Add these creative holiday marketing ideas for small businesses to your 2016 holiday marketing plan and finish the year off strong.

holiday sales ideas
Does your small business have a holiday marketing plan?

You probably haven’t thought about the 2016 holiday season yet, simply because the thermometer still reads 103 degrees and not 33. However, before you can Google “holiday marketing ideas,” Thanksgiving will be over and it will be Black Friday: the official start of the holiday shopping season.

At the end of August, savvy small business owners know it’s time to dust the sand and salt from summer vacations off their marketing campaign calendar and start planning their holiday marketing strategy. By starting early, you are able to craft holiday marketing strategies that convert potential customers to paying — and encourage loyal ones to spend more at your business.

The result? You’ll finish the year off strong.

While no local business wants to wait until the very end of the year to meet their sales goals, the fact remains that 20-40% of yearly retailer sales take place during the last two months of the year.1

However, increasing holiday sales with a well-planned holiday marketing campaigns is entirely within your control: the average shopper spends $800+ during the holiday season.2

To get started planning, download a copy of our 2016 holiday marketing calendar. You’ll find holiday advertising ideas, sales promotions and marketing tips that will help plan for every stage of the holiday shopping season. We even integrated the USPS holiday calendar, so you can be sure your shipments make it to your customers on time.

Create a marketing plan for holiday sales

The type of shopping done during the holiday season is entirely different from everyday shopping (even smaller holiday shopping, such as Labor Day and Memorial Day). The sheer volume of consumers that are shopping, combined with the wide variety of products and services they are seeking out (many of which are gifts), makes the Q4 shopping season a prime time to meet sales goals — if you can drive traffic to your store.

The key to driving traffic and increasing sales during the holiday shopping season is knowing exactly who your target audience is and marketing to them well in advance of the holiday season (and, no, bringing out the Thanksgiving and Christmas decor in August doesn’t count).

Businesses that communicate with their target audience year-round have more successful holiday marketing campaigns (and, thus, sales) because they have built up strong relationships with shoppers.

Taking the time to identify your target market will not only help you with think of holiday promotion ideas that are effective and drive sales, but you’ll also stay in lockstep with your customers’ preferences and purchasing habits throughout the year.

 

Build holiday promotion ideas into a year-round marketing strategy

Once you have defined your target market, you should set up a long-term marketing strategy that includes how you will reach customers before, during and after the holiday season.

By continually messaging your audience, your business will be top-of-mind throughout the entire customer journey, whether they are creating wish lists for Santa in December or buying birthday gifts in June.

Your holiday marketing strategy shouldn’t drastically change the online marketing efforts you already have in place; rather, it should focus your tactics.

Keep reading for the top 2016 holiday marketing ideas that your local business can use to compete with big name stores (that have the ability to offer equally as big discounts) and keep your business top-of-mind with local shoppers.

Holiday marketing ideas for small businesses

Provide a storewide discount

During the holiday season, shoppers visit stores for both gifts and inspiration. When you run simultaneously run sales and discounts that apply to certain products/services only, customers often feel restricted — the exact opposite of what you want a holiday shopper to feel when considering what purchase to make.

best holiday marketing campaigns
A storewide discount is an opportunity to collect information from customers that you can use for future marketing campaigns.

To eliminate feelings of restriction, offer holiday shoppers a storewide discount. Not only does research show that 41% of consumers prefer storewide discounts vs. other types of holiday promotions, but it’s also easier for you from a logistics perspective.3

Many small businesses shy away from providing storewide discounts because they’re afraid of cutting into profit margins. If you feel you’re giving too much away and not getting anything in return, you can always place restrictions on the storewide discount. For example, shoppers are only eligible for your storewide discount if they provide you with their email address and opt-in to receive your monthly newsletter. Suddenly your holiday promotional discount has evolved into an email list acquisition strategy.

Special hours on Black Friday

If having a storewide discount doesn’t make sense for your small business, consider having special hours on Black Friday to ensure you capture as many holiday shoppers as possible.

