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You Should Be Planning Now for Holiday Sales -- Here's How If you're a small business owner hoping to effectively capitalize on the lucrative fourth quarter, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

By Seamas Egan Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Dougal Waters | Getty Images

With temperatures on the rise and summertime in full swing, it's hard to think about the upcoming winter holidays. Yes, summer seems as though it just started and the holidays may be the last thing on some people's minds -- but if you're a small business owner hoping to effectively capitalize on the lucrative fourth quarter, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...

A successful holiday marketing strategy requires innovation, creativity, planning and foresight. Therefore, in order to make merry with customers this season, follow these tips taken from recent Campaigner survey data to secure a spot on the nice list for your small business.

Related: July Is Just Early Enough to Start Planning for Holiday Selling

Deck the halls ahead of time.

Preparation is the key to having a great holiday, and 51 percent of retail business owners plan to start preparing for the upcoming season before September. Additionally, in 2016, one-third of those who began preparation before September reported a very successful holiday season -- 12 percent higher than those who started September and later.

By implementing a plan of preparation first and an early strategy second, you can put your business in a prime position this season. Start by brainstorming with your team to review and analyze previous holiday campaigns and replicate the strategies that worked, while modifying those that didn't. Additionally, start plotting out the plan for your daily content across social media, blogs and product placements.

Related: 5 Mistakes to Avoid With Free Shipping

Tie email marketing campaigns and social media channels together with a bow.

While respondents ranked email marketing more effective than social media marketing, social media integration is still near the top of business owners' lists this year. In fact, when comparing channels, Facebook is projected to reign supreme this year with 65 percent of retailers planning to invest in the social media monolith.

For small business owners, social media helps boost a business's visibility with both current customers and potential prospects. As today's customer expects a business to be highly accessible and easily recognizable online, social icons built into your email campaigns will enable customers to view your pages while they check their email. This will also save time by allowing users to access your social channels in just a few clicks. Furthermore, cross promoting your email marketing campaigns on social platforms can create larger visibility and more brand engagement with your audience.

Related: The Holiday Marketing Campaign Hall of Fame (Infographic)

Fill Santa's sleigh with promotions.

In the 2016 holiday season, 62 percent of retailers found success with promotions and discounts. These offers can be effective not only for rewarding loyal customers but also for winning back disengaged customers.

In today's competitive retail landscape, it is essential that businesses stand out. This especially rings true for small businesses that are pressed to stay competitive with big box or other chain retailers. Promotions serve as a great way to help small businesses shine, especially as the holidays often bring crowded inboxes. In fact, according to a study from PwC, 46 percent of all respondents, 49 percent of women and 61 percent of millennials report being happy to receive coupons and other holiday offers on their mobile phones.

Related: A 6-Step Checklist to Get Your Online Business Ready for the Holiday Season

Start by sending new subscribers a small gift of a coupon code when they receive a welcome email; this will leave them with a positive first impression and keep them engaging with your messages. Additionally, creating a limited-time offer for free shipping and treating loyal customers with a promotion code for their next purchase is a great way to usher in the festivities and show your subscribers they are valued.

Small businesses should forget the tanning lotion and sunglasses, and instead think promotions, long-lead festive content and, ultimately, holiday campaign success. By preparing early they will not only get an extended runway ahead of the traditional November-December holiday timeline, but will also benefit from an augmented timeframe to drive sales, increased brand visibility and, of course, happy profitable holidays.

Seamas Egan

Associate Director of Revenue Operations for Campaigner

Seamas Egan is associate director of revenue operations for Campaigner email marketing. His experience in strategic development across multiple channels has resulted in working with small-business owners to global enterprises. Egan is particularly versed in digital media and email marketing.

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