The holiday season has arrived, complete with the usual flurry of holiday marketing campaigns vying for consumer attention and dollars. But, using the wrong ideas, strategies and tactics can not only waste your business’s marketing dollars, it can cost you sales, too. So, to help your business get the most out of your holiday marketing efforts this year, here are some holiday marketing mistakes to avoid, according the fantastic CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar concepts listed, but I kept the ideas separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Taking Off!
I know this sounds crazy, but Christmas Eve, Christmas day, and other days that the big winter holidays fall on are some of the busiest days for some businesses. Not all, but some, especially if your company has an E-Commerce function. So, if you can stand it, don't take off! Be there to answer calls and be there to make sales. The business bank account may thank you.
2. Give Sincerity for the Holiday
Don't co-op a special holiday in a garish and crude commercial fashion. It's fine to offer best wishes. Having Santa offering payday loans or Moses special financing can backfire. Consumers know that you are in the business of business. That is not license to insult their religious sensitivities and innate intelligence. Humor can work if it is delivered with a light touch. A crass Christmas or an insensitive Hanukkah ad will appear disrespectful and rude - rarely a profitable marketing tactic.
3. Holiday Marketing Blues
The one biggest holiday marketing mistake that businesses make which can cost them sales is waiting until the last minute to begin marketing. If you know that the major holidays are towards the end of the year, what are you waiting for? Each year, create a holiday marketing plan and use it. Review last year’s to see what did and did not work. Revamp, recreate and regain sales and profits!
4. Stop Sending Christmas Cards
It’s a waste of time and money to send Christmas cards to your customers and other business contacts.
Christmas cards do a poor job of building business relationships. Why? Because everyone else sends Christmas cards, which means that your card doesn’t stand out.
Smart marketers zig when everyone zags. If you want to be noticed and remembered, send greeting cards at some other time of the year.
5. Unblock the Chimney!
If you are using the same Sales Funnel year after year for your Holiday marketing, it's time to unblock the chimney so that new sales can flow in. Make sure that each year, you are changing your offer and listening to your customers about what they need NOW, not in the past. Santa (and your customers) can't fit down a chimney stuffed with stale merchandise, the same old offers and tired promotions. So this year, make your marketing as freshly baked as your holiday cookies and reap the rewards!
6. Don't Denigrate Us Dads
TV commercials that show dads to be stupid, dumb, incompetent dolts are a sure way to lose my holiday shopping dollars. Being a father is a hard enough job without marketers poking fun at our foibles and errors. You can make mom the hero of your spots, but it need not always be at our expense. But if you really want to get our attention (and our dollars), show us in a favorable light and give us credit for our efforts in building strong families. How's that for some fatherly advice?
7. A Waste of a Good Theme
Offering a holiday promotion just for the sake of the holiday is a waste. You must make a logical connection between the theme of your promotion and the benefits for customers. A deep discount is only useful if the customer needs it right now. In a business that isn't very seasonal, customers aren't likely to take advantage of a holiday discount because they're busy doing other things. Your big promotion could be met with crickets!
8. Make 'em Feel Guilty -- Later!
I once had a three-month PR client, a psychologist whose specialty was compulsive overspending. She got lots of pre-holiday coverage, but no book sales or new clients. We should have waited to launch this campaign until after the holidays. People know they’re going to spend during the holidays, even overspend, just as they know they’re going to overeat. Don’t make ‘em feel guilty in December. Wait until January.
9. Many Engage in De-Marketing
In my many years of working in B2B marketing, I have been struck by how many sales organizations slack off the week before the holidays and that time period between Christmas and New Years. It may seem logical that this is a dead zone. The truth is, it is the easiest time to reach and meet with decision makers. Business owners and senior executives are more likely to be in the office. The holiday spirit seems to alleviate the amount of gate keeping and I have found it an amazingly productive time.
10. Happy, Merry Whatever
The most annoying issue in holiday marketing is the public debate over “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays.” Why not use Merry Christmas signage for Christmas tree ornaments and use Happy Holidays or even Merry Holidays for winter coats?
Even more disturbing than these in-store decisions is when a store chain uses its PR to trumpet its decision. Most customers don’t care about terminology, so long as stores don’t go out of their way to make it an issue.
11. Not All Shoppers Shop Alike
Some shoppers prefer an in-store experience, while others would rather avoid the mall and just shop in their jammies at odd hours. Your holiday marketing campaign needs to not only appeal to both factions, but also to offer incentives (i.e., discounts, free gifts, frequent buyer points) for whichever shopping method they choose. Well in advance of the holidays, you can discern this through customer surveys and comparing store sales versus online purchases.
12. Too Little Too Late
The one marketing mistake that businesses can make during the Holidays is not having enough inventory. When someone wants to buy from you, they want it now, not 3 weeks, 3 months or even 3 days from now.
13. Take Off Your Blinders
Sometimes, you can be so focused on getting out your advertising and marketing plan that you forget to take notice of what is taking place all around you.
Research and contemplate all of the marketing and advertising your competitors are doing. DO NOT underestimate them - see their strengths and weaknesses and compare them to your own marketing and advertising.
Not doing so and just blindly charging on, thinking it's just about out-spending everyone, can be costly.
14. A MORE Meaningful THANK YOU!
Okay, it's the holiday season. We all want to be perceived as generous & thank those who have supported us throughout the year. Problem: you have 300 people you need to thank & about a $1000 budget. That means with taxes & transportation in, you have about $3.25/person to spend. Can you get something meaningful, that people will appreciate for that price? I think not!! Solution: make a donation to charity in their collective names & send out a thank you email to let people know they are appreciated.
15. Change It Up
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a huge holiday marketing mistake made by many businesses. Truly innovative companies avoid running the same campaign and take into consideration changes and fluctuations in the market. For e-commerce businesses seeking to disrupt goliath competitors, use your size as an advantage and consistently pivot your marketing strategy during the holiday season. Large businesses have much more red tape than nimble startups.
16. Be One of the Few
Each Christmas, many customers, businesses and colleagues receive a plethora of Holiday cards in December. What would happen if you mailed out a postcard in Jan., Feb. & March instead of a card in December? Marketing is about attracting attention. How does that work when your Holiday card is one of many? Now you have your prospect's or client's attention because you are one of the few. With some smart copy, you can build interest & provide a unique offer with your March mailing.
17. Do We Read Blogs?
Do we read blogs? More importantly do potential customers read blogs? Absolutely. In fact, research tells us that small businesses with blogs generate 126% more leads; 81% of U.S. consumers trust advice from blogs; and 61% of U.S. consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post. Bottom line: launch a blog and contribute to it on a regular basis. Best practice: get to know and work with bloggers (of all sizes) by introducing them to your produces and services in advance of the holidays.
Do you know another holiday marketing mistake that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!