When people ask me when they should dust off their marketing calendar and start planning their Christmas campaign, I tell them “last month.” It’s not a joke.
It’s difficult to know when you should start planning and running your Facebook Ad campaigns for any big event, whether that’s Christmas, Valentine’s day, or even some obscure event like National Secretary’s Day (which is April 27th next year, for the record).
And yet planning, preparing, and being ready is an essential part of beating out your competitors and getting those sales.
Developing a marketing calendar guarantees that you don’t miss any important opportunities. We want to make sure that you’ll never miss your chance to crush a holiday sale ever again.
In this post, we’re going to go over when to start preparing your social media marketing calendar. Learn when to run your Facebook Ad campaign for every major holiday, and highlight some smaller holidays you can use to benefit your marketing campaigns.
You’ll know how and when to run your campaigns, and you can download our complete marketing calendar so you’ll always be ready.
Why Do I Need a Marketing Calendar?
So why do you need to plan for holidays so early? This is one of the first things that you’ll notice when you take a look at our marketing calendar, so let’s go ahead and address it now.
Campaign planning starts early. You should have a nearly-full social media calendar compiled in advance for big holidays. This way, nothing sneaks up on you, you know you have every base covered, and you can coordinate organic campaigns with Facebook Ads if you choose. This can give you more time to evaluate your audience and see what types of content they’re responding to, and which offers you think would be most interesting to them.
You should also have your campaigns planned, prepped, and ready to go. It’s no secret that planning Facebook Ads can take awhile. You need to choose your images, create your offer, and do all the copywriting. And then come up with additional variations for split testing.
Plugging the campaigns into software and double checking everything takes a bit of time (even with AdEspresso‘s exceptionally easy-to-use software), and if your ads get bounced back to you and rejected, you want time to fix them. The last thing you want is to start running your campaigns a few days before Black Friday only for them to be rejected by Facebook, and you’re losing crucial selling hours over something that could have been avoided.
Preparing a marketing calendar also gives you time to make sure that you have enough product in stock, that you’ve crunched the numbers on the discounts to make sure you’re still turning a profit, and that you’ve done your research about when the shipping will actually guarantee arrival.
You want to have everything in place, especially since during a big event, the last thing you want to do is try to scrounge together marketing materials that should have been done ages ago.
Key Shopping Dates & When to Prepare
This is what we really want to get to, right? We want to know what the biggest shopping days of the year are, and when we need to start to get ready so we can add them to our marketing calendar.
The biggest shopping events (for most industries) are:
- New Years Eve
- Valentine’s Day
- Mother’s Day
- Father’s Day
- Memorial Day
- 4th of July
- Back to school sales (July/August)
- Labor Day
- Black Friday
- Cyber Monday
- December 12th- December 24th (ramping up for Christmas and Hanukkah)
It’s easy to look at that list and think “well that’s manageable.” But then when you consider that you have to plan those campaigns at least one month in advance- and sometimes several- it becomes a lot more stressful.
This is particularly true around the end-of-year holiday season; 47% of users start thinking about holiday gifts before November, and social media usage will increase from early October to New Year’s, when it will finally peak.
We wanted to demystify the process.
Below, you’ll find our marketing calendar, which tells you when and how you need to start preparing for all the different major holiday sales events.
Event Preparation Checklist
So you’re ready to start planning your marketing calendar for the holiday season ahead. Excellent! Whether that’s for New Years Day or Labor Day, there will be certain steps you want to take in order to make sure your campaigns are strong and ready to go.
These are as follow:
Identify Key Audience Segments
This is something that you should be doing throughout the year. What are your audience segments? How are they divided- by purchase history, or use case? Understanding your audience and how they interact with your brand is crucial to good marketing.
Before you actually start creating your Facebook Ads before a holiday promotion, dig deep into these audience segments. Consider which offers would be most effective in each segment. There may be some overlap; there may not.
It’s time to fine-tune your buyer personas, which you can create using Facebook’s audience insights. You should craft copy and choose images specifically for each niche segment, and decide which custom audience type you’ll use to reach them on Facebook.
Double Check Your Pixel
Make sure your Facebook tracking pixel is working at full-speed, because you’re going to be relying on it a lot during holiday campaigns. It will make it easier to monitor your ads and track their results much more accurately, and it will be used to create several different types of high-value custom audiences (like those that visit your site).
