Now that the holiday season has officially started, customers are bombarded with all kinds of businesses vying for their monetary attention. So, how can a business break through the noise to attract customers this holiday season? To help answer this question, I have asked the fabulous CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, advisors and entrepreneurs to share their best tips for attracting holiday customers. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar ideas listed, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Christmas in July
Selling at the holidays needs to start early! The sooner the better. If you sell for the holidays, you need to start as soon as possible. Growing up, the Christmas season began after Thanksgiving. Have you noticed how holiday promotions started this year in late October- a full month sooner? Holiday marketing is competitive. Start soon and don't forget to plan for after holiday sales before Christmas! How about Black Friday sales prices before Turkey Day? Blow it up to stand out from the crowd!
2. Holiday Contests
Hosting a contest during the holidays is a great way to attract visitors to your online store or to increase foot traffic into your retail outlet. Send out an email blast announcing your giveaway, such as "Send us your picture of your dog (child, whatever) with Santa and enter to win a $500 gift certificate to our store." Contestants go to your website, enter contact info, and then, upload their photo. You choose the winner, while you have now captured their name/email address for future mailings.
3. Start Early!
Customers have become skeptical of traditional marketing tactics and at best, many offerings have become commodities. However - by starting early and building a relationship of trust with the customer, you can turn them on at the right time and even make the commerce activity a relationship building opportunity in itself.
4. Santa Uses Self-storage Too!
Our Quebec self storage properties feel winter first before our other storage places in North America. Before it gets too cold, we encourage people to use their storage units to hide their holiday gifts, so eager children and nosy adults don't spoil the surprise. We call them "Santa Storage Units" or in French "Santa Stockage". We usually get a lot of takers. We often rent storage units to new customers specifically for hiding gifts. It makes the holidays a little more fun for us, too.
We create and post a holiday season video with a jingle offering a special for new and returning consumers. Consumers love to save money, especially during the holiday season. We have gained popularity in our local community because of the creativity we incorporated into our past videos.
6. Make it Easy to Buy
Free Shipping and an extended return policy make it easy for customers to say 'Yes' to Holiday buying.
7. Greater Good
Give back this holiday season to a favorite charity and shine the spotlight on the good deed. One cost effective way to do this is to submit Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to media outlets in advance of your efforts. This approach can turn your contributions into a win/win on several levels. Media Relations tip: bring a radio station on as campaign media partner to give your message more play.
8. Make a Donation
Donate money to a cause that you and your company believe in. Ideas include a donation to a homeless shelter, your local animal rescue league, etc. Then, create a Holiday card and tell the story of how you determined who to give to and that the donation was made on behalf of all of your employees and customers. Most importantly, include a thank you from the organization’s Executive Director. Finally, mail the card and be prepared for phone calls and notes (as well as additional business).
9. Leave Your Smart Phone at Home
Perhaps the most disrespectful thing an employee who serves the public can do is use their smart phone while on duty. Retail store owners should have a zero tolerance policy on this. Given that the bulk of revenues are generated during the Christmas season, smart phones have no place in the workplace.
Liberating yourself of your device will enable you to focus on what's important: the customer!
10. Go for Black Saturday Instead
With everyone promoting sales on "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday", promote your sale on the Saturday after Cyber Monday. While you may lose some sales by being a day later, it will generate more sales for you from people who couldn't buy what they wanted on black Friday. So many merchants only have so many items in stock and will not issue back orders. By being the only game in town on a black Saturday, you enhance your chances of securing more business.
11. Do Something Different
If you want to attract clients during the holiday season, do something different that makes you stand out from the crowd, not the same old things that make you look like everyone else. Put on a Santa hat and use the photo in your promotions, send something in a bright yellow envelope (instead of red), or talk about St. Patrick's Day instead of the typical holidays. You have to standout, not blend in to get attention. Have fun and get your clients involved with you - that will attract them.
12. Be a Giver
Giving value is always a good idea, but even more so during the holidays.
Offers: Add something extra to your service or product (rather than discounting).
Campaign strengthening: In our case, we use reminders for all of the additional special events associated with our location and the season.
Gift ideas: Let people know what to give to Uncle Johnny or a business client. Suggest your service or products- think Gift Certificates.
Be open to ways to give.
13. Give Back - Promote Your Cause
Find a cause or project that you love and pledge to donate a percentage of your profits to it. Holiday time is one of generosity and peace on Earth - good will toward humankind. Whether it's children, animals, homelessness, hunger, the rainforest, medical aid to the Third World, or whatever, there are so many ways to give back and show that you sincerely care (and not about profit). Happy Holidays!
14. Black Friday Plus
This year, SSA #51 is hosting a very special holiday event geared to encourage customers to spend $100 or more at Small businesses during the Black Friday Weekend- here's how: 1. Customers get rewarded for every $100 spent in SSA #51, 2. Customers receive a free Customer Appreciation Tent Event Ticket, 3. Small Businesses that send the most visitors to the SSA #51 Tent Event will win FREE advertising in the Citizen Newspaper AND will be featured on a local billboard display the following year.
15. A Newsworthy New Offering!
The usual way of boosting holiday income is sales, but that just targets your same customers. You have to offer something newsworthy that will hit new buyers. For example, we're releasing the only rubber duck made in America this holiday season, having just brought the whole rubber duck industry back to the USA where it was invented. Social media, press releases, and above all, a hot topical story will do more than any sale to hit a new wider audience for what you have to offer!
16. Catch Them, Yes You Can!
What has suited me best to attract customers is offering a coupon code for free shipping and even offering a percentage discount with their next purchase. The discount can be used by a returning customer or it can be shared with their loved ones.
This not only brings in happy returning customers, but also their friends, families and acquaintances. What a better way to spread the word about your business than your happy customers!
