You Ask, I Answer: Planning Ahead for Holiday Campaigns?

Sasha asks, “How far in advance does planning need to begin for seasonal or holiday shifts in a digital marketing strategy?”

It depends on the holiday. This is where forecasting software really shines. Each holiday has an inflection point that’s visible in search traffic; find the probable inflection point for an upcoming holiday and then work backwards from that date to align with your internal processes.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

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In today’s episode, Sasha asks, how far in advance does planning need to begin for seasonal holiday shifts in a digital marketing strategy? So, it depends, it depends on the holiday, every holiday, depending on how many people are participating in is going to have very different patterns.

Some holidays, like you know, the winter holidays, for example, have very long run up times to the other holidays.

Like, say, Mother’s Day have a much shorter run up in terms of when people are interested in that holiday, at least for the purposes of marketing.

So there’s two things you need to do.

Three, really, you need to know your processes, you need to have your holiday data, and then you need to build your plan.

Let’s take a look at how you would do this.

First, you need to know your processes.

How long does it take for you to get a campaign up and running.

And this is a time where you have to be brutally honest with yourself, if it takes you nine weeks to get campaign budget, creative designs, your marketing, automation software, all that stuff set up, then you need to know that it’s a nine week thing and don’t sugarcoat it, if it really takes you nine weeks to launch something.

That’s the truth.

But you’ve got to know that first.

So do some investigation of your internal processes, do some post mortems looking back at what happened and be blunt? Yep, it’s gonna take us nine weeks, or it’s gonna take us two weeks, or it’s gonna take us however long it is it needs to take.

This also means auditing the individual processes that make up a campaign.

So how long does it take to get ads deployed? How long does it take to get a campaign trained, one of the things that with many machine learning based advertising systems, now they need run up time they need time to calibrate, it can be as little as two weeks in some cases, in some cases longer depending on how popular your search volume is, if you’re running searches or for social interactions on social networks.

So you have to factor those processes in as well.

So that’s step one, you need to know that window, because that window is going to be something you move around on your calendar to say, Okay, if we know the go date is March 15, and it takes you nine weeks, then you know, you know, you need to be basically ready to go.

Ready to start the campaign on January one, right, because it’s gonna take you that long.

Step two is using data using data and forecasting software, take your pick of any of the statistical packages out there.

I like to work in our and use some really, really sophisticated machine learning forecasting libraries to do forecasting, but whatever, whatever it is that you have, use it.

Let’s go ahead and look at this example here.

So this is holiday searches.

So this is gonna be holiday searches for the coming year.

So forecasting software, and one of the powerful things you can do with it is you can based on back data, assuming the back date is good forecast to forward now there are some things that the pandemic has thrown totally for a loop, right.

But there are other things where the Search interest is going to remain relatively the same.

In the sense of, you know, people will still search for holiday gift guides, people will still search for Mother’s Day gifts, those things haven’t changed other things, certainly like Mother’s Day dinner reservations, that’s going to be totally different.

So you’re going to have to accommodate that in your data.

But for at least understanding the overall season, take the biggest most obvious search for that season that’s relevant to marketing, and see what shakes out in the data.

So let’s look at this here.

We have four Valentine’s Day gifts right in the coming year.

No surprise, February 7 is when that sort of peaks and I believe Valentine’s Day is shortly thereafter.

But Search interest really starts right around January 10.

What you’re looking for in this data is called an inflection point at the point where the search volume changes.

So let’s look at just gift guide here.

Right? You see Gift Guide kind of goes throughout the year, you know, stable and then right here.

October 17 is when you see this big run up, right.

That’s the inflection point.

That is the point where you want your campaign in market.

So again, if it takes you nine weeks to get a campaign up and running then if you’re just starting on October 17.

You’re hosed.

Right You missed the window.

You need to have your camp I mean, in market on the 17th, which means that you’re probably gonna have to get the planning started like August 8.

If it takes you that long to get a campaign in here, let’s look at another one Mother’s Day gifts, right? Mother’s Day gifts.

Obviously, Mother’s Day gifts peaks around Mother’s Day, right? And then you have to count for things like shipping time stuff, but the interest starts really right around, you know, the, the second or third week of April here.

So you work backwards and figure out okay, what do we need to do in order to get our campaigns in the air.

So this is the strategy that I recommend.

For cyclical, predictable holidays.

There are other things where it’s not as predictable.

So for example, conferences, if you are in a in a space, like, you know, marketing, the Salesforce dreamforce conference is a super big deal.

dreamforce this year was kind of a flop because pandemic, right.

And it was a different date.

So you have to look at the back data for previous years.

And make some guesses and assumptions as to when interest would peak.

Once conferences returned in person, you know, whatever that run up is, you also want to use 2020s data for virtual events, right.

So if you know you have an event in the first eight months of 2021, you want to look at 2020s data for virtual events from March to the end of the year, and not previous years, because previous years were in person events.

So you have to do a lot of apples to apples matching.

So that’s where you need to look at the data and find those inflection points and work backwards from those inflection points to align your processes, then, of course, the last part is getting that deployment getting it out into the market.

And that’s a function of your operations cadence.

You don’t want to be too early.

You definitely don’t want to be late, right? If you are, if you are marketing, and just getting your marketing campaign from Mother’s Day started, I’m on May second, you’re in a bad spot.

So three things, know your processes, inside and out, forecast from reliable data with good judgment, particularly for the year that we’ve had.

And then figure out how you’re going to get into market out what your deployment strategy is going to be.

That’s, that’s what you need to do.

Now, how far advanced is your planning need to begin for all this stuff? This kind of analysis is something you should be doing really, now.

Right? Whatever now is, whenever you’re watching this, I like to do stuff like this at the end of a calendar year, so that you can have the plans built out a year in advance.

My business partner and CEO, Katie Loves to do year end planning like this, where you could start putting dates on the calendar like, Hey, we know Mother’s Day is going to be a thing on April 18.

So she’ll put a pin in place, you know, our operations gains is roughly about two and a half, three weeks.

So she’ll put a pin for like, last week of March, hey, we need to start on Mother’s Day planning, great.

You plan just those timelines roughly in your calendar, and then you don’t miss anything yet you set up reminders in your task management system, and you’re there.

And you’re ready to start your campaign planning at those times.

So that’s the process for doing this.

The sticking point for a lot of people will be that first stage of knowing your internal processes and being honest with yourself.

The forecasting is relatively straightforward.

But getting people to admit Yeah, it takes us we still we tell executives it takes four weeks to have campaign going that’s really 12 getting people to admit that really tough so that’s that’s where your first and biggest I think biggest challenge is you got follow up questions, leave them in the comments box below.

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