Getting into the holiday spirit in July may seem early to others, but for businesses, starting early is the backbone of successful holiday promotions planning. Last year's holiday campaign might need sprucing up, the business might have grown, or goals might have changed. Start-up businesses are looking for ways to get brand awareness with new customers, while more mature businesses are looking to strengthen relationships with current customers. Whatever position your business is in, holiday promotions are an opportunity to connect with clients on a personal level. Starting with a plan gives promotions direction and improves the chances of its success. If you're looking for a place to start, we've included a list. Use these steps to strengthen your holiday promotions strategy Step 1) Do your researchAsk your loyal customers and ideal customers what they need and make sure your holiday promotions make it clear what's in it for them. Use surveys, polls, and Q&As to understand their day-to-day challenges. Ask them what they love about your products or services. Figure out what your unique selling points are. Find out what your direct and indirect competitors have done with holiday promotions in the past. Review award-winning holiday campaigns and understand why they were successful. Check out lists published by Hubspot or Cannes Lions. Step 2) Outline your messagesDecide what your core messages are. How do you want your customers to feel about your products, services, and overall brand? What do you want to inspire in clients, and how do you want them to respond? Step 3) Set goalsUse the SMART goals method to make sure your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely enough. Step 4) Create a budgetTalk to the specialists on your team to figure out how much to spend on each part of your campaign. Put your money into efforts that get you a return on your investments. Step 5) Create a scheduleStart the preliminary planning in August with brainstorming, researching and preparing materials. In November, you'll want to launch and run your holiday campaigns. By December, you want to be tracking results and preparing to wrap up by January. Step 6) Plan how you'll evaluate resultsDon't leave your customers hanging. Follow-up with and thank them. Track your analytics, purchases, and leads. Ask for feedback and reviews. Next year, you'll need this information to improve your future campaigns. Once you've established a strategic plan, do some brainstorming on promotional campaign ideas. In case you need a starting-off point, we've included a few. Consider these options when holiday promotions planning 1) Advertise on TV, radio, social media, web banners or Google As long as they are resonant and relevant to your customers, traditional advertisements get your name out there. 2) Cross-promote with influencers or high-profile members of your community Messages that come from leaders and people of authority have more sway. Talk to influencers who share your core values and discuss opportunities to work together. For example, if you're an eco-friendly business, connect with zero-waste influencers to create eco-friendly holiday gift guides. 3) Donate a portion of sales to a cause 'Tis the season of giving. Being charitable during the holidays is good for your bottom line and community. 4) Update your social media, website, or select products to a holiday theme Show your customers that the holidays are on your mind too, and use this opportunity to show off your holiday cheer. Change the banners on your social media accounts, update your logo to a limited-time holiday-themed design and have fun with it. 6) Consider in-store or point of sale promotionsIf your business is retail focuses, you can give your customers extra incentive to make a purchase, learn more about what you offer, refer you to other people, or consider your other products. For example, a seed paper wine bottle tag will get their attention and give a plantable gift with a "happy holidays" message from your company. Or, you might include a seed paper insert with a message that says "thanks for your purchase" and information about your loyalty program. 7) Run a daily coupon or offer on select products Similar to the 12 Days of Christmas or advent calendar, countdowns play off of the anticipation for the most wonderful time of the year. Get your customers excited about the special, one-time-only offers. 8) Add categories and search filters on your website for holiday gift shoppingMake it easy for customers to find the perfect gifts. 9) Put together a holiday gift guideHave a downloadable resource for customers to look through later. Have featured, recommended products to give customers ideas. 10) Get customers involved with a contest or giveawayGrow your audience with a social media giveaway or contest. Just remember to make it easy to participate in. Selfie, comment-and-win, or create-a-caption contests are straight-forward and involve only one to two steps to join in. Make sure to follow the contest and sweepstakes rules on Facebook and other platforms. 11) Send Email updates minimallyToo many emails get lost in inboxes and customers won't appreciate the constant updates. Be selective with the messages you're sending and make sure it's helpful, not loud. Traditional direct mail may be more effective during the holiday season so you might want to consider it in addition to your e-blast content. 12) Include Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day in your campaign planCreate special sales holiday promotions for the customers that are looking for deals. Check out this guide to planning a profitable Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotion by Shopify. 13) Use Pinterest to create a holiday-inspired boardAround the holidays, Pinterest users are looking for holiday recipes, DIY decor, gift-wrapping, and other ideas. Check out this post on holiday-themed pinning by Pinterest. Don't forget to show appreciation 1) Share branded employee appreciation giftsChoose branded items that your employees will love that also fit your brand's personality and values. Office supplies, such as desk calendars, are an easy and relevant pick. If you're looking for an eco-friendly alternative, consider plantable seed paper desk calendars. 2) Mail business holiday cardsA simple action like sending a holiday card can go a long way when building relationships. By connecting with people on a more personal level, rather than making it all about sales and promotions, you'll humanize your brand and build brand loyalty. Consider seed paper holiday cards that give the gift of planting, create zero waste, and make a positive impression. 3) Offer a free gift with purchaseGiveaways and freebies are great incentives to purchase and will make customers feel appreciated, which is perfect for the holiday season. Just make sure the freebies are relevant to your customers. Any giveaways that create an experience for your customers, such as plantable paper that encourages them to garden, will leave a lasting impression. You want your customers to use the item, not throw it away. There are many ways to connect with, inspire, and build relationships with customers over the holidays. Use these tips as a guidepost and remember your holiday promotions plan should reflect the audience, goals, values, and bottom line of your company. Browse seed paper products to plan a mailout for your event to generate hype and buzz for your event. Learn more about how you can incorporate eco-friendly seed paper into your next corporate promotion by subscribing to our newsletter and downloading our Seed Paper Promotions Catalog.