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How To: Small Business Marketing for the Holidays

Optimize your reach during the holidays with our guide on small business marketing for the holidays — from preplanning to campaigning.

The festive season is a bustling time for small businesses. Over the last two decades, sales have more than doubled.  And in recent years, holiday spending has broken records. Not only does the holiday season kick off traditional gift-buying, but more people are out and about — not only shopping, but eating out and stopping for coffee as well.

People attend holiday parties, travel to visit loved ones and generally enjoy the midwinter period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day in many ways, including purchasing products and services. As a result, the holiday season presents a golden opportunity to capture the attention of both loyal patrons and potential customers. For some industries, the season can make the difference between a profitable year and a so-so one.

So, how can you optimize your reach during the holidays? With smart small business marketing. Below are the most effective tips for business owners aiming to maximize their reach and profits during this festive frenzy.

Marketing Preplanning

Manager checking online orders and inventory on a laptop drinking coffee or tea while sitting at a desk in warehouse with shelves of stock on background. (How To: Small Business Marketing for the Holidays - Guidant).

1. Start your strategic planning early

Successful marketing always depends on effective strategic planning. Figure out what your holiday marketing campaign will be, and start early. If you need to hire additional workers for the seasonal sales rush, or to hand out free cocoa and holiday treats, you may have difficulty if you wait until November to train and recruit, so plan well in advance. Will your marketing include decorating a physical store or a holiday-themed web site? How will you market: with complimentary items, discount coupons for products and services in the new year, or enhanced social media reach? Whatever your strategy, develop it well before the holiday sales season begins.

2. Make sure your business is prepared

Forecast your sales expectations for the holiday period, and make sure you’re prepared to serve your customers.  If you expect to sell more than usual, make sure you have sufficient raw materials, inventory and salespeople to meet demand – whatever is most needed for your business. It can be very helpful to have sales figures broken out by month and quarter, so that you can see how much you sell during the holiday period.

Is your business ready for the holiday season? Here’s How to Prepare Your Business for the Holiday Season.

3. Review past successes and challenges

A key part of holiday planning is to review your past successes and challenges. If you had high sales or product/service reach in previous years, what factors contributed? How can you equal or build on that success? If you experienced a challenge, is it likely to repeat itself? If you encountered supply chain disruptions or a steep rise in your cost of goods, for example, have those issues abated? Stayed the same? Become worse? Answers to these questions could help plot your course in navigating challenges.

While the holiday season can be an exciting time for your business, don’t let your work-life balance slip! Here’s how to Find Work-Life Balance Over the Holidays.

7 Potential Marketing Campaigns

Now, on to strategizing which marketing campaigns can optimize your sales reach! Here are some options.

1. Promote brand awareness

A vibrant display of corporate holiday branding mockup featuring a Christmas-themed logo, business cards, letterheads, and promotional merchandise. (How To: Small Business Marketing for the Holidays - Guidant).

The holidays are an optimal time to create a brand awareness campaign, just because more people are in the mood to purchase and are actually engaging in shopping, both in brick-and-mortar locations and online. Create a brand awareness campaign with promotional giveaways, cleverly done social media posts, display advertising – whatever works for your products and services.

2. Create coupons or special offers

Coupons for a discount on the price of a new product, or a buy-one, get one free promotion, or even for a discounted price on a repeat buy in the new year – are time-tested ways of building brand loyalty and repeat business, both for already-loyal customers and new ones. You might, for example, create a buy-one, get one free offer in which the freebie is a holiday-themed version of your best-selling product.

3. Reward top clients

Thanksgiving through New Year’s is filled with parties, holiday dinners and lunches, and associated festivities. That makes it an optimal time to reward your top clients or key customers (and even vendors) with a holiday lunch or dinner. You can strengthen relationships and show appreciation for repeat business. If you don’t live near your clients (or your business is online), you can show appreciation for top clients and vendors by sending gift baskets or special rewards.