As much as people criticize Black Friday, 22% of consumers still brave the crowds and go shopping on this infamous day. Black Friday shoppers expect that businesses will have special hours and give them some sort of deal, whether it’s a free product/service when they spend a certain amount or a discount code that they can use at a future date.4

While you open at 5 pm on Thanksgiving, your holiday marketing strategy should plan for extended hours — and special sales — on Black Friday in order to capture shoppers who are ready, willing and eager to spend.

If you use an online marketing platform, like Vivial, be sure that you update your Black Friday hours in your dashboard. After all, when shoppers search for you, it’s important that they see you are open for business. It would be terrible to invest time and resources into a holiday marketing strategy if your store hours are listed as “closed” in online directories.

Run a business listing report

holiday marketing tips
The report will show you places where your business name is wrong, incorrect phone numbers and address problems.

To ensure that holiday shoppers discover your business when they look on search engines and online directories, run an online directory report to make sure your business information is correct.

You can run a free business listing report that shows you how your business shows up on top directories like Bing, Foursquare and Yelp. Once you identify the online directories with errors, you can contact the website and fix.

If you use the Vivial platform, your online directories are automatically claimed and optimized. You can skip this step.

Use local holiday advertising

A consumer is willing to travel up to 17 minutes to shop at a local business.5

Being a local business gives you a competitive edge, but only if consumers in your area are aware you exist!

One way to increase awareness of your business with a new audience is through online advertising.

PPC (or pay-per-click) online advertising can help you reach shoppers in a targeted region and let them know about special holiday deals and promotions you have planned or that are in progress. PPC campaigns increase awareness of a business by 63%, making it an ideal holiday advertising vehicle for any type of local business.6

PPC ads can be used on pretty much any digital property. However, local businesses get the best results from Google search ads and Facebook’s social media ads. In fact, 29% of shoppers have gone on to purchase from a local business after seeing an ad on Facebook.7

Unlike other types of advertising (such as TV, billboards, newspapers), online advertising is extremely cost-effective because shows your message only to qualified customers — not everyone — so you know your ads are being seen by those most likely to buy from you.

If you’ve never used PPC or social media advertising — or just don’t have the time to manage another marketing channel — there are a lot of different options available to you. I recommend our sister company, Vivial, because every customer receives a dedicated account coordinator (that you are on a first name basis with!). Your account coordinator will work behind the scene to optimize keywords for your advertising campaign 24/7 and report back to you with results and recommendations about how to make your campaign more effective.

Mobile matters (and not just the iPhone7 you’re asking Santa for)

From planning a store visit to comparison shopping in-store for products, mobile devices are playing a larger role in the customer journey and decision-making process than ever before. 82% of shoppers report that they use mobile devices while they shop — and one of the main things they are searching for is store information.8

christmas marketing ideas
If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, consider investing in a responsively-designed website and it will render correctly on any type of device (mobile phones, tablets, desktop computers, etc.).

Not having a year-round strategy to capture the attention mobile shoppers will limit your holiday sales potential before the season even begins (yikes!).

A mobile-friendly website (or a responsively-designed one) will allow shoppers to easily find the information they are looking for on your website (such as a phone number or map with driving directions). Mobile searchers have a high purchase intent (50% visit a business after searching on their device) and a mobile-friendly website provides a seamless customer journey from discovery to purchase.9

To incorporate mobile into your 2016 holiday marketing plans, consider running an online mobile-exclusive coupon or discount that requires a customer to redeem in-store. When a shopper receives your mobile coupon and adds it to their phone’s Passbook, you have effectively added your business as a destination for them to shop at during the holiday season.10

Ramp up your social media marketing

In addition to being accessible to shoppers on all their devices, your local business should have an active presence across the Internet — including social media networks.

Businesses that manage their social media channels effectively have a direct impact on purchase behavior and can positively influence sales. With 75% of shoppers having reported that they purchased something because they saw it on social media, be sure that shoppers are searching for the perfect gift they find your business.11

If you’re unsure how to build social media into your small business’s holiday marketing calendar, download a copy of our Social Media Content Calendar and plan your posts in advance.

Below are a few ideas for great social media posts during the holiday season:

  • Gift guides
  • Wish lists
  • Products and services with great reviews
  • New and creative ways to use your products/services
  • Seasons greetings from your staff
  • Popular products that are trending

Managing your social media posts should be the easiest part of your holiday marketing, especially if you use a tool such as Vivial. Vivial customers are able to manage all their social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+) from one central dashboard, making prioritization and scheduling your social media activities a breeze.

