Holiday promotions that won’t break the bank

Editorial Team

6 min read
Group of holiday gifts

Smart and effective marketing starts with a strategy. Before planning out specific promotions, businesses should think through what they are looking to achieve. For instance, promotions that work well for building customer loyalty may not work as well for bringing in new customers. Defining the business goal determines what kind of promotional strategy will work best, and helps business owners later evaluate whether the promotion was successful. It’s also crucial to make a budget, including how much you can afford to invest in promotions, and what you need to sell to make the investment worthwhile. It’s important to consider your goal and supporting promotional strategies carefully. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.

Goal 1: Get new customers

New customer acquisition is one of the most important activities for a business, especially a small business. Increasing the number of people who interact with your business grows your base of possible customers and makes it easier to hit your revenue goals.

Offering new customers a deal on their first purchase is well worth its weight for their potential lifetime value.

Consider these promotions:

  • Friends and family deal. Review42 reports that in 2020, 86% of customers trust word-of-mouth reviews and recommendations. Apps like Digital Word of Mouth let customers share information with family and friends easily and greatly simplify marketing.
  • Offer a loss leader. If you have an in-demand item, or too much stock of a particular item, consider offering it at a deep discount—one per customer or new customers only—to get them in the door. Retail stores do this all the time, and typically make up the difference in “lost” profit by cross-selling customers other impulse buys, or getting their contact information to market to them later. Key to making this kind of promotion work is to get the word out through all available means.
  • Partner with another company. Find a business that complements yours and help promote each other. Hair salons and nail salons, for example, are a good match because clients for one are likely to be interested in the other. They could assure customers of their shared commitment to safety precautions, and offer discounts for purchasing services from both businesses.

Goal 2: Increase Customer Loyalty

Even businesses with a limited budget can increase sales by promoting customer loyalty. Personalization is one way to generate loyal customers, especially with Generation Z (those born between 1996 and 2015) and Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996). Research from Swift Prepaid Solutions found that 83% of Generation Z and young Millennials are more loyal to brands that offer value-added rewards and surprises.

Consider these promotions:

  • Offer an exclusive event or experience. Member-only or “customer appreciation” events, whether staged virtually or safely in person, are a great way to bring in your best customers without cutting prices. They incorporate both the idea of personalized, exclusive offers and add in the fun factor. Restaurants and cafes could offer a special “date night” delivery menu; retail stores could offer seasonal product demonstrations in store or online; food trucks might offer an exclusive invitation-only meet up. Consider what your customers would appreciate and make it appealing—and socially distanced.
  • Offer exclusive sale previews. If you’re going to offer a sale, invite your loyal customers to shop the day before and honor the sale prices. They get first dibs on sale prices, and help you spread the sale traffic over more than one day.

Goal 3: Grow Your Social Media Following

The market for social media marketing is constantly growing. Roughly 3.2 billion people, half of the world’s population use social media, and 52% of online brand discovery happens in public social feeds. Social media is also a unique way to effectively promote a business because it’s another form of word-of-mouth marketing. Customers who share your promotions or marketing messages are in effect endorsing them and spreading the word to their networks.

Consider these promotions:

  • Try a poll. Key to making your social content go viral is to create content the customers want to share. A salon, for example, could encourage customers to poll their friends and family on what hair length or color they should try next. They could then follow the poll up with before and after makeover photos with the business logo in the background.
  • Offer a contest. Contests need not be complicated to work well. Perhaps you host a seasonal contest where customers post photos of themselves using your products. Or ask customers to suggest a new flavor or name a new product. With apps like ivalu8 Customer Engage, you can create contests and promote them on your receipts and via social media.
  • Support a cause. With civic activism on the rise, finding new and creative ways to support causes customers believe in can be a great way to get social media traction. Customers are more likely to promote content (and purchase products) they feel good about. Apps like Coinout and Round Up for Schools can also make the logistics of business and customer giving easy to execute.

Goal 4: Grow Your Email List

Despite the growth of social media, email is still one of the best ways to increase sales. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), every dollar spent on email marketing brings in an average of about 50 dollars in return. The cost-effectiveness of email marketing makes growing your email list a smart promotional goal.

Consider these promotions:

  • Offer free advice. Whether you bake custom cakes or sell clothes, consider offering anyone who signs up for your email list a free one-on-one consultation (online or with proper distancing, of course) to help customers through purchasing decisions.
  • Create a monthly newsletter. Monthly newsletters are a great way to engage with customers. Articles could be about what foods to pair with your products, special DIY projects customers can undertake using your products, or other topics you think your customers would be interested in. Newsletters are also a great way to announce new inventory, new specials, and events.
  • Co-promote the business with a partner. If you decide to partner with another local business, ask if they will bundle an offer with you and email it to their list in exchange for you doing the same. Make opting into your list part of the promotion. For example, “Sign into your account with us to get the promotion code. Don’t have an account? Sign up here.”

Goal 5: Test a new product or service

According to Nielsen, 80-85% of fast-moving consumer good launches fail. Yet new products that take off can become money makers that help smaller shops differentiate from big box stores. Before planning a major new product launch, carefully test new products with smaller promotions.

Consider these promotions:

  • Free samples to customers. At the point of sale, in person or online, offer a sample of a new product. Not only does this reward customers who are making a purchase, it encourages impulse buys and can offer you valuable information about product prospects on the spot. Be sure to check your state and local regulations before giving out samples, however. For example, some states are restricting the distribution of food samples for safety during the pandemic. 
  • Discounted prices for a promotional period. Rather than cutting your prices outright, experiment with offering half off a new product with the purchase of a full-priced item.
  • Host an event or online experience. Once a product shows promise, try a bigger launch. Announce new products with a tie-in experience, such as a pre-fixe tasting menu or virtual demonstration.

The holidays are a great time to experiment with promotions and grow your business. Whatever your goals, spend the time to think through which promotional strategy offers you the best shot at success. 

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