17. Create Content Now, Post Later
Make a calendar today for your social media posts for the rest of the year. No one is going to want to tweet for your company on Christmas Eve - but those bored in church will certainly be checking Twitter and your company needs to take advantage of that. Create the content in advance and use a scheduling tool (such as HootSuite or SproutSocial) to make sure it all gets posted at exactly the right time on exactly the right day.
18. Pay it Forward
This is something we do every year that cements our relationships with our clients throughout the year & creates referrals. We PAY IT FORWARD. Instead of sending out an inexpensive gift to each client, we pool all of that money & donate it to a couple of charities. Then, we send out our Dec. newsletter saying that we have done this in the name of our clients to thank them for their loyalty over the previous year. The charity makes money, we get a tax receipt & clients feel recognized. Everyone wins!
19. Don't Be Afraid to Promote!
Due to Sandy's destructive force unleashed on NYC, I have had to be especially innovative this season. So, I made a change to my menu, rearranged a recipe, did a press release on a free PR site to promote that change and then, shared that through a popular email service. What I managed to do was remind lots of people about my products at a time when a lot more serious things were on their mind. Take advantage of every promotional trick you can. Customers may appreciate the gentle reminder.
20. Pin and Win
Attract new prospects and returning customers to your site by adding a Pintrest button to your products on your shopping site. When customers "pin" a picture of what they've just bought on your site, it can inspire others to visit to buy that product and other items. You can also create your own Pintrest account to show off great gift ideas!
Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success
21. The Reward System
As a small business, a bonus referral reward system for existing clients is the best way to attract new customers. For the holidays, I offer a limited time bonus incentive to enhance my current referral program. My normal referral program is designed to reward my clients for every two clients they refer, but for a limited time, they get rewarded for every new client referral, plus a bonus prize for the most referrals. In addition to that, the new client gets a discount. It's a win-win-win.
22. Make it Easy to Shop!
People get so crazed at holiday time that it can be a big relief not to have to go into yet another store. I make shopping easy by offering gorgeous gift certificates for unique, personalized, tailored consulting services such as career coaching, dating/relationship consulting, or palm reading. Buyers are assured of an unusual gift that will create instant intrigue. I send them out via U.S. mail so that they arrive with no hassles and they are already wrapped in a distinctive foil envelope!
23. Surviving Holiday Temptation
The holidays are a time that people lose their mind and discipline. As a digestive health coach, I help people reduce stress and eat for optimal digestive health. Since the holidays are full of unhealthy, tempting foods, pressure, family stress and travel, I am providing alternatives, stress reducing reminders and allergy-free recipes to my clients in a daily autoresponder series starting right before Thanksgiving. And since the holidays are about gifts I am giving away free sessions with me!
24. Holiday Giveaway
Consider hosting a holiday giveaway or countdown by giving away your product(s) or your favorite products. This attracts attention, which is hard to get in the busy holiday season.
25. Include the Kids
Holiday time is not just for the adults. It is so much a time for the children.
Why not, depending upon what the amount spent is, have different categories from which you give a variety of children gifts as a give away to pick from.
It can entice a shopper to spend a little more just to get that children's gift in the next category.
It also adds a little fun when taking those little ones with you shopping, because they get to participate and choose.
26. Be Generous. Be Genuine.
When a pitch comes from the heart and it's not a blatant marketing ploy, you hit a grand slam. Keep an ear out for what your community needs- then link your marketing to this need. For example: "For every X purchased, Y will be donated this holiday season." You do good and attract customers at the same time.
27. Give a Little Something Extra
During the holidays, brands turn up the volume on their marketing efforts vying for consumer attention. One approach is a gift with purchase promotion, which encourages customers to buy your company’s products. The promotional gift should be relevant to your company’s brand; this gives the customer a distinct connection. Plus, it should be enticing enough for customers to choose purchasing your products over the competition, yet cost effective enough to give it away... yes, a very thin line.
Shatisha Wilks of Swathe
28. Attract & Reward New Clients!
Whether you are B2B or B2C, at a time of year when folks are busy spending their hard earned money, using contests of any kind (the more creative the better) to attract new clients or reward current clients (for more business) with small gifts can make quite the impression, and fill up your sales funnel with new prospects or current clients (who provide you more business).
Everyone loves a freebie...especially when they win it!
29. Delight Customers & Cross Sell
Holidays are an ideal time to give customers a small freebie that they’ll enjoy and be delighted with, while also cross selling products. Businesses can take advantage of giving away a freebie as a way to introduce customers to a new product or perhaps demonstrate a unique way to use an existing product that relates specifically to the holidays. Incorporating a coupon offer into the campaign will entice customers to make a purchase in the New Year.
30. Make it Easy for Them
During the holiday season, the definition of insanity is duking it out with everything that bombards the prospect, demanding and dividing attention.
Instead, be the voice of sanity and reason. Make everything easy. Provide products and services that will simplify your customer's life.
Make it easy to buy. Check your website for confusing navigation. Ensure that you can be reached. Train your customer-service reps to respond properly and promptly.
Your customers will love you forever.
31. Gingerbread Delivers
Our company is participating in a local holiday festival auctioning off gingerbread houses to benefit the local children’s hospital. We decided to create a gingerbread tower! It is a recreation of the building we work in and definitely drove interest compared to the other houses.
32. Make Them Thirsty for More
It's easy just to fit in with what the in crowd is doing. That is why I've taken a different path. To succeed in the cocktailian world, you must be a spokesperson and a charmer- I mix a drink and make it absolutely personal. What I do to attract a potential customer- I let them sample something unique, that they've never had prior, using flavor.
If they like what I've offered them, chances are they'll buy, because they get thirsty!
Do you have a tip for attracting holiday customers that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!