Jump to Main Content
USA flagAn Official Website of the United States Government

Holiday Marketing Tips & Ideas

SBA Learning Center

SBA's Online Business Chat

A live Q&A session with small business experts. Submit your question before or during the chat discussion. You cannot submit question after Closing Remarks for the chat. No registration is needed for the web chat.

Expert: Caron Beesley
Holiday Marketing Tips & Ideas

Caron Beesley

SBA Blogger, SBA Community

Saturday, November 10, 2012 12:30 AM

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

With the holiday season just around the corner, get a head start with practical email and social media marketing tips and ideas. Learn how to boost your holiday marketing strategies, and get tips and advice that can critical to your business success for the New Year.

Did you know that Small Business Saturday is November 24th? Shop Small® in your community.

Chat Transcript

 
From:
Valerie Gasiewicz
Location:
Buffalo, NY
 

Hi everyone - My name is Caron Beesley, I'm happy to join you today for the SBA's Web chat, and welcome to everyone joining us. The holidays are an important time for small business owners, if you are looking to take advantage of Small Business Saturday or just looking for holiday marketing ideas, I hope to answer your questions today. Let's get started!

 
From:
Valerie Gasiewicz
Location:
Buffalo, NY
 
Question:
This is our second Small Business Saturday and this year, our new e-commerce site is up and running. What are some ways to promote our online store for Small Business Saturday? Thanks!
Reply:
Valerie – Congratulations on your new e-store. Start by decorating your site and social media pages (if you have them) with festive graphics and designs. Organize your goods so that it makes it easy for buyers to find holiday lines – for example “Gifts for Him”, Gifts under $50”. Use email, blogs, and web banners to make gift suggestions (“10 Gifts for Dad”) and to highlight popular lines and why people need them this holiday season. Think of creative ways to countdown to Christmas – post polls, ideas, promotions, free shipping for one day, etc. on Facebook. Offer ideas for last minute impulse purchases and use your site to drive people in-store or offer downloadable gift certificates when holiday shipping deadlines have passed.
 
From:
Maria L Vargas
Location:
Tucson, Arizona
 
Question:
I need to grow my base of customers and the Holidays seem to be a good time. I have a home based beauty sales business(Avon), and would like ideas on how to showcase my business at local holiday events, any suggenstions?
Reply:
Hi Maria – You could host your own event or get involved in a sponsored event, or even partner up with other businesses, such as hair salons or spas. This blog includes ideas for sponsoring an event or hosting your own during the holidays: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/sponsoring-or-hosting-event-holiday-s... plus more here about hosting your own small business event: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/marketing-y.... Good luck!
 
From:
J Taylor
Location:
,
 
Question:
What are some web marketing ideas outside social media?
Reply:
Hi – There are many forms of web marketing – perhaps the most popular and most-effective way to reach your customers and prospects is with email marketing to an opt-in list (a monthly e-newsletter, for example). These consumers have asked to hear from you, they’re interested in what you have to offer. Get some tips for using email marketing here: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matter... and http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matter... and http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matter...
 
From:
Denise
Location:
Pittsburgh,
 
Question:
I own my own small clothing boutique, and the holiday season is a particularly busy time every year. What can I do to make sure that despite the increase in volume and people in the store, our customers still feel welcomed and have a positive experience? Thanks!
Reply:
Denise – That’s a great point, here are a few ideas: Always have someone on hand to greet your customer with a smile. Offer a token festive treat like a cookie, egg nog, or warm apple cider or hand out product samples. Think of ways to go that extra mile for your customers, for example, free gift wrapping. Purchase inexpensive gift wrap and look for an eager student or volunteer to wrap the gifts. Why not hand out wish list cards and ask customers to list their favorite items from your store and for a chance to win a prize – then follow-up with them a week or so later by email to remind them that their items are still in stock. Also make sure you are operationally ready – check inventory, staff-up, and think of ways to keep your team happy and motivated.
 
From:
Alan
Location:
, California
 
Question:
Are there any ways home construction companies like mine can benefit from the holiday season or is just for malls and clothing stores?
Reply:
Alan – Definitely (we got a few questions from businesses like yours). Even if the holidays aren't your busy season use this time to stay top of mind with your customers and prospects. Some marketing steps you can take include sending greeting cards to your valued clients and thank them for their business over the past year. Be creative – include a top 10 list of your business successes/projects for the year and plans for the year ahead (the ones that matter to your customers of course)! Reach out to customers with a time-bound promotional offer that encourages them to contract with you before the year is out, giving you a good pipeline for the new year. Show your support for a local charity and let your customers know how they can participate and give too.
 
