Small business guide for running successful holiday promotions.

Jul 30 2018 | PayPal editorial staff

A good promotion can help accelerate sales and business growth, but like anything else worthwhile, you need to plan it in advance and execute it well.
That’s where knowing the ins and outs of running a promotion can help. With this guide, you’ll learn how to:
  • Identify key events and holidays to plan promotions around
  • Decide what your offer will be (and how to get creative with it)
  • Communicate the offer
  • Market the offer 

Picking your dates.

Focus on 4 – 5 dates a year, and make sure they reflect the times of the year consumers are most likely to buy your product or service. For example, if you sell furniture, you may find the best times to offer promotions are early February to late April, when people are more willing to purchase big ticket items after getting their tax refunds.  To make it convenient for you, here’s a list of key dates in 2018:
  • January 1st for New Year’s Day
  • February 14th for Valentine’s Day
  • Early February – late April for Tax Refunds
  • February 16th for Chinese New Year’s
  • February 19th for President’s Day
  • March 17th for St. Patrick’s Day
  • April 29th – May 5th for Small Business Week
  • May 13th for Mother’s Day
  • May 28th for Memorial Day
  • June 17th for Father’s Day
  • July 4th for Independence Day
  • August 1st – September 3rd for Back to school
  • September 3rd for Labor Day
  • September 9th for Grandparents Day
  • September 9th to 11th for Rosh Hashanah
  • October 31st for Halloween
  • November 11th for China Singles’ Day
  • November 22nd for Thanksgiving
  • November 23rd for Black Friday
  • November 24th for Small Business Saturday
  • November 26th for Cyber Monday
  • December 25th for Christmas 

Choosing an offer.

While you can run special promotions or have a few special days where an item is less expensive for a short period of time, simply offering discounts doesn’t work in every situation. Zeke Freeman, owner of Bee Raw and a PayPal merchant service user, finds that for his business, giving discounts creates an expectation of more discounts. He opts to focus his promotions around express shipping.  
 
 “There are always people who need last-minute gifts,” Freeman says. If shoppers see that you’ll get the package to the recipient’s door in time for the holidays, they’ll have a powerful incentive to buy from you. You can even encourage larger orders by offering a free express shipping option once the order reaches a certain value.”
 
You can also try a few other creative ideas like:
  • Gift-with-purchase: Take a cue from the cosmetics industry that learned long ago it's better to offer a gift of items with a purchase than offering a discount on a purchase. It's a fantastic way to get your customers to try more of your items, and can also be a good way for you to get rid of overstock.
  • Shipping upgrades: Take Bee Raw’s approach and try a promotion offering a discounted shipping upgrade or free shipping for last-minute orders going into holidays. Offering last-minute express shipping can help you win new customers.
  • Donations: Business and doing good go well together. Match your sales efforts with a charity that’s connected to the holidays you're targeting and/or to your business's industry. Choose to dedicate a percentage of your sales during the offer period or on #GivingTuesday. A good place to start is the PayPal Giving Fund — a database of thousands of national and local 501(c)(3) charities. PayPal Giving Fund makes it easy for you to find and support a charity that is important to you.
  • Limited number of special edition products: Mix exclusivity and novelty, and you’ve got yourself a convincing promotion – especially if you target the right audience. And when you promote, make sure to capture your product’s most exceptional features with high-res photography.
  • Consumer financing: Offering PayPal Credit1 to your customers may help increase checkout conversion and average order size. Plus, it doesn’t come at an additional cost. You can start promoting PayPal Credit on your website today with PayPal Marketing Solutions.
Pro Tip: “Remember to focus on increasing average order value,” recommends Tracey Wallace, Editor-in-Chief of the Bigcommerce Blog. “Consumers coming to you during the holidays are shopping for multiple people –– so encourage them to buy multiple gifts from you, rather than your competitors, with free shipping upgrades at a certain price point, recommended products and discounted bundles of products near checkout, and abandoned cart emails that offer discounts after a single purchase.”
 

Creating the offer.

