With the holiday season upon us, it's important to have a clear plan of how you're going to market to your customers (existing and prospective!) during this period. I recently wrote about how to create a holiday marketing plan, but what about some low cost practical marketing ideas to go with that? That's what I'm going to look at here.
For many businesses - particularly retailers, service providers and restaurants - the holidays are one of the busiest times of the year and, with Price Waterhouse Coopers predicting that this year's consumer spending will increase by 10% from last year, you'd be crazy not to make the most of the season of giving.
But, as many of us know all too well, budgets are tight - especially when it comes to marketing and promotion. So how do you market your business to get a piece of the holiday spending pie, but on a shoestring budget? Here are 9 simple, low cost ways…
1. Be social
Want an inexpensive but fun and engaging way to market to your customers? Make the most of social media. Facebook is a great channel to access potential customers and costs nothing more than a bit of time and a creative idea.
I've run several successful holiday competitions in the past, including a holiday film quiz and a festive photo competition. By offering a small incentive like a free gift or discount voucher, it's amazing how many people get involved and it's also a great way to promote your brand online.
2. Say 'Thank you'
The holidays are a great time to get in touch with your customers and thank them for their business - because, let's face it, without them you wouldn't have one. A special holiday email message (if you have their contact details) can be an effective way of showing your gratitude and while you're at it, why not give them an incentive to come back in the new year, such as a 10% off voucher to use after the holidays.
This may sound obvious, but adding some holiday décor to your website, social media sites or store can really help to get customers in the holiday mood. When it comes to your website, why not add a 'countdown' to the holiday and/or your shipping deadline so you can help ensure those gift orders arrive in time. Consumers tend to purchase more frequently as the holidays get closer.
A simple holiday-themed web banner for Twitter or Facebook can also help to brighten up your page. Try using a free design tool like Canva to make your own. This is mine…
As for your store, the sky's the limit…although be conscious of your budget. Check out online auction sites to see if you can pick up any discounted decorations. Store layout is also important. Think about products you have that would make good 'stocking fillers' and group these together at the front of the store to make it quick and easy for consumers to browse and buy them.
4. Accommodate the last-minute crowd
We all have that friend or relative that leaves everything to the last minute - especially when it comes to Christmas shopping and booking holiday parties. If you're a restaurant or food-service business, seek to accommodate last-minute office parties or lunches - or provide New Year's Eve specials.
Send out reminders to customers via email or on your website to let them know that it's not too late to book with you. You may just get an extra last-minute rush to help boost your holiday sales.
5. Send a card
We do it automatically for friends and family, but businesses don't always think to send their customers a holiday card. Paper cards can give a more personal touch than email, but if you can't afford paper, go digital.
For added impact, send a cool, creative card or photo rather than the usual holiday greeting. It could even be something as fun and simple as a photo card with you (and your staff) dressed in costume.
6. Host a holiday event
Everyone loves a good get-together over the holiday season and businesses should make the most of this. Hosting events such as a holiday open house, fair or show can help you to get in front of consumers.
If you have an actual store, you could try a late night shopping event with eggnog and Christmas cookies to attract new customers and showcase seasonal gifts. Or, if there's a fair or event going on in your local community, why not rent a stall and be a part of the celebrations.
7. Join forces with your fellow small businesses
The local small business community can be a powerful asset - especially when it comes to marketing your business. Try putting a small sidewalk sale together with other businesses close by.
You could also place your business cards or promotional fliers in their shops, restaurants and offices (and reciprocate by having theirs in yours). Or perhaps there's a special gift offer package you and a fellow business could provide together.
8. Offer value-add services
The holiday season is a busy time for everybody, so if you can help to make life easier for consumers, they're very likely to take you up on it. Consider providing a holiday gift-wrapping service for gift purchases or a home delivery service for goods bought online or over the phone. Even by simply helping a customer carry their goods out to the car can help to increase purchases made in-store.
9. Embrace the season of giving
With gift buying, holiday parties, food and drink shopping, the winter months can soon become expensive for many. Think of offering a special, small holiday gift to the first few people who purchase from your store or website during the holiday season - they will certainly appreciate the gesture and may even recommend your business to others.
Own a restaurant? Why not offer a free bottle of champagne with every holiday party booking or a free desert with every 3-course meal booked. Be creative with your promotions…if you can offer something that your competitors don't. Chances are potential customers will choose to spend their hard-earned dollars with you instead.
Do you have a low cost way to market your business over the holiday season? Let me know in the comments below - I'd love to hear it.
The companies I mention or link to in this post are just examples that I thought you'd find useful - I don't endorse them or their services. I have no affiliation with them and make no representation about their services.