The marketing timeline to take your holiday promotion from planning to publish, while helping you stay organized, sane, and set up for success.

The holidays are one of the biggest challenges and most exciting opportunities for retail marketing and creative teams each year. Understanding your customers and starting your preparation early will set your creative team up for success this holiday season.

Halloween, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, basically all the holidays. The year is packed with holidays, festivities, and fantastic excuses to connect with your audience.

Some statistics about shoppers’ behavior can be helpful in planning a marketing strategy for the holidays.

  • 40% of consumers start holiday shopping before Halloween. Even if you aren’t hanging garland in mid-October, you should still start stocking shelves and ramping up your SEO efforts to make sure these early shoppers can find you online.
  • 66% of customers do research on purchases of less than $50. We generally assume that big-ticket items like technology or luxury items will be well-researched, carefully considered purchases. However, most customers know that at the holidays even small purchases add up, so they are taking the time to research everything. This is another good reason to double-down on your SEO efforts to make sure you show up when shoppers start Googling.
  • 48% of shoppers made an impulse purchase last year, and more than 70% bought gifts for themselves during the holidays. #treatyoself. Sometimes its an impulse, but often shoppers plan to buy things for themselves during the holidays to take advantage of holiday offers. Seize this opportunity with “Treat Yourself” campaign or a more subtle BOGO offer.
  • 63% of shoppers want to use online wish lists for gift shopping, and 54% use recommendations from retailers to purchase gifts. Many shoppers are lost when it comes to deciding what to buy for their picky nieces and nephews or weird uncles, or worse, the Secret Santa at the office. Put together gift guides or in-store displays highlighting great gift options for the hard-to-shop-for people in our lives.

Your success with a holiday promotion hinges on a deliberate marketing plan. Good news: There is a plan for you here.

This Hustle Campaign Planning Checklist
is going to become your new best friend. It’s the
1-2-3 guide that will make sure your promotion goes off without a hitch and provides you with the key elements to consider and complete for maximizing your results.


Let’s get started

Planning and Foundations

When: 4+ weeks before promotion

The best promotions don’t just come out of thin air.

Give yourself some space to lay a proper foundation for your promotional event. You can always be flexible as you build out the campaign, but the greater clarity at the beginning, the better focus you’ll have on executing your plan.