4. Inaugurate social media campaigns

Customers and potential customers increasingly use social media channels for multiple purposes: to shop, communicate with friends and family, catch up with current events and more. The holidays are thus a great time to begin social media campaigns to garner interest in your company, brands, products and services. Determine the best social media channels for your customers and what is best suited to them. Recruit influencers if appropriate, or create unique campaigns such as dance contests or reels of karaoke singing to foster customer engagement.

5. Host an event encouraging customer involvement

The more customer involvement in your business is encouraged, the greater the likelihood of fostering sales – and of creating an image for your small business as a go-to place for its products and services. The festive period lends itself to events for customers with a holiday theme, like Santa’s arrival at a mall or city center, a display of festive lights, handing out free cookies or other holiday treats or even engaging a singing group or band at a winter farmer’s market. Hosting events at your place of business encourages customers to come in the store where they are more likely to make a purchase while attending or after the event.

6. Get to know your customer’s wants and needs

Because more people are shopping and thinking about shopping, the holiday season is an optimal time to engage with your customers about customer behavior!  If you are thinking through new product offerings, for example, you could poll customers online about what features would most fit their needs. If you have a robust social media following, hosting an online discussion about your products and their use could drive sales (and be used in future social media clips as well).

7. Strategize your company’s relationship with a charity

The holiday period is very associated with charitable giving. In fact, #GivingTuesday, in which many community organizations run campaigns for enhanced donations and involvement, is part of a grand relay of special days that follow the gateway to the holidays, Thanksgiving: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. Think through the optimal ways in which your small business can be involved in a charity: by a donation and advertising or sponsorship concerning it? Through campaigns encouraging your employees to be involved (which can also be a nice way to encourage employee engagement)? Through participating in matching donation campaigns with your customers? Charitable giving involvement can build your reputation in the community year-round as well as the holidays.

Are you stressed about holiday revenue? Improve your holiday sales with these 5 Effective Seasonal Promotion Ideas to Boost Holiday Sales.

After the Holidays

Man and woman shop assistants with laptop working in indoor potted plant store, small business concept. (How To: Small Business Marketing for the Holidays - Guidant).

Optimize the Lessons Learned With an Eye to Next Year

After New Year’s, don’t simply change your display and theme music. Take the time to gather data about the holidays. Some of the most successful steps in business stem from determining what happened in a season and drawing lessons for future activity from it. Given the importance of the holidays to small businesses, that’s especially true of the holiday selling season.

Did your sales match your expectations, for example? Exceed them? Fall short? For each possible outcome, determine the factors that contributed. If they’re positive, you want to pursue more of same next year (and possibly throughout the year). If they fell short, how can you overcome the challenges next year?

Be sure to keep records and data detailed enough to optimize the holiday shopping season next year. If you have multiple sales channels, monitor which ones were most productive for your business. Keep contact information for customers if you want to continue to reach out to individual customers with offers and sales teasers. Review those records to create sales profiles as well. Are there particular demographics that responded well to your products (children, young adults, older people)? Or particular neighborhoods or income levels? Analyze your cost of doing business as well, such as raw materials, rentals and special event costs. Are there ways you could minimize the costs or get a larger bang for the buck?

In terms of special sales campaigns, consider what worked and what didn’t. If you participated in a special event, do you want to continue participation, modify it or move to a different marketing method next year? If you affiliated your company with a charity, do you want those efforts to continue throughout the year or do you want to modify the direction?

The holidays are one of the most festive times of the year. If you plan and execute your holiday marketing strategy effectively, it can also be one of the most robust seasons for your small business.

Guidant Financial Helps Small Businesses Thrive

Guidant Financial has helped more than 20,000 small businesses. We can advise and mentor on funding using methods such as Rollovers for Business Startups (ROBS) and small business loans, create profiles for selling your business and even recommend ways to manage costs via sourcing a number of small business functions. Contact us today to discuss how we can help your small business, during the holidays or all year around.

Call us today at 425-289-3200 for a free, no-pressure business consultation to get started — or pre-qualify in minutes for business financing now!


Stephen Such from Falling Sky Brewing

“I owe a sense of gratitude to Guidant for helping me get here. It was a turning point for us moving forward.”

Stephen Such, Falling Sky Brewing

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