From:
Linda Mensah
Location:
Arlington, VA
 
Question:
How to build a list when you don't have one for corporations marketing?
Reply:
Hi Linda – To get some tips for building a mailing list, check out this blog: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matter...
 
From:
James Sanders
Location:
Sault Ste. Marie, MI
 
Question:
my relatives run a tree farm and obviously they make a lot business this time of year. are there specific places they should target ads to drive up business? how can they get an edge on competition?
Reply:
Hi James – Choosing a Christmas tree is a great family tradition. Radio ads or print ads in local newspapers will help raise awareness. To get an edge on the competition and make it a real family/community affair look for ways to make customers come for more than just their holiday tree – for example, for the two weekends after Thanksgiving bring in Father Christmas so families can have their picture taken with him or hire a moon bounce. Offer complimentary holiday treats and warm drinks. Look for ways to partner with complementary businesses. Offer tips for decorating the tree, and so on. Whatever they decide, use advertising and marketing to spread the word and get people along!
 
From:
Sam & Sue Beardsley
Location:
Zanesville, OH
 
Question:
Are the holiday a good time to launch a new business? We're thinking of opening a bakery (next year) and don't know the right time to open.
Reply:
Sam & Sue – The holidays can be a great time to start a business such as yours. Shoppers are in a buying mood and baked goods are especially popular - especially if you can create holiday lines, or offer them as gift services. There may also be an opportunity to provide catering services to local businesses. Use the time now to get to know your competition and other market factors that could impact your decision about when to open, SBA’s Size Up tool can really help with this: http://www.sba.gov/sizeup. Might be useful to talk to your local Small Business Development Center for some free advice: http://www.sba.gov/local-assistance
 
From:
Bryan F. Knowles
Location:
Jacksonville, Florida
 
Question:
How can we utilize social media to let consumers know what we have to offer to them?
Reply:
Hi Bryan – Social media is a great took to promote your products and services, but it’s also important to listen and interact with your fans on social media and generate community around your brand. You’ll find some useful tips in these blogs. This one can help you plan your social media activities: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/how-make-so... and lots more here to help you get started and you’re your following: http://www.sba.gov/search/apachesolr_search/social%20media?filters=type%...
 
From:
James Andrews
Location:
Springfield, mass
 
Question:
Hello my name is James Andrews,and I was wondering does.The SBA help small businesses put a marketing plan together.And if so is there a charge?Thanks James
Reply:
Hi James – SBA can help with this indirectly, its resource partners, including your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and SCORE, may be able to help. SBDCs provide training and seminars to help small businesses grow. SCORE pairs you with a business mentor (at no charge) and they can help with many areas of business, including helping with a marketing plan. More information here: http://www.sba.gov/local-assistance
 
From:
Maureen Elizabeth Mallon
Location:
Beach Haven West, NewJersey
 
Question:
I am a local New Jersey Photographer. One week prior to Hurricane Sandy I took approximately 90 shots of a small Christmas Tree I made on a getty and beach in Sa Girt New Jersey. I would like to sell 1 or 2 of my best shots in an 8 xs 10 matted frame signed and 4x6 prints affixed to blank 5x7 note cards with envelopes signed and suitable for framing. I lost my home and everything I owned in Hurricane Sandy and am trying to show within my photos and New Jersey will move on through the love and hope of the holidays. Do you have any suggestions on how I can market my cards for the holidays to reach the greatest amount of consumers. Thank you, Maureen Mallon, Beach Haven West, NJ
Reply:
Maureen – I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. What a great business idea. Have you tried contacting local media outlets/publications to share your story and showcase the pictures. Your story is inspiring and using PR is a great way to get “free” publicity (if you can write a brief synopsis of your story and email it to editors of local papers). If you have an online presence, use it to promote your photos, Facebook Pinterest, etc. are great for visual products like yours. Are there any local businesses who sell related products who would be willing to post a flyer to promote your work, or even sell them in their stores. Restaurants and other food service businesses are also another effective way for getting your products in front of people. Good luck.
 
From:
Femi Folami-Browne
Location:
Miami, FL
 
Question:
Our business (FL seashells and souvenirs) caters to winter visitors to Florida so that when others are marketing Fall items, we are actually in full summer mode. How do we best take advantage of this during the winter months to attract 'snowbirds' to our souvenir items.
Reply:
Femi – Although it’s the holidays, businesses that sell non-seasonal products can be just as successful as those that do. Think of ways to position your goods as suitable gifts. Offer a portion of the price of your product to charities and make people feel they contribute to this charity themselves. Try a special offer like "purchase one product and get the other at half price" or "purchase one product and get another free to offer as a gift". Decorate your store, offer a free gift wrapping service. These types of special offers can very easily increase your sales volume.
 