You can use AdEspresso’s own free WordPress plugin Pixel Caffeine to make the pixel set up easy if you haven’t done so yet, and to create exceptional new custom audiences.
If you want to verify that your pixel is working, you can use Facebook’s Pixel Helper. It’s a free Google Chrome extension that will tell you what pixels are showing up on your site when you visit it.
If your pixel isn’t working quite right, it can help you troubleshoot the issue and get it set before the peak holiday time.
Add Facebook SDK To Your Mobile App
Facebook’s tracking pixel only works when users visit your actual website. If mobile users visit your app instead, the pixel no longer works to track activity.
If you want to be able to fully track customer activity at all points of contact- which you should!- then you need to install Facebook SDK on your mobile app. The SDK will track opens, activity within the app, measure app installs, allow for easy re-engagement ad creation, and make it possible for users to sign into the app with their Facebook login instead of using their email.
You can see Facebook’s full guide for how to install the SDK onto your mobile app here.
Upload Your Product Catalogue
Some businesses sell only a small number of products or services, but plenty have a large catalog of products they want to push.
Product catalogs allow you to upload all of your products and their information (including pictures) to Facebook’s database using smart templates. These can then be used to create and run dynamic ad retargeting campaigns, automatically showing the exact products users were looking at earlier to them in an ad.
In peak sales times, this is a big opportunity; customers will be actively researching and making buying decisions, so continuing to have your product popping up in their feed gives you an advantage.
Learn more about creating and using product catalogs for Dynamic Ads here.
Plan Your Budget
This is something that’s easy to overlook. Many businesses are fully prepared to increase ad spend during peak sales times, which makes sense. But how much can you afford to spend? What about if the average CPC or CPA rate increases because of the high competition during the holiday season?
Map out your budget ahead of time, and have that pre-programmed into your ads. If you’re concerned about ad prices going up to the point where it would cost you profitability, you can manually set a maximum average bid. This is preferable to setting a maximum total bid, which can potentially cost you placements.
Make Sure Your Landing Pages Are Ready to Go
Have your landing pages created and ready to go long before you need them. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve hired a designer or you’re building them yourselves (though you definitely want them far in advance if you’ve outsourced it, just in case); the last thing you want is for your marketing calendar to be delayed because of the landing pages. You want to ensure that your landing pages:
- Match the exact offer you’ll show on your ads. If you don’t, Facebook might actually suspend your ad account.
- Are fully mobile-optimized. (All of our landing page tools we recommend are automatically mobile optimized, for the record).
- Have all the appropriate terms and services available on it.
Set Your Goals
This is a big one that’s shockingly easy to forget about with all the chaos. It’s way too easy to say “let’s sell as much as possible,” start running your campaigns, and be off and running. Instead, you should set up SMART goals, which are both specific and measurable.
During the planning stages of your campaign, decide how many conversions you want to hit, what you’re willing to pay for each one, and by what date you’d like to reach them.
Get Your Ads Approved
You can always edit your ads later, if needed, but the easiest thing to do is plug them into AdEspresso or Facebook Ads with plenty of time to spare.
Choose scheduled campaign dates so they’ll start running right on time, and you can know that they’ll be approved and ready to go without you needing to stay on top of things on the day of.
You’ll have enough to do that day, anyway.
Event & Holiday Marketing: How Is It Different From Regular Campaigns?
Moving customers through the digital sales funnel is always a priority, but in non-holiday selling times, you have a little more time to do so.
There isn’t the same kind of rush in non-peak times as there is in the holidays, where everyone is offering deals and you have to get that Christmas purchase by December 12th or it would be gone.
There’s a lot more immediate, in-your-face competition during any type of holiday event that you need to outshine. This competition can increase the cost of Facebook Ads, since it’s run on a bidding system, but the rewards are almost always still worth the raised cost.
What About All the Random Holidays?
There are a lot of really, really random holidays out there. If you can think of it, it probably exists in some form of a “National X Day.” We’ve got everything from National Ice Cream Day (it’s the third Sunday in July) to National Plant a Flower Day (March 12th).
