When growing your online business, there are two kinds of digital marketing and client acquisition campaigns you will always need to implement - the so-called Seasonal and Evergreen campaigns.  If you want to know more about these two types of campaigns, you can hear our CEO, Ewa Wysocka, and Senior Partner, Mariya Kallagova, talk about them in our recent webinar here.

Don't worry, in this article, we will help understand better about one of them, the Seasonal Campaign. But more specifically, all about the most common and sought after campaigns in the world, and how to use them to maximize short-term revenue for ANY type of online business – The Seasonal PROMOTIONAL campaign.

You may be asking: Oh cool, but what is a seasonal promo campaign? Simply put, seasonal promo campaigns are promotional activities to showcase your product or services. These activities can be discounts, special offers, limited-time samples, and can be campaigned around holidays or celebrations such as Black Friday or Christmas.

There are thousands of different promotional offers available on the Internet that motivate clients to finally convert and take that final commitment step. The variety of promotional campaigns is so impressive that it is only limited human imagination. So the tricky part is to actually create a campaign that will draw attention to YOUR product, from everyone else's.

And it is not so easy. There seem to be a lot of opportunities, from the inception stage to the campaign finalization stage, where things could go wrong and the desired results become a dream that never came true.

In the last six months, I’ve run around 16 Promo Campaigns, and as much as I love the creative part of the process, having a clear understanding of:

  • the structure of any promotion
  • the main types of promotion that can be made
  • organization of each stage of the promotion
  • knowing how to precisely measure the promotional efforts
  • predicting the things that could f*** up

SAVED ME a lot of stress. In this article, I'll share the key points you need to know before signing up to run a promotional campaign. Let's dive in!

Starting with my personal favorite seasonal promotional campaign…

Seasonal campaigns are great for the immediate revenue boost, but some of them also have the potential to bring long-term value. And these are my absolute favorites.

Lately, I have managed two campaigns that meet that criteria.

Secret Sale

The offer: 3 coupon codes with threshold discount available only for the eCommerce store email club members

The campaign structure: 

  1. We ran an anticipation campaign both for our cold and warm audiences giving them hints that something special is awaiting club members this week, so it is worth signing up
  2. By the end of the week, we dropped an email announcing the secret sale that lasts only till midnight; the email included coupon codes with threshold discounts

Why I like it: 

The result was a 151% increase in revenue compared to the previous period without a promo, but also we delivered exclusive value to our club customers, which will foster loyalty to the club in the future.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Campaign

The offer: 10% of sales for breast cancer foundation support (on the dedicated product) 

The campaign:

The biggest effort around this campaign was put into communication. We used social media, emails, partnerships, the businesses’ Facebook community, blog, and eCommerce itself to raise awareness on the breast cancer issue and preventative measures. We built the communication around the values of sisterhood, support, and consciousness.

Why I like it: 

The result was a month of impressive honesty and support among the store's community, who were sharing their personal experience related to breast issues whilst giving some appreciation to the brand’s efforts. During such campaigns, the brand and the customer unite together to help one cause, which results not only in sales increase but also in building a deeper relationship.

What constitutes a seasonal promotional campaign?

Despite the big and colorful variety of things you could do during your seasonal campaign, you’ll probably find out that each of them comes down to one CORE structure.

The special offer is where your creativity comes in and there is an opportunity to WOW your clients with something new. However, it should be aligned with your brand and make perfect financial sense to execute (in case of physical products think about good margins here).

Limited time plays a vital role in creating scarcity and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

However, you have to always remember that in every campaign you are selling a promise and if one of the promises is limited time - you better keep the deadline or risk losing the trust of your audience during your next promos (If it seems obvious to you now, as I hope it is, try to remember about it the next time when your limited-time campaign turns out a to be a real money-making machine and the temptation to prolong it to eternity is hardly irresistible).

What types of seasonal promotional campaign offers could you apply to boost sales?

A clear purchasing benefit, your offer, is a key to any campaign communication. If you are wondering in what direction you should go with your offer, I would suggest taking a look at the three offer types below. There is a great chance that 95% of your promotional activities will be based on one of them.

Monetary incentive

Types of incentives:

  • % discounted,
  • $ off

Sharing a little bit of your margin to stimulate the customer to make a purchase is probably the oldest known promo offer. Here you should define whether you’d like to present a % or  $ discount.

