10 Holiday Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business
The holiday season can make or break a small business. Sales during the holidays can make up 30% of a retailer’s annual revenue—and this is only from November and December (17% of the year).
That’s a big piece of the pie, and it’s why so many retailers spend months plotting their holiday sales strategy. From doorbusters to promo codes, Black Friday bargains to in-store-only discounts, you name a marketing trick, and retailers have tried it during the holidays.
But that doesn't mean there aren’t new holiday marketing ideas out there to be tried. Small businesses are constantly innovating to grab shoppers’ attention. Today those approaches extend far beyond billboards and newspaper ads. Online strategies have taken over many business owners’ budgets and have even opened up new revenue streams through tools like social media shopping.
Using real-world examples, this guide will look at 10 holiday marketing ideas you can apply to your small business.
Why Holiday Marketing Is Important
Aside from the aforementioned fact that holiday shopping is an important piece of small local business revenue, it also plays into many other factors that drive consumer behavior. Holiday shopping, historically, has been very different than regular shopping. The way shoppers approach it is different.
Consider this: As of 2019, half of holiday shoppers planned to do the majority of their shopping at physical retail stores. With the shift to online shopping this year, this is an important factor to consider. Total Retail reports that although people prefer the traditional in-store shopping experience when buying for the holidays, they also want to do so via their phones. In fact, as many as 84% of in-store shoppers use their mobile devices in the aisle to research products, read reviews, and compare prices.
All this to say that holiday shopping comes with its own unique set of consumer behaviors, and small businesses need to study and research exactly how customers prefer to approach their holiday shopping experience before marketing for the season.
Consumer Behavior: What’s Going on in the Holiday Shopper’s Head?
Unlike a summer afternoon of retail therapy, holiday shopping is loaded with opportunity for both a brand and its customers. According to SendPulse, holiday marketing is important for five reasons:
- Shopping during the holidays is a ritual that brings brands and customers together
- Consumer demand increases during this time
- Encourages creative marketing strategies that are heartfelt and endearing
- Can increase brand loyalty when done right
- Allows businesses to grow due
Taken together, holiday shopping isn’t something small businesses can afford to glance over.
The cultural phenomenon of holiday shopping is loaded with emotion for consumers. It’s a time-honored tradition and brands can capitalize on this. Add to that the fact that it can be an opportunity to reward loyal customers while unveiling new marketing promotions, and you’ve got a way to discover new clients.
Then there’s the fact that holiday shopping is a strong barometer for overall business health, and one begins to understand just how critical the holidays are to small businesses...
What Are Some Holiday Marketing Ideas?
With the groundwork laid (and the decorations ready), here are 10 successful holiday marketing tactics from real businesses. Each is unique, presenting a possible solution for optimizing this year’s holiday season, whether it be Halloween or Thanksgiving, Black Friday or Small Business Saturday.
- #12DaysofPuppies – When in doubt, send in a puppy. It’s not a bad marketing strategy. And clothing retailer L.L. Bean capitalized on it last year with its #12DaysofPuppies social media campaign. The retailer used Instagram to ask followers to post their favorite puppy pics for a chance to be featured and win a gift card. Naturally, tons of customers responded using the aforementioned hashtag, but L.L. Bean was the real winner by increasing audience interaction and spreading holiday cheer while capturing loads of user-generated content.
- Elf Yourself – A tip of our hat to the geniuses behind Office Depot’s Elf Yourself campaign. Essentially, the office supply store created an independent landing page where people could upload photos of themselves that then turned into dancing elves. Silly? Absolutely. Amazing for brand awareness? You bet! Just consider this: Since 2006, users have created over one billion elves using the site.
- Red Cups by Starbucks – One only needs to see the cup in a gloved hand to know that the holidays have arrived. That’s the case with Starbucks’ red cup rollout. By using cups as marketing, they turned a functional utensil into powerful branding. But who’s to say this same approach couldn’t work for a small business? With some smart planning, a cup or paper bag could be branded in holiday decor to spread some season’s greetings and drive traffic to your store.
- Grammarly’s dating tip for Valentine’s Day – Holiday shopping isn’t limited to the fall/winter season. Throw Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day in there too. It can pay dividends to remember to market creatively on these holidays. Take, for instance, Grammarly. Last year the editing website played to consumers’ heartstrings by promoting a “how to write a perfect love letter” campaign. What better way to lure new customers to the website than by reminding them of love?
- Rice Krispies Scares – Halloween is ripe for taking advantage of truly silly marketing schemes, which is why Rice Krispies Scares worked so well. The ultimate idea in pranking, vending machines promoted free Rice Krispies, but when the unsuspecting customer reached for it, a hand grabbed them instead. Hilarious to watch, as Sales and Orders writes, the campaign worked because it “ticks two important boxes for successful interactive content: involvement and emotion.”