  1. 6 months before – Set your goals
      • What are your GOALS for this sale?
      • Write them down to help you turn them into reality
      • set Key Metrics for success.
  2. Brainstorm your offer
    1. Make decisions about inventory and submit orders to suppliers. You need to start planning the marketing campaigns and messaging.
    2. Product or Service Name:
    3. Offer Name:
    4. What is your OFFER?
        • Discount?
        • Coupon?
        • Bundle?
        • BOGO?
      • Current Pricing:
      • Sale Pricing:
    5. Try coming up with a catchy offer name!
  3. Choose your sale DATES
      1. Exact start and end times.
      2. Check Last Day to ship dates with providers to get presents in time.
  4. Determine promotion methods
    1. Where will you PROMOTE?
      1. Target Audience
      2. Email list
      3. Social media platforms.
      4. Promotional Placement
        1. Promotional Placement 1
        2. Promotional Placement 2
        3. Promotional Placement 3
  5. Create a promotional CALENDAR
      • Your final product should be a calendar of events, along with a list of all the assets you need to build, such as emails, in-store promotional materials, website graphics, and social assets.
      • The dates of all the emails you’ll send
      • The social media posts you’ll share.
  6. 3-4 months in advance, set aside time to batch your SALES COPY.
      • Create copy for all your platforms
      • Producing all that content. Start submitting requests to your creative team early so they have time to make sure they have all the information they need to get started on production. It’s also a good idea at this point to sit down with the creative team and talk with them about the marketing team’s goals and visions for the overarching campaign, as well as any sub-campaigns. This extra context helps the creative team deliver higher-quality assets, with less time needed during review and approval.
      • Objections to overcome?
        • 1.)
        • 2.)
        • 3.)
      • Transformations to highlight?
        • 1.)
        • 2.)
        • 3.)
      • Benefits to highlight?
      • Features to showcase?
      • Email copy and social media posts.
  7. Reach out to past clients/customers
      • to collect TESTIMONIALS in advance of your sale.
  8. If you have AFFILIATES,
    1. email them and let them know the details of the sale
    2. the offer & the dates.
  9. Design the promo GRAPHICS for all platforms,
    1. Make eye-catching graphics,
    2. Creativity is key.
      • Your customers are being inundated with holiday advertising.
    3. Create a strong CTA
    4. Focus on the limited-time offer.
  10. REPURPOSE your promotional graphics for your affiliates
    1. Send them off along with the swipe copy.
  11. Add your Facebook pixel to your site and pages
    1. Upload custom audiences into Facebook
  12. Get READY for the Sale
    1. products/services,
    2. website – Landing Page
      1. Setting up holiday gift guides and sharing these. Create a nice overview of all kinds of gifts for a plethora of people. ELLE has a page like that.
      2. Repurpose If you have a Black Friday guide for 2019, feel free to re-use that in 2020. Update the year, and update details like popular brands and popular products for that year. If the slug of your URL is /black-friday-guide-2019/, change that to /black-friday-guide-2020/ around August next year and redirect the old URL to the new one. No need to create a totally new page. It would be a waste of nice inbound links not to re-use that old URL. Of course, this is even easier if you simply don’t include the year in the URL.In the months before the holiday season, you could even simply repost popular posts from last year (a bit adjusted or updated if needed) on social media. Valentine’s Day might even become Secret Santa. Cyber Monday might match daddy’s favorites for Christmas. These are probably small adjustments; perhaps just adding ‘this Christmas’ to a meta description or title will do.
    3. Banner
    4. checkout,
    5. shipping,
    6. SEO
      1. helpful tip:
    7. CRM & Social systems,
    8. Team READY for the sale.
      1. Script
      2. Sell sheet
      3. QR code
      4. Wish List
  13. PROMOTE your offer!
    1. Everywhere & Every day! Social media like Twitter and Pinterest can play a huge role in the success of your (online) holiday sale. Take Pinterest, for instance. If you manage to get the right products on people’s wish lists, that can have a positive impact on your sales.
      1. Monday
        • Post – Save the Date post
        • Stories – Face to the camera: share excitement for the upcoming sale
        • Reels – Behind The Scenes of your product/service using a trending sound & transitions
      2. Tuesday
        • Tease the offer
        • Poll related to your offer
      3. Wednesday
        • Post – Overcome objections post
        • Stories – Question Sticker What do you want to know about the offer?
        • Reels – Share client or customer transformations
      4. Thursday
        • Post – Introduce the bonuses included
        • Stories – Behind the Scenes prepping for your Black Friday Sale
        • Reels – FAQs about the offer
      5. Friday
        • Post Sale – is On! Static image or video post
        • Stories – Catchy sales video + Story about bonuses or results expected
      6. Saturday
        • Post – #SmallBizSaturday
        • Stories – Share the story of “why you do what you do” + reminder of the sale
      7. Sunday
        • Post – Carousel Post with offer details
        • Stories – Share social proof or testimonials
        • Reels – Bust objections in an entertaining & educational way
      8. Monday
        • Post – CyberMonday
        • Stories -Share a final reminder of your sale!
        • Reels – BTS of your product/service using a trending sound & transitions
    2. The holiday season lasts about 2 months.
      • It’s not just Christmas!
        • Be mindful of other holidays and traditions celebrated during this time of year and factor their dates into your campaign calendar.
      • Retargeting or ‘empty cart’ emails.
        • These are great strategies year-round, but they are especially effective during the holidays when you know more people are actively looking to make purchases. Once they’ve found you or selected items to purchase, don’t let them slip away!
    3. Take this time to experiment with A/B testing, especially in digital assets where you can pivot quickly.
    4. Collect data on everything you can.
      • Even if you don’t have time to do much with that data right now, it will come in handy for next year’s planning.
  14. After Campaign
      1. Sit back and take a breather.
      2. Start planning for next year.
      3. After the season ends take an hour or two as a team to do a post-mortem of the campaign to take a look at the data collected.
        • Consider the planning time.
          • Did you have enough time?
        • Was the team scrambling up to the last minute?
        • How can we do better next year?

