Holiday Marketing Techniques

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Holiday Marketing: 5 Ways to Advertise effectively during the holidays without offering crazy discounts

The holidays are an amazing time of year. My wife and I were shocked when we stopped by Old Navy this year on Black Friday in the morning to find the store no more crowded than on any given day. Obviously, a huge portion of consumers have migrated online and it seems to have been a win-win-win for everyone.

The stores are still selling great volumes of goods online when they’ve taken the necessary steps to advertise and nurture the digital fire-sale, the customers get to stay home and beat the craziness while still getting their bargain, and the people who never were into the chaos of Black Friday have found their streets a lot safer to walk again without people fighting over big screen TVs in the streets like they once did so recently.

Excuse me, we were expecting a bargain!

One thing that Black Friday and Cyber Monday has done though is condition the American public to expect ridiculous bargains during this time of year. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll also notice that cyber Monday sales are extending longer and longer so it’s really become more of a holiday sale as opposed to a one day thing for many companies.

This conditioning of the public to expect sales has really hurt a lot of small businesses who can’t afford to offer crazy deals on their products, and service based industries have always taken a hard hit during the holidays.

Please Tell Me There’s Hope

If you’re in a position where you can’t or don’t want to compete with the big box retailers during the holidays there is hope for you yet! Below are 5 tried and tested ideas to effectively advertise during the holiday season without slashing your prices in half.

1. Throw a big Holiday Party

The holiday season is a time where people want to have fun and connect with people. No matter what your company does, the holidays are the one time of year where a certain amount of professionalism needs to be sacrificed so that you can show a more human, vulnerable side to your business.

Suits turn into ugly holiday sweaters and company slogans get replaced with “seasons greetings” under their logo. If you’re still trying to sell during the holiday season you’re going about it all wrong. If people aren’t going to buy your product or book your services during the holiday season, you need to go into relationship building and fostering mode and one great way to do that is to throw a holiday party.

Where do you throw the party?

If you have a big enough office space or have access to a big enough office space you should definitely throw it at your office. Remember the main goal is to associate that warm fuzzy feeling of trust and happiness that the holidays bring with your brand. If you can create that amazing fun atmosphere and do it where your potential customers are seeing your logo and meeting you and your staff that’s the best case scenario.

But I work from home and don’t have a staff

I get it! When I started Rhino Marketing Group I too didn’t have any staff and worked out of my house, but I still managed to throw a pretty great holiday party. Remember, holiday parties don’t have to be big. Having 10-20 people if you’re just starting out or don’t have a big client base can be a huge success.

You can very easily throw a holiday part at a restaurant if you can find a good deal or afford a little bit more of a lavish splurge. You can also ask around your friends and family or even clients to see if they’ll let you throw it at their house.

My first year in business I was able to throw a joint party with a client of mine at their house and it was an amazing success. I branded the invitations with both of our logos and he brought a lot of his customers and I brought mine and we were able to essentially swap spheres of influence. Since he offered the location, I paid for a lot of the food and décor.

Get Creative

I’ve heard of a great holiday party that a local company here in L.A. does in the park every year. They make it a family thing with potato sack races and the like and it’s dirt cheap. Even the food people expect at a park is on the more affordable side. Of course, to get that to work you have to live in an area that’s warm enough to party outside like L.A. but it just goes to show you it’s about getting creative.

No People No Party

One thing to remember is that in order for it to be successful you have to get people excited to come so you have a decent attendance. The way to do that is to spend a little extra money on the invitations and be sure to promote the activities you’re going be doing at the party.

Having a raffle for a $100 gift card is a pretty nominal cost that actually gets people excited. Having pie competitions with a prize is another popular one. If you’re going to have any entertainment like a magician or a comedian be sure to promote that as well. It’s good to have 2 or 3 things that makes the party sound like it’s been planned for months and it’s an event that you don’t want to miss.

After sending out invitations (I recommend sending out digital AS WELL as printed invites) be sure follow-up with people you haven’t heard from with a phone call. Sometimes people just need a little push to get them to commit to coming. If you’re excited on the phone about the party they’ll hear it in your voice and it often will be all you need to do to get them on board.

2. Throw a Charity Drive

Having a charity drive during the holidays really plays into the spirit of giving that people tend to embrace as the year winds down. Remember, that if people aren’t going to buy your products or engage in your services during the holidays the best thing you can do is work on your brand.

Developing an image that you are an altruistic brand that cares about the community is something can only help you. Choosing the right charity is of utmost importance in the effectiveness of the campaign.

If you are a local company looking to grow strong in the community it’s an obvious choice to choose a local organization to support. While there may be some non-profits around I would avoid doing anything too institutional like sponsoring a library building project as you really want to appeal to people’s emotions during this time of year. If there’s a local food shelter that’s the type of charity you should really be looking to support.

