If you’ve done no advertising whatsoever all year until now, then it’s too late to start advertising now. Unless your business has a very large following and is extremely well-known, you’re already out of the race for this Christmas, I’m afraid.

Planning for Christmas, for those who have been building their brand over the last year, began in June. But for those who have missed the boat this year, then your chance for next Christmas is coming up in January next year. Because this is when you should be starting the process of marketing yourself online to your potential customers.

And while long-term marketing, branding and advertising are not things that we can cover substantially in a few minutes on a podcast, they do have principles that can be explained simply.

From January, you should be starting to advertise broadly. That means, something light, informative, educational, maybe even humourous. You’re not trying to close a sale with a customer in January because they’re not going to be ready to either trust you, or buy from at this stage. You’re just a strange in the feed of Facebook or LinkedIn. Your goal here is to see who the advertising platforms find is interested, even slightly, in who you are and what you do. And then let the platform gather than data. Because you’re going to use it later to do what we call “remarketing” or “retargeting.”

Once you have a bucket of people who have shown interest once, you can send them a new ad some time later. Again, this is not the time to be selling to them. You’re just getting them used to seeing you around. You’re still in the process of building familiarity with them.

In fact it may take 3, 6, even 12 months before that customer gets even close to buying from you. The most recent consumer studies have increased the number of times a customer has to see you before buying from you, from 7 times, just a few years ago, to 33 times right now. That means treating digital marketing like you treat TV or radio. A simple message that adds value, builds trust and is patient enough to get a return. There’s no fast way to a great customer.