Tip: count both % and $ options and choose the one which has a significantly higher number. For instance, choose an $80 discount over a 10% discount for an $800 product. The actual gain remains the same, whereas the perceived benefit of saving $80 will be more attractive for the customer to finalize the purchase.

Freebie with purchase

Types of freebies:

  • free gift,
  • free delivery,
  • BOGO (Buy One Get One)
  • participation in a lottery,

Depending on your business type you could consider adding such freebies: additional (expanded) service for B2B, a desirable physical product for eCommerce, an extra coaching session for online education businesses, or some added value feature for subscription businesses.

Regardless of your business type, you should approach the freebie selection with strategic precision. Ask yourself two questions:

1. Does the cost of offering this freebie make business sense? It is important here to understand if this tactic makes sense and establish the threshold where it is still profitable for the business while making it an attractive purchase incentive for the customers.

Freebie case example: Imagine you’re a hair products brand that wants to promote their bestsellers - Magic Shampoo & Perfection Hair Mask. Precisely, you are thinking of uniting them into a bundle, cause you have a huge stock of both products in your warehouse. The normal price is 18 EUR for the 200 ml shampoo (there’s also a 50 ml version for 6 EUR) and 32 EUR for the hair mask.

Assuming the margin for both products is 60%, should you combine the products into a bundle with the shampoo as a freebie? OR would it be better to just give a discount on the bundle?

To answer this, make a small simulation to see what freebie is better (200 ml or 50 ml shampoo) for your business and play with the bundle discount to see which offer could actually be more attractive to the buyer and at the same time profitable for you, like in the example below 👇

2. Will the choice of this freebie result in some additional purchases in the future? It might be through directly purchasing this product, but also consider such intangible things that lead to future purchases as an emotional connection to your brand and customer loyalty.

Cause marketing campaign (% from sales to charity cause)

Selecting this type of campaign for the mere purpose of raising some brand awareness and driving your revenues upward could turn out to be a very tricky, and sometimes even damaging, activity. But it could also result in a noticeable impact not only for the honorable cause you’ll be supporting but for many levels of your business such as sales, customer relationships, publicity, and even employee retention.

According to Jeff Fromm, the effective cause marketing equation is simple:

But to successfully plan and execute such a campaign, there are more things you need to keep in mind.

Important things to remember are:

  • Choose the cause that is HIGHLY ALIGNED with your company values
  • Ensure customers CLEARLY understand the way they contribute to the cause
  • Approach the actual campaign communication with a great deal of creativity, personalization to build EMOTIONAL RAPPORT
  • Remember that you are only the messenger - it's your CUSTOMERS’ CONTRIBUTION that is making the miracle happen (and it's their judgment of your campaign that can make it fly or crash drown with criticism)

If you’re looking for some quick gains, I would advise going with the monetary or freebie incentive. Cause marketing campaigns have higher stakes to it than just a revenue spike, but if planned and executed well, they can make a real impact.

Good cause marketing campaign example: when you want to make a real impact think like 

Failed cause marketing example: when the cause is misaligned with your brand 

How to plan a seasonal promotional campaign from the beginning to the grand finale?

It’s easy, they said. So simple, they said.

A well-planned campaign feels natural, easy, and simple... to the consumer. It has a clear offer, coherent multi-channel communication, and a seamless user experience.

Depending on the type of campaign you choose, the customer will experience at least one of the campaign stages below:

Anticipation (building up the tension with some hints about the campaign before the actual campaign) —> Promo (the time when the actual offer is ON) —> Closure (a summary of the promo, varies greatly on the promo type)

Here are just some examples of what could be done on each of the stages:

Note: not every seasonal campaign HAS to include all the three stages, experiment with different combinations, and compare their impact on the promo success.  

That's the 'front end’ of the seasonal campaign, which is seen by the customer.

On the back end, where the teams are working hard to launch the promo, the whole cycle includes a couple more internal stages:

Preparation (Planning + Materials Prep) → Execution (Anticipation, Promo, Closure) → Effectiveness Analysis

The nitty-gritty details of launching a campaign will differ depending on the business model and it could easily be material for a separate article or a workshop.

