This is the time of year when visions of big sales are dancing in the heads of small-business retailers everywhere. They dream of customers with wide-open wallets shopping for gifts for everyone on their lists.
But what if your business doesn't sell anything that can be wrapped in shiny paper and tied with a bow? How can your service business capture some of that holiday spending?
"What a lot of businesses forget is that the holidays call for more than [material] gifts," says Alyssa Mattero, senior manager of digital marketing for Perfect Search Media. "Small service-based businesses need to capitalize on other factors that play a role in the holiday season such as winter weather, donations and giving, family, and leisure."
If you're looking for new ways to attract holiday shoppers to your service business, try one of these four tips:
1. Make The Most Of Lousy Weather
In many parts of the country, the holiday season coincides with colder temperatures and the threat of snowy, icy weather. To attract new business, Mattero says, "Get your customers thinking about how weather can impact their holiday."
She suggests businesses promote cold weather preparation services, such as furnace maintenance or ordering snowplow service. That way, customers can be assured that no family dinner or cocktail party will be interrupted by freezing temperatures indoors or mounds of snow blocking the path to the front door.
2. Promote Giving
The winter holidays all center around the idea of giving, and there's no better time for small businesses to give back to the community. Mattero recommends that businesses make it well-known in their advertising and promotions that they'll make a donation to a specific charity based on customer spending.
"People like to give during the holiday season," Mattero says, "and that small incentive could give a business the competitive edge it needs."
3. Emphasize "Easy" Holidays
Your service may not be one that's traditionally thought of as a gift, but you can position it as one that makes it easier to enjoy the season with family. "Think about the tasks involved in the holidays, like cooking, decorating and serving," Mattero says. "People want things to go as smoothly as possible during the holidays. Promote how your service can make the holidays feel more like a vacation."
This time of year especially, your customers want to spend less time on tasks and more time with family, so offer examples of how your business can help them do that.
4. Embrace The Season
Even if you can't think of a tie-in to the season, there's no reason you can't embrace the holiday spirit simply by being festive. Sarah Mincher, a social media strategist at DigitalSherpa, advises small businesses to share holiday-themed visuals on Pinterest and Instagram and through Twitter 's new feature that allows photos to show up directly in a Twitter feed without clicking on a link. "Take advantage of this new feature by uploading eye-catching, holiday-themed images to your feed," Mincher says.
Or simply make your postings more festive on Facebook. "Studies show that particular action words such as 'Post,' 'Comment,' 'Take,' 'Submit,' 'Like' and 'Tell Us' increase Facebook status engagement," Mincher says. "Combine one of these popular words or phrases with a relevant holiday topic, and you've got an awesome seasonal status."
She suggests posting such status updates as "What's Your Favorite Holiday Song?", "Last-Minute Holiday Shopping: Guilty or Not?" or "Click Like if You're Excited About Christmas Caroling!"
Remember, you don't have to be selling the most in-demand toy or tech product of the gift-giving season to wrap your small business in holiday spirit. Find a connection to winter weather, adopt a campaign of giving, emphasize spending time with family, or simply engage with your customers on holiday topics.
Your best marketing strategy? Not sitting back this holiday season and letting the retailers have all the fun.
Carla Turchetti is a veteran print and broadcast journalist with a passion for money matters and the stories behind the world of small business and personal finance.
Read more articles on marketing.
Photo: Getty Images