From:
Vonstone Wolfe
Location:
Atlanta, GA
 
Question:
How can a non-retail based small business derive any benefit from Small Business Saturday?
Reply:
Hi – Yes, definitely. Use this time to connect with your valued customers and let your customers know that you are participating. Let them know what’s new in your business, and give them a reason to do business with you once using a time-bound special offer that’s redeemable after Small Business Saturday is over. Resources here to help you market your business this Saturday: http://www.sba.gov/saturday
 
From:
Nancy
Location:
Baton Rouge,
 
Question:
how can i use the internte to market my company?
Reply:
Hi Nancy – there are many ways to use the Internet to market your company – a website, email marketing, blogs, social media, online advertising, and more – and all these should be used in a coordinated fashion to reach your target market with a consistent message. SBA offers free online training courses that can help you learn more: http://www.sba.gov/sba-learning-center. There are lots of blogs on the SBA Community that you can also get ideas from, take a look at a few here: http://www.sba.gov/search/apachesolr_search/%22online%20marketing%22?fil.... Your local Small Business Development Center, Women’s Business Development Center, and free mentoring services from SCORE can also help. http://www.sba.gov/local-assistance
 
From:
Jacob Powell
Location:
Fuquay-Varina, NC
 
Question:
Considering that many small businesses have a
Reply:
Hi Jacob – There are many things you can do, perhaps too many to cover here, but take a look at these blogs for some ideas, this one for holiday marketing: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/7-holiday-marketing-tips-limited-budget and this one for marketing on a budget: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-cents/... and here’s another one that has some useful social media tips from SBA’s expert panel at National Small Business Week earlier this year: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-pull-your-head-out-sand-and-use-s...
 
From:
Lucille Oka
Location:
Los Angeles, California
 
Question:
Isn't the middle of November 2012 a short amount of time to prepare for Christmas 2012 sales for new start ups?
Reply:
Lucille – Ideally you should start planning your holiday marketing strategy in advance, but many of us are just too busy! There are a lot of things you can do though. Use social media to highlight your holiday range; look for opportunities to bundle gift lines and focus on what you can do to make it easier for your customers to find the right gifts this year – offer gift suggestions, build urgency into your email marketing. Plan ahead now for Super Saturday (Dec 22) – this is the time to offer targeted promotions and incentives.
 
From:
Eddie O Griffin
Location:
Conyers, Georgia
 
Question:
What marketing advice would you give a commercial cleaning company going into the holiday?
Reply:
Hi Eddie – My advice would be to focus on what you do best – making everyone else’s life easier. The holidays are busy, people don’t have time to clean or their hosting parties and want their home to look great. Use messaging that talks about these kind of pain points and reach out to your existing customers and prospects using email, flyers and social media updates. Offer a “holiday cleaning special” that includes a little extra in terms of service, perhaps, at the same price. Don't forget to thank your existing customers, leave holiday cards and perhaps a token thank you gift for their custom the next time you visit.
 
From:
Alberto Calvo
Location:
Newton, MA
 
Question:
For a retail food store, what steps can I take to maximize traffic through my store?
Reply:
Hi Alberto – Food is a core part of holiday celebrations. Look for ways to showcase holiday food lines and come up with special offers, such as “buy one get one free” for your most popular items. Perhaps feature a different special offer each day – over the 12 days of Christmas. Make gift giving easy by organizing your store so that seasonal items are visible. Let customers know well in advance about your holiday hours. If you need help, hire a window dresser or merchandiser to give your store a holiday flair. One of the best ways to increase foot traffic is to host a contest or community service project or charity event. Keep it simple; just conduct a drawing for a free item. Write a story about it in a newsletter or create a post card and mail it out. Post the details on your web site and social media pages.
 
From:
Devita Davison
Location:
Detroit, Michigan
 
Question:
How can I capitalize on the increase traffic in my store during November and December. I'm looking for a creative way to capture my customer's information (i.e. phone numbers, email addresses, etc.) so that I can market to them (microtargeting) all year round.
Reply:
Devita – Great idea, now is a great time to do this (and be creative about it at the same time). Depending on your budget, you could offer to make a donation to charity for every email captured at point of sale. Hand out samples, holiday cookies, or other low cost giveaways in exchange for your customer’s email address/phone number. Hold a competition, raffle, etc. in exchange for these details. Have customer’s fill in their in-store wish list (with email/phone #) then follow up with them in a week to see announce any special offers, etc.
 