So instead of providing you with a paragraph about everything and nothing at the same time, I asked key specialists participating in a typical seasonal campaign to give pre-launch checkpoints that will be useful for any kind of business:

Content checkpoints from Dominika:

- Plan your visual communication ahead to avoid banner blindness - try to stand out from the crowd. For example, Black Friday all in black or Valentine’s Day flooded with pinkish hearts may not be as effective as something a little bit odd.

- Make sure that your story continues through the whole funnel. Choose an angle of communication and adjust all the elements to it. 

- Make sure that all the elements - creatives & copies - resonate with your Persona.

- Remember that more than 80% of information comes from the visual part of all the assets, so put this amount of your energy into its creation. 

- Keep it short, because our attention spans are now shorter than that of a goldfish.

 

Performance checkpoints from Sasha:

- Check if copy is relevant and there are no mistakes and typing errors.

- Check if creatives such as banner ad/video ad reflect your initial idea.

- Check if LP's sections, headlines, text, offer, price, discount, CTA is clear.

- Keep an eye on time-sensitive content. Don't run New Year’s copy in March.

Conversion checkpoints from Natalia:

- Check whether the amount of discount is reflecting the promises made in communication and whether all communication is adjusted (eg. if using badges on promotional products).

- Check whether the coupon code is working (if applicable) and whether the minimum basket value is set properly (if applicable).

- If changing the free delivery threshold - check the communication in all places on the website (eg. in USP messaging) and whether the checkout rules have adjusted to the new threshold.

- Check whether the discounted prices will not cause any problems in some product bundles or if there is no promotion overlap that might hurt your margins.

- Before BIG promotions (like Black Friday) - make sure your servers are ready for this 🙂

- If communicating any new products/bundles - make sure they appeared on the website, with the proper name, picture, and description.

- Check whether any additional communication points eg. informational bars, countdowns or pop-ups are working properly (if applicable)

23 seasonal promotion ideas to copy-paste to your marketing calendar right now

When searching for some interesting campaigns to fill your marketing calendar with, you can have two points of departure: time-based campaigns and event-based campaigns.

Time-based seasonal campaigns are the ones that are connected to a specific calendar date or week. Event-based campaigns are independent of any timeframes, so it is up to you when to schedule them.

Note: cause-related marketing campaigns can be both time-based (as Breast Cancer Awareness month in October) or event-based (as when your business chooses to gather money for local hospitals).

Let me give you some examples:

How to fail a promotional campaign? 

There are many impressively creative ways to do just that and miserably fail, and if you ignore the points listed below you are sure going to be on the right track to achieve failure.

When reading the below points, think about your most ambitious seasonal campaign - like, for example, Black Friday is for many businesses.

Technical aspects:

  • Server scaling and backup: during big promotions, the number of website visits can skyrocket and before you know your website is slower than human patience could possibly handle, or even worse, the website is down.

The case of Gymshark:

Back in 2015, during Black Friday, Gymshark was all set and ready to see the money flowing in from their biggest promo campaign of the year when their website went down for 8 hours due to the lack of backup. The estimated loss for the downtime was $143,000.

Logistics (for eCommerce)

  • Stock issues: project the demand for your physical products way ahead of the campaign, keeping in mind that the demand for some of your bestsellers will even 4-6 times higher; also look into the issue of stock inaccuracies - if you know it might occur on your platform consider investing into an inventory management system
  • Delivery issues: during promos, the workload for the people in your warehouses will increase proportionally to the increase in orders, but the customers are still going to expect the fastest delivery and neat packaging; to avoid a wave of dissatisfaction about your service, hire some additional people in advance for the promo season. Also, ask them to triple check during orders packing - the wrong order delivery is a real problem

People:

  • Hope for the best, prepare for the worst: have your team instructed and ready to troubleshoot at any moment during your big seasonal campaign.

Do seasonal campaigns, but do it right!

As with the majority of things in life, seasonal campaigns can be both good and bad for you - it all depends on how you use them.

If you do it right, you can expect such lovely things as:

  • boosting your short-term revenue
  • encouraging some repeat purchases from your existing clients
  • encouraging the people who do not know your brand to check out your offers
  • giving an extra sign to anyone who’s already thinking about your products, but needs a small nudge 🙂

But as sweet as it sounds, having too many seasonal promos can cheapen your brand and make your customers averse to buying at a normal price. Always remember that seasonal promos can only be a part of your strategy - watch out for a healthy balance here between the short-term gains vs holistic long-term growth.