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Small Business Marketing and Promotion Tips For The Holidays


Jeffrey Bumbales


Competition is intense these days. From other local businesses and big-box retailers to the ever-present specter of online shopping, it takes a lot for a small business to stand out from the crowd — this goes double during the holiday season.

The National Retail Federation projects that consumers will spend an average of $1,007 on holiday shopping in 2019. This increase over last year is a pretty attractive number to any business owner who relies on holiday sales figures to bolster their numbers.

No matter what you sell, where you’re located, or how you communicate with customers, you can’t rely on tired old marketing strategies to bring people into your store. We’ve included a few ideas to help you improve your holiday marketing efforts:

Review your current promotions & marketing to see what performs

If you have a campaign that’s served you well through the rest of the year, you might be able to re-use or adapt those marketing efforts through the holiday season. Take a look at the following marketing outlets and see what’s performed best for you in order to determine what to work on going forward:

  • Are there specific products or service you want to focus on selling this holiday season?
    Do you run paid ads on Facebook or Google? Which ones have gotten the best response? Can you retool any of them to target a specific holiday or to change focus to a product you wanted to move more of during the season?
  • Are you sending out email campaigns? Do people engage with them? Should you increase the frequency of these campaigns during the holiday season or segment the audience to put more focus on upcoming sales and promotions?
  • Look at your holiday marketing strategy and sales from last year. Which campaign had the best ROI, email or display ads? According to Forbes, campaigns that use data improve their marketing ROI 15–20%.
  • Are your Google My Business listings as accurate as possible? Is there a seasonal product or service you should add to your “categories”? Do they contain your correct contact information and address? Will you be changing your hours at all for the holiday season? (For more tips on making sure your Google My Business page is up to date, check out our blog post: Five Steps To Optimize Your Google My Business Listing)
  • If you run an e-commerce website in addition to a brick-and-mortar location, or maybe if you only sell products online, are your products optimized for visibility and ease of purchase by customers? Are the listings up-to-date? Do you have other specific holiday items you should add? (For more tips on optimizing your product listings, check out How To Optimize Your Website’s Product Pages to Increase Conversion)

This can save you a lot of time and money by refining what works instead of spreading your focus and resources into new areas without a clear game plan.

Generate more foot traffic

Having a unique range of products isn’t enough to get people to come in and look around. Drawing customers in with the right combination of in-store promotions, “doorbuster” sales, or social media contests (“the first person to reply with X gets a prize the next time they’re in our store!”) are great ways to entice more people to visit your brick-and-mortar locations more frequently.

With that said, don’t focus solely on the discounts. It isn’t easy to beat big-box retailers like Walmart in a price slashing war. If you need inspiration, our blog post Doing Big Business on Small Business Saturday has some tips you can use to drive more foot traffic, and these articles from The Balance and American Express can be used for further inspiration around the holidays.

There are better options than slashing prices

A great way to increase sales and customer retention is to keep them in that holiday mood when they get there. Above and beyond the usual tactic of stringing garland over everything, why not try:

  • Offering gift-wrapping at your store for a nominal fee or for purchases over a certain amount
  • Create gift guides for interested shoppers. Why not suggest (or sell) product bundles based on “buyer personas” that align with your target customers and their loved ones? Sell tailored bundles to the sports fanatic, the craft beer aficionado, the foodie, etc. For ideas on how to format and plan these guides to make them both helpful and eye-catching, Shopify has some tips for layout, items to include, and more.
  • New Year’s resolutions. Tie a promotion into the year-end push for self-improvement. This can be especially good for fitness coaches, business consultants, and other service providers who focus on incremental improvements.
  • Free holiday gift cards with purchases, or even a holiday card-making class to give your customers the chance to make something truly personal for the holidays
  • The old meet-and-greet with Santa — all the better to get kids to bring their parents in
  • Toy and food drives to local charities — any purchase made with an accompanying donation of canned goods, kids toys, or even blankets and jackets is given a discount
  • Donation of remaining change/rounding up to nearest dollar on purchases to contribute to local family charities

Price slashing may work temporarily, but making your customers feel like the holidays have arrived should encourage higher-margin sales and boost retention.

Partner with other businesses

Partnering with other local businesses that offer corresponding or related products is a great way to expand your reach and attract a new audience that may be unfamiliar with what you have to offer.

Get together with other local businesses and see what you can do to help each other out: could you offer discounts on each other’s items with a verified receipt? Could you offer gift cards to each other’s businesses with certain purchases to encourage visits from other customers?

What about email campaigns on each other’s behalf? You could mention sales the other business is running in your outreach campaigns and vice versa to encourage cross-traffic and help to boost email subscriptions.

It doesn’t have to be strictly retailers you work with. For example, if your business is located near a local brewery or restaurant, you might offer potential shoppers a sampler of their drinks or food to bring people into your store (and keep them there). TownSquared has additional tips on how you and another local business can team up to help everyone succeed this holiday season.

Above all, put the customer first — do what you can to make their holiday special.

Related: To learn how to make the most of your slow season, check out these off-season marketing strategies.