No matter what industry you’re in, it’s a good idea to take a look at a full list of all these crazy holidays to see which would benefit your marketing campaigns. Sometimes, you’ll find an unexpected one. National Recycling Day, for example, is a great time to remind customers that your business is green and eco-friendly!
Here’s a list of some of the random event holidays (and some of the bigger ones thrown in as a reminder!) sorted by month.
A lot of these events don’t need the same kind of preparation as Mother’s Day or Black Friday, but it’s good to know about them so you don’t miss them. Jot down the ones that are relevant to you on your marketing calendar, set an alarm on your phone, or make a Google event. Whatever you have to do to make sure you don’t miss a prime sales day. We’ve got to strike while the iron is hot, right?
- National Thank You Month: All of January
- Diet Resolution Week: January 1-7
- New Year: January 1
- Martin Luther King Day: January 16th
- Get to Know Your Customers Day: January 19th
- Clean out your Inbox week (perfect for B2B businesses): January 23-27
- Compliment Day: January 24th
- National weddings month: All of February
- American Heart Month: All of February February
- Groundhog Day: February 2nd
- Superbowl Sunday: February 4th
- Freelance Writers Appreciation Week: February 12-18th (Had to throw that one in!)
- Valentines Day: February 14th
- National Nutrition Month: All of March
- Employee Appreciation Day: March 3rd
- National Sleep Awareness Week: March 6th-13th
- St. Patrick’s Day: March 17th
- First Day of Spring: March 20th
- National Puppy Day: March 23rd
- Earth Month: All of April
- April Fool’s Day: April 1st
- Tax day: April 15th (The worst of all the days)
- Easter: April 16th
- Earth Day: April 22nd (Great opportunity for “go green with our software” campaigns)
- Administrative Day: April 25th
- National Superhero Day: April 28th
- Cinco De Mayo: May 5
- World Fair Trade Day: May 13 (Excellent day to promote any products or services that fit this bill)
- Mother’s Day: May 14th
- Geek Pride Day: May 25th
- Memorial Day: May 29th
- National Safety Month: All of June (You can highlight online security, too!)
- National Best Friends Day: June 8th
- Father’s Day: June 18th
- First Day of Summer: June 21st
- Social Media Day: June 30th
- Ice Cream Month: All of July
- National Picnic Month: All of July
- National Independent Retailer Month: All of July
- 4th of July: July 4th
- National 7-11 Day: July 11th
- National Ice Cream Day: July 16th
- Parent’s Day: July 24th
- Family Fun Month: All of August
- Back to school month: all of August
- National Girlfriends Day: August 1st
- International Friendship Day: August 7th
- Left Hander’s Day: August 13th
- Senior Citizen’s Day: August 21st
- National Preparedness month: All of September
- National Yoga Awareness Month: All of September
- Labor Day: September 4th
- National Suicide Prevention Week: September 5-11th
- National Video Games Day: September 12th
- First day of fall: September 22nd
- Coffee Day: September 29t
- Financial Planning Month: All of October
- National Work From Home Week: October 1-7
- National Techies Day: October 3rd
- Rosh Hashanah: October 3-4th
- World Teacher’s Day: October 5th
- Yom Kippur: October 11th
- National Boss’s Day: October 17th
- Halloween: October 31st
- National Gratitude Month: all of November
- Veterans Day: November 11th
- Thanksgiving: November 23
- Black Friday: November 24th
- Cyber Monday: November 27th
- Hanukkah: December 12-20th
- Free Shipping Day: December 16th
- First day of Winter: December 21st
- Christmas: December 25th
- Kwanza: December 26th-January 1st
- New Year’s Eve: December 31st
Running successful holiday campaigns heavily relies on preparation.
Knowing what you want to feature, what you want to offer, and how you want to convince users to purchase is essential, and too many businesses start too late.
Keep this post and our marketing calendar on hand so that you’ll always know when you should start preparing, and nothing will ever sneak up on you.
And who knows? You might find a few small bonus holidays you didn’t know about that can help you boost immediate short-term sales from time-to-time, too.
What do you think? How far in advance do you start preparing for your holiday campaigns? Do you use any smaller holidays to promote sales and land new customers?
Leave us a comment and let us know what you think, and don’t forget to download a copy of the marketing calendar to keep by your desk!