No matter what time or channel you're promoting your offers in, follow these advertising best practices for communications:
  • Make it clear: Make the benefit to the customer clear and simple, so they know what’s in it for them.
  • Make it original: Make your promotion memorable and entertaining. The less it's like the generic offer that your competition is running, the better.
  • Give it urgency: Make it clear to visitors the offer is only for a limited time. Use phrases such as "Hurry—offer ends December 20th!"
  • Give a clear call to action:  It could be clicking on a ‘Buy Now’ button on your website, or calling your store to place the order.
Pro Tip: “Use marketing automation, such as Hubspot or Marketo.” says Tracey Wallace, Editor-in-Chief of the Bigcommerce Blog. “This type of software allows you to set up automated emails and create various nurture streams based on both site and email behavior. For instance, if a customer bought a particular bundle—send them a follow-up email about products often bought with that bundle. If that customer clicks the email, make sure to follow-up with a discount if they don’t purchase. If that customer didn’t open the email or click the link in the email, try a different headline or a different message. You can set all of these nurture streams up ahead of time, so you can focus on other things during the rush, while your email marketing works for you.”
 

Magnifying your promotions. 

Empower your sales team: If you have a sales or support team, make sure you also plan for staffing needs well in advance. Take the time to make sure they’re knowledgeable about the promotion and how it ties into the business’ growth and your campaign. Then, make sure they’re ready to go when your campaign starts. You can even incentivize them further with a commission on the sales they bring in through the promotion.
 
Run an integrated online marketing campaign. Blog. Email. Tweet. Post. These days, promoting your offer to the world requires more than sending out a single email and waiting for the sales to come in. A successful strategy requires integrated planning across your marketing and social channels. Running the offer multiple times across multiple channels helps it to sink in with your audience, especially since every other business is trying to reach the same shoppers.
 
Of course, email is still an effective way to communicate with your existing customers. They work particularly well when your promotion has a "customers only" component, such as a gift or discount for customers who introduce family and friends to your business.
 
Launch your promotions through social channels such as Facebook and Twitter, offering special promotions for those who follow you online—such as a gift with purchase, discount, or shipping upgrade. It can help soften the hard sell, generate sales, and bring in referrals, as fans are likely to forward your offer, bringing first time visitors to your brand.
 
Pro Tip: “When you think SEO, don’t just think Google or keywords. Those are absolutely important, but consumers aren’t just Googling products anymore,” says Tracey Wallace, Editor-in-Chief of the BigCommerce Blog. Also, when thinking about ‘optimizing for search,’ think about how you can optimize your products for discoverability –– not just your website. Make sure you utilize Google Shopping, Facebook Shop, Pinterest Buyable Pins, Amazon, and eBay.”
 
Speaking of, don’t forget to beef up inventory. One of the worst things that can happen is to build a successful promotional campaign, bring in a lot of customers, and then run out of the things they want to buy. Avoid getting yourself in that tight spot and give yourself plenty of lead time. Talk to your suppliers in advance, negotiate discounts for early purchases, make sure to record the new inventory in your accounting system, and build alerts in case it runs short before your promotion begins, so you can quickly re-order. If you need funding for the additional inventory, you may be eligible to apply for a PayPal Working Capital business loan.2  The application takes just minutes and there is no credit check or personal guarantee.
 
Also, even when your business isn’t offering a product promotion, make sure to keep communicating with your customers and share stories that highlight your brand, your team, and your purpose.
 
For more information on holiday selling, download our free holiday selling ebook. You can access additional information by reviewing our Related Stories at the bottom of this page.
 
The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.

PayPal Credit is subject to consumer credit approval.
2  The lender for PayPal Working Capital is WebBank, Member FDIC. PayPal Working Capital is subject to credit approval, as determined by the lender, WebBank, Member FDIC. To apply for PayPal Working Capital, your business must have a PayPal Business or premier account for at least 90 days and process between $15,000 (or for premier accounts $20,000) and $20 million within those 90 days or within any time period less than or equal to 12 months. PayPal sales include processing on PayPal Express Checkout, PayPal Standard, PayPal Payments Pro, and PayPal Here.

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