure to get your FBA inventory to Amazon by November 10, at the latest,” says Thomson. “If you expect to sell through most inventory, calculate the cost of a stock-out vs. holding more inventory…. It’s usually better to have more inventory in FBA. And don’t forget to plan for inventory you expect to sell in January…so many companies run out of inventory in early January when suppliers are slow to replenish.”

Unfamiliar or unsure if you want to advertise on Amazon? Check out this guide to learn all the details about advertising on Amazon.

#13: Create Festive & Entertaining Display Ads

Do you have an in-house designer? Perfect! If not, you might want to start thinking about your needs from outside resources soon to plan for your holiday display campaigns.

Gift

Festive images on Facebook and the display network can really help create a cheerful connection between your brand and your leads. The example ad below from Hotel Tonight’s holiday campaign last year really hit the nail on the head. The image pops out and immediately grabs you in, and makes you laugh because who doesn’t have the one (or more than one) crazy relative? This ad is relatable, entertaining, and festive all at once. Linkin park one more light tracklist.

#14: Build Customer Loyalty with Personalized Gifts

Last, but definitely not least, don’t forget about marketing to your customers.

Last year, in my previous role managing a large set of high-paying and strategic customers, I spent several weeks planning the physical gifts I wanted to mail out to people. I also ordered a huge set of family-style holiday postcards with festive pictures of my colleagues on them, and organized a card-writing party (which of course was accompanied by homemade holiday cookies and Mariah Carey’s Christmas album).

Small acts of personalized kindness towards your customers make a huge impact, and can strengthen the relationship, turning a happy customer into a brand advocate.

Use these tips to make all of your holiday marketing dreams come true!

P.S. We've got plenty of seasonal marketing ideas for more than just the holidays! Check out these posts (with more to come!):

I love creating gift guides. Honestly, I love this time of year period. For most bloggers, the next few months will be their highest earnings of the year. This is a welcome reprieve from the summer slump many of us go through. And many projections are showing this may be the best shopping season we’ve had in quite a while. That is good news for those of us who rely on that spending for our affiliate commissions!

If you haven’t ever created a gift guide, I wanted to share a few things I have learned over the years and what I am doing differently this year.

1. Let’s start with your avatar.

How much can they afford to spend on themselves or their nearest and dearest? Establish a top dollar amount and include a little variety. Include a few big splurges. Include a few things on the lower end for those on a strict budget.

2. Getting Niche-y With It

In year’s past, I have tried creating just one gift guide for the at-home crowd. They have always stunk at the end of the day. It’s just too hard to fit all of my readers into one box. Some are freelancers. Some are remote employees. Some are bloggers. Some are business owners. Some work remotely all the time. Some don’t. It was like trying to create a gift guide for moms and non-moms alike. They both could use really different things! Focusing on one or the other alone you could include really cool stuff, but instead, you just try to keep it all-inclusive and general. Boring.

So, this year, instead of creating just one list where I tried to include general things anyone would need, I choose a couple really targeted gift guide topics. In these, I was really able to dig down into what these individuals need and want. So. Much. Easier.

Really niche gift guides may not get the traffic a general guide would, but they will convert at a much higher rate because it’s speaking to precise needs and wants. It’s solving real problems. It’s not trying to please everyone. Sound familiar?

3. Next, let’s think about what is going to make their lives easier or better.

Even if we dream about some fancy $1,200 handbag, are we really ever going to buy it? Even if we had an extra $1,200 lying around? Not here, my friend. ????

The things we are truly going to impulse purchase are those things that we can justify. When I chose my gifts this year, I spent a lot of time thinking about what problems I suffer each day. The problems you suffer each day. Look around you. What “hurts?” What’s the one thing you and your readers dread every day? What products out there can help? Those are things they aren’t going to think twice about adding to their carts.

Honestly, I needed a little inspiration this year. I am one who really buries the “hurt.” I remind myself every day how truly blessed I am. I try not to focus too much time on what I want or need. So, what did I do? I pulled up Instagram! Look at what your peers or followers are posting and talking about. LOOK. AT. THE. ADS. I saw so many things I never knew existed but I totally need! (Some of those things, I now own. Thanks a lot Instagram!)

What’s Already Selling?

Another great place to come up with gift guide inspiration is to look through your affiliate reports and see what’s already selling. Pull up your Amazon Associates or best-converting affiliate dashboards and look at the individual product sales from the past 12 months. Do you see any trends? Are there any categories of items that are really hot?

You already know these items sell well with your audience. If there is a specific category of items – say, planners or educational toys or sassy t-shirts – maybe that category would make a great niche gift guide of its own!

What merchants should I choose?

One of my favorite merchants to link to this time of year is Amazon. The commission percentage may be on the lower side, but you just never know what's going to happen once people get over there. I have had links to $3 Kindle books turn into $1,500 purchases. That's a nice surprise! You should also look through networks like CJ, ShareASale, Pepperjam, etc. Look on your favorite merchant websites for Affiliate Program links.