Create gift guides

Holiday shoppers don’t always know what they are planning to purchase and often seek out guidance and direction regarding certain products and services that they might give as a gift.

christmas marketing ideas
Photo credit: howsweeteats.com

How many times have you gone into the holiday season and not know what to get for your dad, employees or friends?

Help shoppers make gift-giving decisions by giving them some ideas in a gift guide — and they’ll be more likely to visit your business to make that purchase.

If you aren’t a brick-and-mortar retail store, don’t cross gift guides off your holiday marketing ideas list! Gift guides work well for all types of business, from retail stores restaurants to service providers and seasonal businesses.

Service providers and seasonal businesses can use gift guides to pre-sell and package services for future use, giving you guaranteed business in the year ahead. For example, a home decorator that falls into the service provider category could offer a free 1-hour consultation with every design package purchased from October – December. If you’re a seasonal business, such as a water park, you can sell passes for the upcoming season at a discounted rate.

The sky is the limit, so get creative with your holiday marketing gift guide ideas.

Partner with other nearby small businesses

Partner with other local businesses in your area and promote one another’s products/services during the holiday season. Partnerships with other local businesses will spread awareness about your business to a new audience of highly qualified buyers.

For example, if you are a hair salon, you could partner with the nail salon down the street and agree to put business cards, brochures and flyers in the customer waiting area. Or, you could go as far as putting together special holiday packages that combine products/services from each of your businesses where you share the revenue.

I’ve seen also seen a lot of local restaurants and movie theaters offer “dinner and a movie” packages to their customers during the holiday season. Get creative with your partnerships, but make sure that you go in with clear objectives that you want to accomplish in mind.

Conclusion

You holiday marketing plan shouldn’t be a last-minute scramble in October, rather it should be a part of your year-round strategy. 47% of consumers start thinking about holiday shopping in October (or earlier) and 74% start shopping in November.12

It’s important that your business is top-of-mind when consumers start thinking about holiday shopping so that you make the list of places they need to visit. From mobile coupons to new partnerships, your small business holiday marketing efforts matter and will directly influence your year-end sales.

Lots of local businesses have successfully managed their holiday marketing strategy (and grown sales) by using the Vivial platform. Vivial gives you the ability distribute all of your great holiday marketing ideas across the Internet — search, maps, email, social, coupons and deals, reviews — with the touch of one button. Contact us today for a free demo.

  • Hey Catherine,

    Great ideas for small business holiday marketing. Social media can be extremely useful in marketing. Getting potential customers excited about products on social media will more likely get them in the store. These are all great tips for small businesses.

    Thanks,
    Dennis

    • Hi Dennis,
      I’m glad you found it helpful! Cheers to a successful holiday season (even though it’s only August — time flies!)!
      Best,
      Catherine

  • Hello Catherine,

    Great Article! I loved all the different tips especially the PPC and gift guide suggestions. I did have one question on social media selling. You mentioned the effectiveness of Facebook ads and Google AdWords. I wanted to ask if you had experimented with Pinterest buying buttons and/or Pinterest sponsored content to sell services or products online during the holidays? I would love to hear if you have any insight into this subject! Once again, thanks for the great article, and I’ll be following this blog looking for more helpful content around digital marketing and advertising.

    • Hi Steven,
      I personally don’t have experience using Pinterest’s sponsored content/buying buttons (my specialty is primarily B2B marketing). That being said, I know lots of B2C businesses drive a lot of sales through Pinterest. If your audience is on Pinterest and using the boards for topics that align with your industry, I would say test it out! I believe it’s PPC, so you can set a small test budget — and increase once you start getting traction.

      Let me know how it works out if you end up using (it’s an advertising channel that we’re considering for 2017 and would love your insights)!

      Best,
      Catherine

  • Niki

    Cool article! I want to try these ideas right away, especially the gift guide. 🙂 While searching for inspiration, I found another article, it also gives a few ideas for Q4: http://www.optimonk.com/blog/finish-strong-5-effective-sales-closing-campaigns-to-boost-your-end-of-year-sales/