From:
Kizzy DeBlasio
Location:
Chicago, Il
 
Question:
Do you suggest giving a lot of samples out to your customers on Small business Saturday for marketing purposes?
Reply:
Hi Kizzy - That’s a great idea, but to be sure there’s something in it for you, offer these in exchange for an email address or phone number, then you can keep building your mailing list, then follow-up with your customer after the fact with additional offers, news, etc. If you have funds, drop the samples in a festive gift bag. Spread the word about the free sample event via email, social media, and a poster in your door. You could limit these giveaways to Small Business Saturday and Super Saturday (the last shopping day before Christmas) giving folks a real incentive to stop by on these busy shopping days.
 
From:
Mary
Location:
Brookfield, CT
 
Question:
I would like to know what would be the best social media to get involved with for my business? I find there is so many different ways that it takes you away from your target audience. Another question, How do you find your target audience? Thanks Mary
Reply:
Mary – That’s a great question that perplexes a lot of business owners. You really want to consider your business type and where your audience hangs out for, example, if you run a restaurant you should probably be on Facebook, but you should also be on Yelp. Start small, you don’t have to be everywhere. Give it time. Here are a few blogs that can help you find the right fit for your business: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matter... and http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-pull-your-head-out-sand-and-use-s...
 
From:
Sara Jackson
Location:
Punta Gorda, Florida
 
Question:
How should an independent realty use Small Business Saturday to promote their company? We already have a home tour scheduled for that afternoon, and want to know the best way to present our company as a family-owned small business. Thank you!
Reply:
Hi Sara – First, check out the resources on offer to help you promote your participation in Small Business Saturday: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small/. These include signage, press release templates, online logos/banners, and social media templates (blogs, Tweets, Facebook posts). Use these to showcase your participation as well as your business profile. Spend some time this week customizing these to your business needs. Could you include a special offer for all inquiries made on Small Business Saturday? What about hosting a seminar with real estate tips for potential buyers – either at your business premise or at a new home construction model home? Use Small Biz Saturday to promote the event.
 
From:
DENISE THOMAS
Location:
Millville, NJ
 
Question:
How do you stand out from bigger companies
Reply:
Denise – Small businesses have many advantages over larger companies - agility, customer service, and community affiliations, to name but a few. Together with your products and staff, these come together to create your brand or business value. Customers choose small businesses over larger businesses for these reasons alone. This blog offers some tips for identifying your unique business value and using that to better market your business: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matter...
 
From:
Patti Craig
Location:
Sandwich, Illinois
 
Question:
I am a fragrance consultant with Gold Canyon Candles. Our company has a 10% monthly promotion with a specific fragrance. Is it best to offer additional incentives and discounts of your own?
Reply:
Hi Patti – You know your customers best. I would suggest taking a look at what your most popular lines were during the year, or over the holidays last year and consider discounting or coming up with a special offer for these. “Buy one get 50%” off is a popular incentive.
 
From:
Brooke Parkhurst
Location:
Sperryville, Va
 
Question:
As a retailer (bakery & cafe) in a small rural county, I have trouble maximizing the number of people in my county who a)patronize my place and b)KNOW about my place ... advice? General question: when faced with an area of low walk in traffic, how do you increase your number of customers?
Reply:
Brooke – We’ve had a lot of questions just like yours. First, make sure your business hours synch with those of your shoppers. Are your windows eye-catching? Make sure your business is listed on location-based listings such as Google+ so that smart phones users can find you. Reach out to local businesses, church groups, etc. leave promotional flyers at the front desks of willing businesses. One of the best ways to get foot traffic is to hold an event – whether it’s a baking class, a community or charity event, or a contest – such as a free drawing (ask folks to drop their business cards). If you host an event, market it in a newsletter, local paper, etc. Offer incentives for first-time visitors – “get a free pastry with any coffee this Saturday”! – and test a new incentive each week.
 
