Holiday Marketing Dos and Don’ts

holiday marketing

~by Katie Kapro~

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For small business retailers, the holiday season is one of the busiest and most profitable of the whole calendar year. The weeks between Thanksgiving weekend and the end of Hanukkah bring out more shoppers, en masse, than any other time of year. They run the gamut from first-time customers to loyal regulars, and they are all primed to shop. 

Implementing a well thought-out holiday marketing plan is essential to optimize all the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season. It’s all about making your store memorable.

holiday marketing

Here are some dos and don’ts to consider as you plan your holiday marketing this season:

DON’T barrage customers with too many emails

No matter how awesome your holiday sales and new arrivals are, don’t overwhelm customers with too many emails. Their inboxes are already swamped with holiday promotions from all the big box stores, and adding to that mess won’t do you any favors.

One opened email is worth more than 20 ignored emails. To increase your open rate, focus on two things: the subject line and delivering quality content. A succinct and intriguing subject line will not only hook a reader’s eye, but hint at the new information they will learn once they click on your email.

Sending one email a week is plenty. Two at the very most. Use lots of images, and prominently feature extended store hours at the top of the email to help people know when they can expect to shop.

DO choose a theme

The most memorable campaigns have a story at their core. It doesn’t have to be anything complex. In fact, successful campaigns are built upon simple stories fueled by a single, powerful emotion. Kindness, generosity and love are some of the most popular, for obvious reasons. A good example is Microsoft’s 2015 Christmas ad in which Microsoft employees serenade their Apple counterparts in a show of holiday goodwill.

When considering a holiday theme, think of a story that will intrigue customers and leave them yenning for more.

The 12 days of Christmas is an easy theme that combines gift giving and the holidays — retailers can select 12 products that promote kindness, for example, and feature one on each of the 12 days. To go the extra mile and bring more customers in the store, you can even put each of the 12 items on sale on their corresponding days. 

DON’T try too hard

holiday marketingWhen we start talking about themes and stories, it’s easy for shop owners to begin doing mental gymnastics to try and fit certain products into a cookie-cutter holiday theme.

Relax, not everything has to have a santa beard.

Unless, apparently, you’re Hellmann’s mayonnaise with their iconic, and gross, mayo santa on a spoon. I’ve got to hand it to them though, mayo santa is nothing if not creative. Mayonnaise has surely been one of the most difficult products to market since … ever.

Nonetheless, if your theme is broad enough — like the 12 days of Christmas — the products will speak for themselves and you won’t have to worry about transforming your inventory to fit the holidays.

DO celebrate your staff

The holidays have a reputation for chipping away at the spirits of retail workers. Long hours, impatient customers, you do the math.

A holiday party is a great way to honor your employees and let off some steam. Customers respond to relaxed, positive staff; happy staff means happy customers. To let your customers in on the party, snap a couple work-appropriate photos while you’re celebrating, and share them on social media.

And remember, a shop owner who works regularly in the store is a part of the staff as well. So let yourself relax too!

DON’T forget about your regulars

Since the holidays bring in so many new customers, it’s all too easy to focus all of our energy on the newbies. They’re important, but in the midst of the holiday rush, don’t forget to appreciate your regular customers.

They’re the ones who keep the store in business year in and year out. 

Treat them to something special. A boutique can host an invite-only trunk show after hours for their favorite customers. If the scale of that sounds too overwhelming, even just discreetly offering free gift-wrapping to your favorite regulars is a great way to show your appreciation.

DO feature in-store promotions

The popularization of online shopping leaves retailers with a unique conundrum during the holiday season. We have to work harder than ever before to get customers into the store.

One of the tried and true methods for attracting customers who would rather be at home shopping from their easy chairs is to offer in-store holiday promotions. One of the most successful promos is the “Get a Free [insert awesome item] with Purchase!”

With promotions like this, it’s important to consider your customers. If you’re going to go through the trouble of promoting a giveaway, make sure you’re offering something that is timely, relevant to your customers, and that will drum up a lot of interest.

A good example is Sigma Tax Pro’s 2016 pre-Cyber Monday sale. Their promotion gave away a free handheld scanner with purchase of a certain software package. They clearly did their market research and found that a high percentage of their customers are business owners who would benefit from a free scanner. It wouldn’t have been the same if they’d offered, say, a free horse saddle or soup ladle. Make the prize worth it for your customers.

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What are your most successful holiday marketing techniques? Share them in the comments!


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Katie Kapro

Meet the Author: Katie Kapro

Katie Kapro has worked for locally-owned, women-run businesses since she was 16. She holds her MFA in non-fiction writing, and can usually be found ogling jewelry at her favorite bohemian boutique.


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