10 Ways to Get Attention for Your Small Business During the Holiday Season

Author: Catherine Brock | November 24, 2020

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Get creative to gain customers

Whether you run a retail shop or a service business, capturing the attention of your target audience amid the onslaught of big-budget holiday messaging is a challenge. As a small business, your pockets just aren't deep enough to compete in the major paid advertising channels, online or offline. And that means you have to get creative to achieve any meaningful level of engagement with your prospects. Here are 10 small business marketing ideas that can help you stand out from the pack.

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1. Collaborate with other businesses

Team up with other businesses to create a seasonal package deal or a co-branded promotion. If you are a clothing retailer, for example, you might work with a local stylist to provide beauty consultations with every outfit purchase. This works best when both parties benefit equally from each sale -- so you're both motivated to promote the partnership.

The collaboration doesn't have to be as obvious as clothes and beauty, however. Think about ways to creatively join forces with your biggest competitor or even an unrelated product or service. Perhaps you provide accounting services and your neighbor is a graphic designer. If both of you serve the same type of customer, you have the foundation for an interesting collaboration.

You can also incorporate humor for extra impact. For inspiration, look up the 2018 April Fool's Day promotion from Warby Parker and Arby's involving meat-themed shirts, caps, and tote bags.

ALSO READ: 10 Strategies to Ensure Your Business Is Ready for Cyber Monday

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2. Get your favorite cause involved

If you don't want to partner with another business, you can partner with a local charity or cause that would resonate with your customers. Plan on donating a portion of your holiday profits or, if you can pull it off, making donations directly in your customers' names.

Set a target for the funds you want to raise and build a marketing campaign to spread the word. If you have a specific fundraising goal, your message can be straightforward, as in, "Help us reach our goal to…" save the dogs, feed the children, provide school supplies, etc. Include your charity promotion messaging in your customer emails, even the transactional ones. Update your voice communications, website, and social media pages, too. You could even promote the campaign on your personal social media pages, asking your friends and family to help you reach that fundraising goal.

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3. Go caroling virtually

In light of COVID-19, you likely have fewer opportunities to engage with your clients and prospects personally. Use video as a workaround. Have your employees don their most festive holiday garb and record videos singing holiday songs. Prepare a series -- possibly themed around 12 days of Christmas -- and include a compelling, short-term offer at the end of each video. Send the video out via email and social media.

Don't worry too much about the production value or the quality of your team's collective singing voice. In this type of campaign, it's more important to be authentic than it is to be slick. Depending on your audience, you might even ask your worst singer to perform a solo.

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4. Host a themed contest

Themed contests and giveaways can generate a lot of attention, particularly if the prize is something with mass appeal -- an Amazon gift card, for example. You can run your contest through a platform like RafflePress or Woorise. The best platforms offer additional entries for referrals, which encourages contestants to share the promotion on their personal social media channels.

You can also run a giveaway on Instagram without additional software. Simply share a post that explains in the caption how to enter the giveaway. Tailor your entry process to suit the goals of your campaign. For example, you can ask for comments on the post if you want deeper engagement with your existing followers. Or, if your goal is to generate exposure outside your existing following, ask entrants to tag a friend.

ALSO READ: The Ultimate Small Business Guide to Retail Merchandising Strategies

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5. Let your customers weigh in

You could build a fun social media promotion around your customers' solutions to common but lighthearted problems. You might ask customers to share how they handle information about Santa Claus, for example, or where they're hiding gifts this year. Other fun topics include favorite holiday movies, best holiday recipes, or whether it's better to open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Ramp up the engagement by asking for votes to determine the winning answer. You could also use the responses to build a nice graphic to share on other channels.

If you run this program on Facebook and you decide to incorporate a prize or winner, brush up on its promotion rules. Certain actions, like asking your followers to tag their friends, for example, are prohibited on the platform.

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6. Mail holiday cards

Your customers are probably wading through a lot of digital messaging right now. That gives you an opportunity to go against the grain with an old-fashioned holiday postcard, distributed by the U.S. Postal Service. Use a tastefully designed, two-sided card to share holiday wishes and promote a short-term holiday offer. Incorporate an offer code so you can track the results.

Know that the average direct mail response rate is about 3% to 4%. Consider that conversion rate when you are designing the offer and determining how much you can spend on design, printing, and postage. You might focus on your highest-value customers only for this year, and then use your results to refine your campaign next year.

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7. Host Santa Claus virtually

Here's a 2020 holiday problem you can solve for your customers. The tradition of bringing the kids to the mall to meet Santa Claus is likely to look a little different this year, what with the global pandemic and all. Why not host Santa Claus virtually from your business to meet with your customers and their families? It'll take some work logistically to coordinate Santa's appointments, but it could be worth it. You are likely to reach your customers on a very personal level and help them create some amazing memories.

ALSO READ: Proven Ways for Small Businesses to Build Customer Loyalty

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8. Offer loyalty or referral rewards

Try a short-term loyalty or referral program to promote more spending this holiday season. With a little coordination, you could run something like the Kohl's Cash program. This involves temporarily allowing customers to earn credits by making purchases. Those credits would then be redeemable for future purchases with you on certain dates.

This campaign gives you two events to promote, the earnings window first and then the redemption window. Keep both time frames short to add a sense of urgency. Design the other program details, including how much credit can be earned and how long customers have to wait to redeem their credits, to encourage customers to spend more as well as more often. For example, if your customer normally buys from you once every six weeks, you might schedule the redemption window for four weeks after the credits are earned.

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9. Update your website or decorate your store

Adding some winter cheer to your website or decorating your place of business can garner some attention -- particularly if you operate in a traditionally conservative industry, like accounting. Digital decorations could involve a new website background or color scheme. Or, you could task your graphic designer with adding an elf or holiday hat to your logo. You can also update your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channel covers.

Take the holiday theme one step further by offer free hot chocolate to in-store customers or using your online chat to randomly gift Starbucks cards to your website visitors.

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10. Participate in Free Shipping Day, even if you don't ship

Free Shipping Day is Dec. 14, 2020. To participate, you offer free shipping and guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve. If you have an affiliate program, you can register your participation on FreeShippingDay.com.

This is a no-brainer for online retailers, but you could creatively participate even if you don't normally ship your goods or services. You could offer a discount or an extra perk for customers who buy from you on that day. Take care to strike a light tone when promoting your Free Shipping Day offer, however. You don't want to leave the impression that you'll use any random holiday to throw out a coupon code. Make it fun, not desperate.

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We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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Customer knowledge is key

However you decide to market this holiday season, take the time to bake your customers' needs and preferences into your campaigns. Your customers' tastes should influence the words you choose in your messaging, the type of promotions you offer, and the design elements you use -- as well as where and how often you promote your campaigns. And, most importantly, you should track results and record what you learn. That'll give you a head start on your holiday marketing for next year.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Catherine Brock has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter and recommends the following options: short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon and long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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