From:
Michele Viehl
Location:
Croton-on-Hudson, New York
 
Question:
(You can ignore this if you've already answered my similar earlier question. Not sure how long the queue is or how it's prioritized.) Please let us know if/how we can we save this chat. Everyone's questions are so relevant to my own startup, and your answers are so good I'd like to refer back to the details for full benefit. Thanks!
Reply:
Michele, Yes - a transcript will be available after the web chat is finished. This page will stay live after we're over but the transcript will be posted here: http://www.sba.gov/sba-learning-center
 
From:
sophia Parker
Location:
Gaithersburg, MD
 
Question:
How best to send out holiday newsletters that will catch the customer's attention? S
Reply:
Hi Sophia – Great question. This blog offers some tips that should help: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matter.... Also think about ways to use the newsletter to showcase product lines, gift suggestions, etc. – it’s about making it easy for consumers to find the right gifts, in one or two clicks. Perhaps one email is about finding gifts for Dad, the next, “10 gifts under $50” and so on, showcase any promotions you have. Link to your blog or offer a useful free download. Build urgency into your subject lines “There’s still time…”. Think of ways to drive people offline and into your business, remind them of any deals you have. Good luck.
 
From:
Melissa D.
Location:
, Georgia
 
Question:
Hi Caron. In response to Valerie's question, how do you suggest we find local sponsored events in order to participate and showcase our own business. Other than the local Chamber of Commerece, how else can we find these events?
Reply:
Melissa - take a look at this blog for some ideas. http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/sponsoring-or-hosting-event-holiday-s...
 
From:
Larry Raimondi
Location:
Islamorada, Florida
 
Question:
What is the lowest cost but best form of advertising?
Reply:
Larry – Word of mouth. Which means ensuring your products are great and your customer service is top notch. The rest is free! If you are looking for a formal advertising campaign, start by researching where your target market is and what media influences them. You may determine that where you place an ad isn't the cheapest option, but if it connects you with the right buyer, then your return will be much higher.
 
From:
Lita smith
Location:
Racine, Wi
 
Question:
How to write business plan.
Reply:
Hi – Check out this new online tool from SBA “Build a Business Plan” – it walks you through the steps you need to take in an online template, you can save it and come back to it as your build it. You can also download it and print it out when you need to. (http://www.sba.gov/business-plan/1)
 
From:
Pat Lobenstein
Location:
Greenville, Michigan
 
Question:
This year I have gone into business with a sole proprietorship. I am a calligrapher and editor. I've finished my business plan and want to expand the marketing portion. I am visiting local stationary and card stores to promote my business. What other methods would you suggest?
Reply:
Hi Pat - Since your work is graphical in nature, you might consider starting a Facebook or Pinterest page or start a blog to share and promote your work – if you have examples of holiday designs, post them here. What about a time-limited special offer to new clients? How about partnering up with some of the stores you have visited to cross-promote each other’s services? Networking is also very important for new business owners, your local Small Business Development Center is a great place to start networking with other businesses. http://www.sba.gov/local-assistance
 
From:
Stephanie Benedetto
Location:
New York, NY
 
Question:
Can you please discuss pricing strategies we should consider around the holidays. Thanks!
Reply:
Stephanie - (lots of questions on this)Price has often been considered a key driver of holiday sales, look at your market and tailor your pricing strategy to it – make a list of pricing categories in your business – think about who buys them (friends or family members) and consider setting the budget to appeal to those people. Consider bundling lower prices items into gift sets. Gift certificates are also a great pricing strategy to catch last minute shoppers – don’t just go for money certificates, offer them for very specific purchases such as a family portrait. Offer free gift wrapping or sell it as a separate service. Look at which high margin lines have holiday appeal too and bring those to the forefront. Just a few ideas that might help.
 
From:
Khristi Gibson
Location:
Baltimore, Md
 
Question:
What are some ways to market your online business this holiday season?
Reply:
Hi Khristi – There are many things you can do to stand out online. Make sure your site is festive with holiday graphics. Use social media creatively – create a dedicated holiday Pinterest board to highlight products, encourage others to add pins. Use Facebook to post colorful images of your products, staff and any holiday activities. Write blog posts about your services and why people need them now – you have the perfect gifts/services, etc. that meets their needs. Run festive specials and link them to an email campaign. Use banner art to display your specials/top holiday lines. Use shipping deadlines as a motivator.
 
From:
Alethea Hernandez
Location:
Richardson, Texas
 
Question:
What is the most effective subject line to keep our emails out of spam?
Reply:
Alethea - There are no silver bullets here but avoid over use of punctuation (!!!), words like "free" and "special offer". Use your subject line to tease, you want to give something away but not too much. This blog has tips about subject line content: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matter...
 
From:
Valerie Gasiewicz
Location:
Buffalo, NY
 

 Hi all - thanks for joining us today, I hope you found it useful. Remember, many of the answers apply across industries. Be sure to check out SBA's resources to help you market your business and participate in Small Business Saturday on Nov 24. http://www.sba.gov/saturday Good luck, thanks and happy holidays. Caron