Holiday Marketing on a Budget

Don't surrender the holiday shopping seasons to the big box retailers. Here are six ways to deploy your small-business marketing dollars and win.
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Constant Contact
December 11, 2012

With the holiday shopping season now in full swing, a lot of merchants may feel like they’re facing stiff competition from the big box retailers. Sure, they may be able to outspend you in marketing, but don’t let them trick you into thinking they’ve got you beat this holiday season.

Here’s how you can engage existing customers and attract new ones during the holiday rush, without spending a fortune on marketing.

1. Create a share-worthy deal. We know consumers love daily deals and nearly one in four online consumers purchased a daily deal during the 2011 holiday season. Consider creating deals on new items you want to show customers, or a deal that demonstrates your expertise. The trick here is to make the offer “share-worthy,” meaning it must be considered valuable by both your new and existing customers. Sometimes all it takes is reminding customers they can do something nice for people they know—like simple “friends and family discounts” that encourage sharing. They spread like wild?re.

2. Refresh your website. There are three primary reasons for ensuring you have fresh, relevant copy on your website.

First, as a recent survey reported, 41 percent of small-business owners expect a majority of their holiday sales to come from online orders, a 10 percent increase over last year. Second, consumers will be doing more comparison-shopping as they take a conservative approach to spending this holiday season. And third, fresh copy boosts search engine results. 

3. Amplify your message on social media sites. While a lot of merchants are taking advantage of social media, here are three ways you can stand out.
  • Interact with other members on the site by responding to their posts and forwarding their messages. 
  • Balance your messages so you’re offering relevant information as opposed to simply posting promotional content. 
  • Have your messages reflect the tone and style of the social media platform and avoid duplicating the same message on different forums. 

4. Differentiate through great service. Here are three suggestions to get you started.

  • Showcase your expertise. Most small-business owners opened their shops because they have an expertise in a specific area. When you share this with customers, they’ll view you as a valuable resource and are more inclined to buy from you. You can do this through helpful tips in your newsletter, live demonstrations onsite or online tools that support video, audio, live presentations and instant messaging.
  • Invest in training your employees so they can easily answer questions when customers are ready to buy.
  • Don’t let your customers leave without offering them a small token of appreciation for stopping by or making a purchase.

5. Personalize when possible. Before you send that e-mail campaign, segment your lists based on interests and past purchases so your messages are more targeted. This will increase response rates and the likelihood the email will be shared and forwarded.

6. Have a flexible return policy that extends well beyond the holidays. Customers will appreciate the extra time and will likely come into your store when it’s less crowded, which presents another great opportunity to engage them.

Successful marketing through the holidays isn’t about having the biggest budget or a vast array of resources—it’s about who uses them most effectively.  

Read more posts about e-mail marketing.

Rick Jensen is the Senior Vice President, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at 
Constant Contact.

Photo: Thinkstock