Of course, if your business is larger than just one local community, you can always support a national organization that has a lot of brand name recognition like the Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity.

Big, Specific Goal

One thing that makes charity drives successful is to have a clear-cut focused goal. You could, for example, focus on getting one family a new home if you’re charity builds homes for poverty-stricken families. Toys for Tots is another great charity to work with because people can bring toys instead of cash, which increases participation, and your goal can be to deliver a set number of toys, say 300.

With a clear, focused goal you’ll be able to post on social media how far you are in the progress and motivate people to pitch in all along the way. Of course, once you reach your goal you should take photos of you and your staff delivering the toys or the funds to the charity in person. It not only makes you look good to your community it’s also really touching to see the gratitude that the charities have for your generosity and it will motivate you to continue doing good work like this in future.

One thing to note is if you do have a goal keep in mind that you should meet it – so if you fall short on raising the funds from the community you should probably be willing to pay for it out of your own pocket. It’s not great to set a goal and then not hit it.

3. Sponsor a needy family

Some people are a little bit gun-shy on the fundraising front and that’s totally understandable. If you’ve never asked people to support a cause before it can be a little nerve-wracking but I highly recommend doing it because it’s a great feeling and together you can accomplish more. If, however, you are stuck on not asking people to donate you can always pick a cause and donate to it yourself.

If you are going to do this I would recommend picking a person or a family who need help instead of a non-profit because you want to remind people of the human element in giving. If there’s a local family that’s fallen on hard times or has never quite gotten out of the hole it’s an amazing thing for a local company to reach out and offer to make their Christmas magical. Sponsor them for an all-expense hotel vacation with a fancy meal and toys for their kids.

Tell their story in your social media and email newsletters you send out as it will not only show people how much you care about the community and be a positive story for your brand, but it will also motivate other people to do the same.

4. Humor

The holidays are an amazing time filled with joy and reconnecting with family. Of course, everyone has that one cousin or sibling that’s a little bit of the odd man out. It’s amazing how culturally diverse America is and yet how all of our families are oh so similar.

You can play into people’s own personal inside jokes by being a source of humor for the holidays. You can go on active hunt for the best holiday cartoons and comic panels out there and pay a small fee to a local designer to add your logo to the bottom of the funny post and have a stream of them come out before the holidays.

Of course, make sure to get permission to do so from whoever owns the rights to the cartoon. Sometimes it’s as easy as emailing the artist and asking permission. A lot of them are happy to get their work out there.

If you have ideas for funny comic strips you can also very easily hire a cartoonist on upwork or to create the comic panel for you. I’ve worked with a great artist named Alex Salsberg at Poke Gravy Studios who has done really great comic panels for clients in the past and has even helped with the writing of some of the comics. If you’re interested in hiring him, feel free to check out his work.

Words can be funny too

Another thing you could do is write a funny blog post or even just a facebook update. You have to find a tone that fits for your company. For example, if your customer base has a sense of humor and you can throw some sarcasm at them you could easily write a series of posts called “how NOT to screw up Christmas for your family.”


5. Do a Giveaway for one needy family or a struggling/new small business

If you can’t afford to give away a bunch of services or discount your products, consider doing just one big give-away. Often times large companies will do this in the form of a car but you can do this on a much smaller level. For example, we’ve offered to build someone a free website in the past as a holiday give-away and it was a really nice project. In addition to being a source of good marketing it helped us give back to the community and we eventually got a few referrals from that business which was a nice surprise.

Of course, if you want to capitalize on the marketing end of the give-away I would recommend taking photos and sharing the experience from start to finish with the lucky recipient of your pro-bono offer. Again, think story story story. People are engaged by the stories of people and businesses and it’s much easier to remember a story than a coupon code or promotion of some sort.

Take it to the next level

Another thing you can do with this last idea is run a competition. If you’re offering something really valuable you can ask people to submit a short paragraph why you should pick them for your amazing service. For example, if you’re a house painter and you’re offering to repaint someone’s home ask them to explain why they are the most deserving of the free service.

You’d be amazed at some of the horror stories as to why people have fallen on hard times and how much it would mean to them. These stories will move you and sharing them with your customers will move them. ABC had a show based on this idea where they rebuilt homes for families – great ratings. People love to see good being done in the world and when they hear the story behind someone’s hardships and then watch those hardships go away it’s quite cathartic.

Final Thoughts

The holiday times are about reconnecting with people. Just because you’re a business and your main motivation is earning an income doesn’t mean that you have to completely neglect the human side of things. People tend to work and buy from those they like and trust. Building your brand and associating goodness with your business will only help your sales grow in the new year.

All five of these ideas can be accomplished with little money and little elbow grease. Not only will they help your business’s image they will feed your soul and put goodness out into the world and when you put goodness out there I’ve personally found that it always comes back to you.