Holiday marketing on a budget: Seven steps that don’t break the bank

Caron Beesley

When you think of the holiday marketing that can be critical to your business success, promotions and discounts might be the first things that come to mind. But you don’t have to break the bank or cut margins to stand out from the crowd. Here are seven budget-friendly steps you should consider to promote your small business while meeting the needs  of your customers this holiday season:

n Host an open house. If you operate a retail business, restaurant or any gift-oriented business, why not plan  an open house? Use the event to showcase holiday season gifts, menus and merchandise. Offer a glass of warm cider or mulled wine and really get people into the spirit of the holidays. This will give customers an opportunity to check out your merchandise or holiday menus in advance. Throw in a special offer or coupon customers can redeem anytime up until Dec. 24.

Work the holiday magic for your faithful customers. Think of ways to generate repeat holiday business from existing customers. Special offers, sneak previews, free shipping or secret sales all offer great ways to make your faithful customers feel special without breaking the bank.

Feature a product or service of the day or week. I love this low-cost marketing idea from Ivana Taylor at SmallBizTrends. Why not create 12 days of your product or a product or service of the month? Feature and market a product or service every day or every week during the holidays. Focus on high-margin products or items your customers don’t know about. “Companies in the food business use this strategy a lot,” Taylor said. “Think beer of the month, cheesecake of the month or coffee of the month. Maid service companies could feature an extra  cleaning detail each month. Trainers or consultants can offer featured webinars, reports or newsletters.” Don’t forget to communicate this themed promotion on your website, social media, e-mail,  posters and flyers.

Offer gift certificates. Whatever your business, selling gift certificates, gift cards and e-certificates is a  great way to give customers a convenient gift option. They also help you generate sales well into the new year with recipients often spending more than the value of the certificate.

Partner with other businesses: It’s likely that many of the businesses in your community also rely heavily on the holidays for a good chunk of income. Is there a way you can partner with complementary stores or restaurants to promote each other’s businesses? A cosmetic store and a hair salon might develop a promotion that offers a discount off each other’s respective goods and services if the customer frequents both.

Get involved in community and charitable events. Getting out there and supporting charities or getting involved in or sponsoring community  events is a great way to generate awareness of your business during the holidays. Even if you don’t have the budget to donate large sums of money, think of such other ways to get involved as offering volunteer services, equipment or even space.

Use your website and social media to promote holiday activities. Your online presence, e-mail marketing and social media networks offer a great way to target  and connect with consumers through timely updates and compelling calls to action. Develop holiday themes for your

e-mail templates and update your website and Facebook profile picture with a festive look. Then be sure to channel any offers or promotions through social media. You can even offer deals or events exclusively to your social media fans to help drive foot traffic and generate leads. And don’t forget to engage in two-way dialogues. Ask your fans about their holiday activities.