Christmas in August?

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You Need to Start Now To Be in Your Customers’ Holiday Plans

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

But the shopping’s so delightful

So since we’ve got cash to blow

Let it go, let it go, let it go.

Okay, so I’m no Burt Bacharach, but you get the idea.

The fourth quarter – that holiday spending season between October and December – is still a month and a half away, so I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m riffing on a holiday classic. My point is that the holidays is when consumers and businesses make a disproportionate amount of purchases compared to the rest of the year, but just because they spend the money in Q4 doesn’t mean that’s when they also make the decisions on what to spend it on.Since the last recession, consumers have gotten smarter about budgeting their money in advance of the holidays. In fact, one of our own clients, Lou Scatigna – a financial planner who is known as the Financial Physician – offered tips to consumers on how to plan for the holidays around this same time last year.  That article became one of the highest circulated pieces we ever offered the news media, because they knew it would resonate with their audiences.  From that one article we booked a number of TV appearances and more than 100 million in combined circulation and visitors per month in print and online coverage. As you’re sitting around waiting for holiday sales, consumers are researching what they are going to spend their money on right now.

Moreover, businesses also spend a lot of money at the end of the year, as many of their fiscal years are winding down. Every corporate department is in the process of making projections for their budget needs for next year. The problem is, if they still have unspent money in this year’s budget, they need to spend it by the year’s end, or else they won’t be able to justify a similar budget level for next year. In other words, they have to use it or lose it. So, if you market products or services to businesses, many of them will also be looking to empty their budgets. Will they be spending that money on you or your competitors?

For PR firms, our main concern is that the media is also preparing for the holidays in a big way right now. August and September is when many publications prepare their holiday gift guides, end of year analyses, holiday retail predictions and lists of the hottest products they believe will fly off the shelves the day after Thanksgiving. So, if you want to be mentioned, you’d best get yourself in front of them now, because if you wait until November, all those sections will already be finished. And if you’re interested in doing some radio or TV interviews, now is the time to carve out space on the media’s calendar for when the holiday push begins. There is only so much airtime and space for articles, and if you’re late, you’ll be crowded out.

If you’ve ever read those holiday shopping guides in the major newspapers and Web sites and wondered how your competitors got in, but you didn’t, that’s why. They started as the summer was still smoldering and the autumn breeze was just waking up. If you wait for the cold, that’s where you’ll be left – out in the cold.

That’s why no matter if you market to corporations or consumers or both, you have to get the word out about yourselves right now. If you’re not on the radar screen as these people are planning how to spend their money, you won’t be the ones to make the sales when they are ready to spread that holiday cheer around.

Oh, and Lou wanted me to remind you – only about 12 more paychecks until the holidays. Will you have enough time to save up to make your shopping rounds? We’re getting that pitch for him out this week, so he’ll be on the air soon to tell you all about. Will you be watching him at home, or meeting him in the green room as you wait for your segment to be taped?

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