Marketing Strategy Tips for the Holiday Season: Non-Retail Businesses | Perfect Search

Marketing Strategy Tips for the Holiday Season: Non-Retail Businesses

downward chart with wrapped present, no sign on top.
November 13, 2019

If you are a retail or e-commerce business, this holiday season may be your biggest time of the year and can account for up to 40% of your annual revenue.  But what if you are not a retail business? Businesses in other verticals can see a decrease in conversions and conversion rates in late November and December. B2B businesses see a 12% decrease in conversion rate in December. When planning your Q4 marketing strategy, look for these trends and embrace the opportunities available for your business.

Here are some trends to look out for this upcoming season:

Search Trends

While the days that observe holidays present a challenge in search volume, the days surrounding the holidays prove otherwise. Maybe you’re a business owner catching up during family time. Maybe you’re a student who’s out off of school and searching for programs, colleges or jobs to apply for? Or maybe, you’re a parent planning the next vacation. Regardless of your customer persona, these precious moments between the holidays offer a moment of me-time and productivity for consumers. 

Early November and December tend to have good Google Search performance for many businesses that are not in the retail or holiday verticals. And, often, the week after Christmas going into January, when businesses start planning the new fiscal year and consumers move on after the holidays can have the largest search volume of the year.

Display and Social Media Trends

In campaigns on display and social media, where you are bidding on audiences and not specific keywords, there is more competition in the weeks leading up to Black Friday and Christmas. Retail and e-commerce companies spend the majority of their advertising budget from about November 10 to December 20. This pushes up prices for everyone. Cost per click tends to increase on both display and social media platforms

Consumers tend to focus more on the holiday season during this time and click-through rates on non-holiday ads will often decrease, along with conversion rates. However, it is still important to have a presence online for your core customers if they are still interested in your products. We’ve seen our clients often decrease their display and social media advertising budgets in November and December, focusing on their most reliable audiences around the holidays.

Similarly to search, the week after Christmas and January offer great windows to increase spend and generate new display & social media campaigns, as businesses and consumers focus on the year ahead. During November and December, consider working on new campaigns for January and perform small budget testing before launching those campaigns on a larger scale.

cpc month over month

Marketing Strategy for the Holidays

The holiday season can make or break your business so it’s important to plan your marketing budget based on your type of business.  Work to set your ads apart from your competitors. Use custom-designed photos, animations, illustrations, and videos in your ads instead of stock photos. Use color and animation to add “pop” to your ads. Make sure that you are including your company’s unique value propositions in your ad copy, along with promotions. Plan for more competition and costs and take advantage of higher conversion rates during the holidays to maximize your revenue


Here is some business-specific advice to consider:


Business to Business (b2b) Companies

The best strategy is usually to decrease spend during the holiday season, especially on display and social media. Search campaigns should not rise in cost and should still be very relevant to your goals. Consider keeping your search campaigns keep running in November and December. Be mindful of how, during this time, volume, and also possibly competition, might decrease during this time, which could have an effect on your lead volume and cost per lead. 

You will want to optimize your remaining display and social media advertising to focus on your best audiences, like remarketing and other audiences, that traditionally perform well at other times of the year. Consider testing new strategies or campaigns at a low budget, keeping in mind that the last week of the year and January are your biggest opportunities for reaching out to new clients. Following the holiday season, you want to be ready to ramp up ad spend and launch new campaigns. 

google search trends of business search decreases


Educational Companies

Educational companies can also observe decreases in search volume around the holidays although the impact is not as large as with b2b companies. Potential students are searching for new education programs in November and December because the largest application period for the US is in the spring. Scholarships and early admissions programs sometimes require applying from November to January, so students are starting their research.

At this point in the journey, they are just starting to research schools and programs. This is, generally speaking, not a time of year that education programs see too many applications. However, they may see a rise in people visiting their site, requesting information, or signing up for newsletters. For this reason, it is important to have a presence online, even with the rising costs on display and social media.

Educational companies may want to spend less than they would in the spring before the main application deadline, however, which should be the focus of their year. Make sure to focus on your budget on higher funnel conversions. 

You may also want to consider having:

  • An e-mail sign-up on your website

  • Remarketing tags (so you can show your ads later in the spring)

  • A landing page with all the  important info consumers need to know about your different programs, accreditations, awards, cost, and what sets you apart from your competitors (degrees, locations, admission/application requirements) 

  • Ad copy and CTA (call to action) say “Learn more” instead of “Fill out an application today”

google search trends of school search terms


Non-Profit Organizations

For nonprofits, the end of the calendar year is the best time to get donations. People are reviewing their tax status and want to make sure to get deductions before the end of the tax year. Nonprofits should consider reaching out to their regular donors, as well as anyone searching to donate on search engines or interested in donating on social media or display.

Facebook offers a "Donate Now" button and allows people to run fundraisers on their pages for non-profits that have been approved. Nonprofit organizations may want to encourage this at the end of the year when people are feeling generous from the holiday spirit. Non-profit organizations may also want to host events or other campaigns during the holiday season to promote to volunteers, as well. This may include food drives, clothing drives, gifts for people who can't afford them, or religious services.

Keep in mind, costs on social media and display will be higher during this time and there will be competition from many other nonprofits as well. Your focus should be on setting your non-profit apart from everything else on social media around the holidays and illustrate your cause creatively.

If your nonprofit is more research or professionally-focused organization, the holiday season may be less important to your company. If this is the case, the focus should be on the new year, similar to b2b companies.

google search trends of donate


Know Your Audience

The strongest holiday strategy is to understand both your audience and the trends for the season. Here are some questions that might help illuminate your audience and trends:

  • Who is your best consumer? 
  • Who are you trying to reach with your advertising? 

  • What will they be doing over the holiday season? 

The best way to study this is to ask actual customers or look at your company’s historical data during the holiday season. What campaigns did you run last year on which platforms? How did they perform? Did some platforms or audiences perform better than others?

There are also some great tools online for researching trends. Google Trends at lets you input specific keywords or topics and will break down trends over the past year,five years, or even as far back as 2004. You’ll be able to see which states or countries had the highest, lowest, or rising interests in those terms and related topics and queries with their trends. This is a great way to see holiday search volume and also what types of keyword or location targets may do best.

And finally, partner with your marketing agency or experts. They will have experience that they can draw on with similar clients or other businesses and can help guide your strategy during this time.


Check out this blog post about specific things to look at if you’re new to Google Ads and could use some guidance in developing your strategy. 

Looking for more help with your holiday strategy? Contact us, we’re the experts. 

Senior Analyst, Search & Social Strategy
Emily Lutz is from Kalispell, Montana and has been camping more times than she can count. She geeks out over musicals and the TV show Firefly (yes, she's on some chat sites). Before joining Perfect Search, Emily was a zookeeper for ten years.

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