10 Holiday Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

When is it too early to market for the holidays? Should we mention specific holidays by name or is it alright just to say, “Happy holidays?” Will my marketing message be heard or will it be drowned out by all the other advertisements on TV, radio, print and online? What type of advertising works best during the holiday season?

These questions haunt every small business owner, especially now in our hyper-commercialized world of mobile communication technology. People carry in their pockets and purses the means to connect with the entire planet (virtually, anyway). With more than 100 social media sites to choose from (including Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, Flixter, Foursquare, Pinterest, Tumblr, Blogster, Buzznet, YouTube, etc), how can the average small business choose where to place their focus?

To be fair, we’re as confused as anyone when it comes to all this social media stuff. We’re experts in on hold messaging services, not social media.

Of course, we have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and pages on LinkedIn. But, keeping up with all of it is sometimes more than we can handle.

But, I’m getting off topic. Let’s get back to the holidays.

This year there has been a public backlash against some big retailers who are planning huge sales on Thanksgiving Day! Now, I understand the concept of offering consumers an opportunity to beat the rush. But, in this case I have to admit, this may be going a bit too far.

It’s not uncommon for holiday ads and POS displays to begin appearing before Halloween. Some consumers find it off-putting, but the public should be used to it by now.

In any case, here are our 7 Holiday Marketing Tips for Small Businesses:

1. Offer something special for the holidays. There is something different about this time of year and people enjoy the festive mood associated with the season. Give your customers a reason to smile even more by offering deals you don’t offer at any other time of the year.

2. Use social media to your advantage. Go to the mall and see how many people are on their smart phones while they’re shopping. Many of them are using social media to find deals. Have a sweepstakes or photo contest on Facebook to create a buzz.

3. Donate time or money to a local charity. This holiday tradition shows your company’s human side. And, after all, you’re selling to humans (as far as I know). Let others know about your humanitarian efforts and encourage others to get involved.

4. Host a holiday party and invite your clients/customers/prospects. Everyone loves a good party. It’s a great way to get to know people in your community, shake hands and spread some good will to your fellows. You can also hand out business cards, brochures, and other materials while you pour drinks and serve treats.

5. Do something personal. If hosting big parties isn’t your thing, try taking a client to lunch or dinner (or breakfast). It doesn’t have to be during their busy time… you can do it after New Year’s, if need be.

6. Offer gift cards. Today’s holiday shoppers are buying more and more gift cards. And, those who receive them are LOVING it! Sales of gift cards have increased tremendously in recent years.

7. Be authentic. Consumers are savvy, and they can tell when they’re being played.

To answer the questions posed at the beginning:

8. When is it too early? That’s up to each individual business to decide. You know your customers and what’s best for your business.

9. Should you mention specific holidays by name? See answer above. Although, there are some groups who feel strongly about this, you can’t please everyone. Just keep in mind, not everybody has the same beliefs. You don’t want to alienate potential customers by focusing on one religious holiday (unless you are a retailer of religious items).

10. Will my message be heard and what type of advertising works best? Each advertising opportunity has it’s advantages (and disadvantages). If you want your marketing messages to be heard without any interruptions, try on hold messaging. Callers are waiting for you to return to the line, so it’s best not to ignore them while they wait. Instead, fill your on hold message with plenty of useful information about your business, products and services.