Put Down The Tinsel: 5 Holiday Marketing Don'ts

There are marketing do's that will attract shoppers to spend money in your store ... and then there are the don'ts. Whatever you do, don't make these 5 marketing mistakes.
OPEN Forum Contributor
November 29, 2013

The holidays are a time of love, joy, togetherness—and, yes, sales. There's no way around it: For businesses, the holiday season is a time to make money.

But just because you might rely so much on the holidays to boost your bottom line doesn't mean it's a good idea to go overboard with gimmicky holiday sales tactics. In fact, such methods might actually turn off some potential customers and could hurt the long-term prospects of your business.

So how do you walk the fine line between tasteful holiday marketing and over-the-top holiday attention-grabbers? These 5 marketing don'ts can help you successfully avoid the marketing landmines of the holiday sales season:

1. Don't Overdo The Decorations

Customers are overwhelmed and tired this time of year. The last thing they want to see in your store or on your website is chaos and clutter in the guise of holiday decorations. Simple, low-key decorations or designs can be effective, but too much can create a carnival atmosphere that actually gets in the way of effective sales—particularly if the decorations and design elements obscure your products, services or offerings.

2. Don't Make Assumptions

Your customers are diverse and from many different backgrounds and faiths. You simply can't assume that they're all Christian or that they all celebrate Christmas—any more than you can assume they celebrate HanukkahKwanzaa or any holiday at all. To make such assumptions in your marketing slogans and designs can alienate potential customers and possibly help you lose critical sales. Although it can be tempting to bring your own faith into your marketing plans, it's not generally a good idea. Unless your business, products or services are specifically geared toward people of a specific faith, keep your holiday marketing neutral.

3. Don't Overemphasize Sales

Lower prices are a great way to bring in people who want a good deal, but if you overemphasize sales at the expense of building a strong customer base, producing quality products and offering great service, you're likely to lose customers in the long run. Understand the key elements of your products and services, and focus on selling those—not on offering a plethora of pre- or post-holiday discounts.

4. Don't Shout

This time of year hundreds of businesses are competing for shoppers' limited time and dollars, and there's a temptation to out-do your competitors through loud, obnoxious or pushy marketing campaigns. Savvy consumers are likely to turn away from such campaigns in favor of smart, calm, ingenious and humorous advertising. Because the holidays are so stressful, it can actually be a welcome respite to find a business that offers a space to breathe, think and even meditate. This attitude might come through in the music you choose for your store, the voice-over you use for your TV or YouTube commercials, or the fonts you select for your website. Customers will notice, and they'll visit your business both for this sense of calmness and for the products and services you have to offer.

5. Don't Be Short-Sighted

A large portion of your sales might happen during the holiday season, but that doesn't mean you should ignore your customers the rest of the year. Make sure the sales or promotions you offer during the holidays are designed to bring people back throughout the year. Think in terms of subscriptions, group memberships, valuable content or other products or services that you can offer year-round, so you can encourage your customers to return when all the hustle and bustle of the holidays is over. The more you establish your business as an alternative to the typical marketing frenzy during the holidays, the more likely it is that customers will remember you and want to return when the holidays are over.

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but for many consumers, it's also the most stressful. If your business seeks to provide a tasteful and creative alternative to the gimmicky marketing that's so common in November and December, it will reap dividends—both during the holidays and far beyond.

Vivian Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio.

Read more articles on how to boost holiday sales.

Photo: iStockphoto

OPEN Forum Contributor