Not every gift on your list needs to be an affiliate link. If something is awesome, include it. Also, know that many merchants have separate commission rates – or no commission rate in some cases – for gift cards. While it's still nice to include the recommendation if it fits, you may not want to make an entire gift guide around gift card suggestions if you aren't going to get paid for any of those sales.

Tip: If you are an experienced affiliate marketer, it's time to take things to the next step. This year, add tracking IDs to your affiliate links. This will allow you to see exactly how much money that gift guide – or email, or review – is generating. I talked a bit about sudIDs in this post. Tricia Meyer has a great cheat sheet here.

Don't go overboard. This applies to both your single gift guides and gift guides in general. Keep your gift suggestions to around 10-15 to keep people from getting overwhelmed (nobody wants to read through 100 suggestions). Also, don't create gift guide after gift guide after gift guide hoping something will stick. Especially if your site doesn't normally revolve around shopping. Stick to your regular editorial calendar and add in one or two shopping guides this season.

4. Create your calendar.

I spent some time digging around Facebook Groups to find out when everyone else was posting this year. A few people were told by brands to hold off until the end of November as people really aren’t spending or thinking about spending yet.

I also asked a few of the brands I am working with this year what promotions they are running this upcoming shopping season. I used those dates and recommends to determine when my posts will publish.

5. Did you want to know about working with brands?

First of all, you don’t have to own all of the stuff you recommend in your gift guide. Often, they are just as much your wish lists as they are for others. But, it never hurts to be able to speak about a product personally!

So, how do you get your hands of these goodies?

You can always buy them yourself. I did some of that.

Some affiliate networks like Commission Junction give affiliates the opportunity in September/October to let them know if you will be creating gift guides this year so they can pass it along to merchants. I did that. I have gotten a lot of inquiries from it, but only one was a good fit for my site. Which leads us to a big tip:

Don’t waste space on bad gifts!

If it’s a bad match, your readers aren’t going to buy it anyway. Then, the brand is upset they gave you something for nothing. Your readers wonder why you included something so irrelevant. You wasted your time and space. It’s a lose-lose situation. Thank them for their time and ask them to keep you in mind for future projects.

The timeline for gift guides is getting pretty tight, but you may be able to connect with a few brands through sponsor networks.

How

My personal preference, if there is something out there you want – within reason – ask. I spotted two really cool things on Instagram that I know will make my life easier and also pertain to some of the specific struggles many remote workers face.

I found the affiliate program for one of them. I signed up as an affiliate and then contacted the affiliate manager asking if the company was interested in gift guide placement this year and if I could get a product sent over for review. I had a “yes” within a few hours.

The other one, I didn’t see an affiliate program so I just went through their contact/PR page. Again, within a few hours I had a positive reply.

So, what did I say in those pitches?


6. Promote. Promote. Promote.

Especially if you ask for review product, it is so important you get as many eyes on your gift guide as possible. Create a special category or tag for your gift guide and link to it in your sidebar and/or the main menu through December.

Use Tailwind to set up multiple Repins and Instagram posts. (Simple Pin Media’s How to Master Gift Guides course has some really great Pinterest image tips.)

Add a P.S. to the bottom of your newsletters through December.

7. Follow the Rules!

You already know to disclose your affiliate relationships, but you may not be clear on image usage. Some brands do not allow you to use images from their website or maybe you can use their images but not alongside other brands (ex. a collage for Pinning to Pinterest). Some may allow you to only use the image codes available to affiliates and not to download and upload images to your own site. Read those rules. And if you aren’t clear, play it safe. For your Pinnable images, use a pretty, seasonal image from Styled Stock Society or Ivory Mix.

You also shouldn’t mention prices for Amazon items as these can change daily or more often with the holidays. If you are using their Native Ads, which I highly suggest, they will automatically update. Otherwise, just give a general idea. (Ex. Under $20)

How To Use Holiday Gift Guides To Your Advantage Membership

For other affiliate programs, your affiliate managers may let you know of any upcoming sales or coupon codes that you can include in your post. And you can always ask, too!

How To Use Holiday Gift Guides To Your Advantage For A

8. Just Do It!

How To Use Holiday Gift Guides To Your Advantage Account

Even if you have never created a gift guide before, I want you to commit to trying. You’ll never get any better at it if you don’t. You know my mantra, “Don’t look for excuses.”

Think about the potential! Gift guides live on your site all year long. Passive income, my friend! And, depending on your niche, you may be able to create guides for other holidays as well. This is a good skill to have.

If your blog is small right now, you may not hit it big with your first gift guide. But, it's still powerful in other ways. It will get you familiar with selling in an authentic and helpful way if you are including products you know, love and are certain will help your readers. Creating your first gift guide now is also going to help you out next year when your traffic is bigger and you are ready to start reaching out to brands for product samples and gift guide partnerships. Many will ask for an example of a buying guide you have created. So, create one!

How To Use Holiday Gift Guides To Your Advantage Card

Looking for even more great gift guide tips? I highly recommend Simple Pin Media’s How to Master Gift Guides course. It’s super-affordable and packed with great information!