- Chipotle and #Boorito – Proving again that you can’t sleep on Halloween promotions, Chipotle nailed it with its clever #Boorito campaign (and it’s one any small business can steal). Basically, the chain invited customers to “spook them” by dressing up in a costume and coming into a Chipotle to get a discounted $3 burrito. If you guessed that it worked, you’re right.
- Old Navy’s #onemillthrill campaign – Using Thanksgiving Day shopping lines to its advantage, Old Navy rolled out its #onemillthrill campaign. The concept? The first 100 shoppers in line at every Old Navy store in North America earned the chance to enter a competition to win $1 million. Even with outrageous odds, you can bet there were lines around the block.
- Macy’s Believe Campaign – Since 2008, Macy’s has invited shoppers to use its site to write a letter to Santa. And for every letter written, it's given $1 to the Make a Wish Foundation. Goodwill for a good cause goes a long way in garnering brand appreciation. Plus, Macy’s is a big winner with this marketing idea, too. The campaign was paired with a social media push and has since generated tons of videos uploaded by users who support the cause.
- HotelTonight’s #visitdontstay – Some of the smartest holiday marketing campaigns are those that exploit a universal truth. That’s the case in HotelTonight’s now well-known 2016 #visitdontstay campaign. As SquareUp explains, HotelTonight capitalized on the sometimes awkward parts of holiday stays. “The company shared photos of humorous situations encountered with family members, and invited followers to share their greatest (and most cringe-worthy) family holiday stories on social channels like Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #visitdontstay for HotelTonight credits.” It went viral. By being relatable and using humor, HotelTonight increased its brand awareness.
- Spotify’s “Your 2017 Wrapped” Email Newsletter – Proof that any business can use the holidays as a marketing vehicle, Spotify released an email newsletter to users with “Your 2017 Wrapped.” It was a look back for each member through their music listening history, including how many total minutes they listened and a ton of other aggregated data on listener behavior. Nostalgic as well as a launchpad for user-generated content (users sharing their Spotify results), this clever campaign is a smart holiday marketing trick.
How to Share Your Holiday Marketing Idea
You don’t have to give out a million dollars or build a phantom vending machine to achieve the same results as the examples given above. But you can use these holiday marketing ideas as inspiration for your own small business.
And once you have a great idea, it’s time to share it so that your customers — or potential customers — are aware. Here’s how:
Send out an E-Newsletter
If you have a robust subscription list, this is a fast way to let customers know what you’re up to.
Post on Social Media
Use your social accounts to let followers know about a promotion or event. Then ask them to share it and spread the word even farther. You could even sweeten the deal with a gift card sweepstakes for those who share.
Nextdoor is a great tool for small business owners looking to let people in their communities know what they’re up to. It’s easy to join and free to get started. Small businesses can create a free Business Page and connect with the neighborhood through Local Deals (direct promotion) and free Business Posts, making it easy to spread word-of-mouth to the people who matter most — local shoppers.
If you’re ready to share your holiday marketing ideas with friends and neighbors, there’s no better place to start than Nextdoor.
Castus Global. Exactly how important is holiday shopping for the U.S. Economy? castusglobal.com/blog/exactly-how-important-is-holiday-shopping-for-the-us-economy
CNBC. Holiday spending expected to rise 5%, but don’t expect bigger crowds at the mall—here’s why. www.cnbc.com/2019/09/23/holiday-spending-expected-to-rise-5percent-this-year-driven-by-online-sales.html
Total Retail. What Retailers Need to Know About the Holiday Shopping Season. https://www.mytotalretail.com/article/what-retailers-need-to-know-about-the-holiday-shopping-season/
Business Wire. Office Depot, Inc. Elf Yourself® App Creates One Billion Elves and Adds New Themes to Spread Holiday Cheer. www.businesswire.com/news/home/20151104005115/en/Office-Depot-Elf-Yourself%C2%AE-App-Creates-Billion
Business Cannon. Impressive Starbucks Holiday Marketing Strategy. https://businesscannon.net/index.php/2018/11/13/starbucks-holiday-marketing/
Grammarly. How to Write the Perfect Love Letter for Valentine’s Day. www.grammarly.com/blog/love-letter-for-valentines-day/
Sales and Orders. 6 Awesome Holiday Marketing Campaign Ideas (with Examples). blog.salesandorders.com/holiday-marketing-ideas-2018
Tint. 11 Holiday Marketing Campaigns That Nailed It And Why They Work. www.tintup.com/blog/best-holiday-social-media-marketing-campaigns/
SquareUp. 5 Brilliant Holiday Social Media Campaigns. https://squareup.com/us/en/townsquare/5-brilliant-holiday-social-media-campaigns
Get Response. 8 Inspiring Holiday Email Campaigns and What Makes Them So Good. www.getresponse.com/blog/inspiring-holiday-email-campaigns
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