Prime Your List

When: 3+ weeks before promotion

During the holidays, e-commerce giants are able to outspend most small businesses in advertising.

So it’s essential that entrepreneurs with smaller budgets rely on their own email lists for their campaigns. You’ll also benefit from relationship marketing at a time when everybody else is selling at a discount.

  1. Create fresh, free content
  2. Deliver via landing pages, pop-ups, etc.
  3. Send out Email message #1 Announcement
  4. Post on Social Engage your audience on relevant social channels (Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.)
  5. Gather testimonials
  6. Create a Facebook ad for your fresh free content
  7. Run Facebook ads to your free content (Saved audiences, Lookalike audiences, Custom audiences)

Create Your Offer

When: 2+ weeks  before promotion

To get buyers to happily give  you their money, you need  a great offer that stands out  from the noise.

Avoid discounting your  existing product or service,  and instead consider bundling  what you have or introducing  a new product at a special  introductory price. Focus on  the benefits of your offer:  people want to buy better  versions of themselves.

  1. Determine features of your offer
  2. Determine bonuses
  3. Craft benefits of those features
  4. Create product listing in your merchant account or membership site
  5. Write welcome email for new customers
  6. Write follow-up email for new customers
  7. Set up emails for new customers in your Email Service Provider or Customer Relationship Manager
  8. Rough draft of sales page copy
  9. Create a thank you page people will see after their purchase that details what they’ve bought
  10. Create segments/tags/lists/ campaigns/workflows for new customers in your Email Service Provider or Customer Relationship Manager

Create Your Sales Page

When: 1 week before the promotion

With the proper social and email engagement over the prior weeks, your sales page shouldn’t need to do a lot of heavy lifting.

However, you will want to capture the desires of your audience and the benefits your offer provides on your sales page. Make it a  compelling and easy decision for people to say yes to.

Hint: You’ll know your page is great when you’re excited to buy your own offer yourself.

  1. Write sales page copy
  2. Find images for the sales page (hero,  headshot, testimonials)
  3. Add countdown timer for promotion  window
  4. Connect sales page to a merchant  account or membership site
  5. Connect buying process to your  thank you page
  6. Test your sales page and buying  process
  7. Bonus: Create sales page video

Create Promotion Campaign

When: 4 days before promotion

With your offer locked in, it’s time to shine a light on it.

Your promotion campaign is a  combination of communications across several channels: email,  social, and remarketing ads. Stick to a specific theme, and don’t be afraid of frequent messaging.

  • Develop 4-part email series for promotion (assuming a 4-day promotion window)
  • Add emails to ESP/CRM and schedule for delivery
  • Develop 3-4 ads for Facebook retargeting ads (focus on remarketing to custom audiences only)
  • Set up ad campaigns on Facebook

Bonus: Create a split test for the sales page

Go Live

When: Day of promotion

All your hard work is ready to pay off.

Open up the gates and enjoy the thrill of seeing your “baby” take flight.

  • Pull the “switch” to go live,  including the sales page, ads, and social  promotions
  • Monitor results of the campaign
  • Avoid pulling the plug or dramatically  changing anything during the first 24  hours of the promotion
  • Monitor the delivery of your offer
  • Deliver what you promise

Measure and Enjoy the Results

When: 1 week later

  1. After Campaign
      1. Sit back and take a breather.
      2. Start planning for next year.
      3. Take an hour or two as a team to do a post-mortem of the campaign to take a look at the data collected, while it is fresh in your mind. Take the time to reflect on how you did and plant the seeds for your next successful campaign.
        • Consider the planning time.
          • Did you have enough time?
        • Was the team scrambling up to the last minute?
        • How can we do better next year?
        • Look back at your goals and see how  you did
      4. Evaluate your key metrics: revenue  generated, sales page conversion  rate, email opens, and click-through  rates, ad ROI
      5. Solicit feedback from  your new customers (and those that didn’t buy)
      6. Create a “What I’d do same/  differently next time” doc for future  reference
      7. Take a day to enjoy the rewards of  your promotion
      8. Schedule your next holiday  promotion 3-6 months from now


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