[2021 Guide] Holiday Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

It’s that time of year again! The holidays are coming and businesses across the country are gearing up for this all-important period in the retail calendar.

The significance of this time of year for small businesses is hard to overstate. For many brands, the period between Thanksgiving and New Years’ accounts for as much as 15-25% of their annual revenue. What’s more, this period gives brands a golden opportunity to shore up their reputations and earn new, loyal customers through unique offers and standout experiences. After all, people don’t just spend more at this time of year, they also buy from businesses that they wouldn’t usually buy from because they’re looking for gifts for their friends and family.

It’s crucial that you approach the upcoming holiday season with a clear plan for how you’ll capitalize on the surge in consumer spending. Companies that head into the holiday season blindly will fall behind the competition. And since every other clued-up business will be riding the same wave, you can expect that competition to be pretty fierce. But, as we’ll see, with a little creativity and preparation leading up to the holidays, there’s no reason you can’t draw a big crowd and supercharge those sales even on a shoestring budget.

Below, we’ll run you through 15 proven holiday marketing tactics to help you plan your own money-making holiday campaign. So let’s get to it.

1. Develop a holiday gift guide

Online gift guides give shoppers a quick and simple way to home in on suitable gifts for their loved ones. They can be a godsend for people who are short on time and have a long list of friends, relatives, and colleagues to buy gifts for.

A good gift guide leads the customer to the right gift idea as quickly as possible. One way to do this is to categorize gifts by personality (after all, we generally have the gift receiver’s personality in mind when looking for a gift they’d like). So instead of just giving users a big list of ideas, consider splitting the guide up into ideas for different kinds of people, ages, and interests. 

2. Team up with influencers in your niche

Influencer marketing has become one of the most effective ways for retail brands to generate positive word-of-mouth and acquire new customers. By 2022, it’s estimated that the annual spend

on influencer marketing will hit $15 billion, as more and more brands direct more of their media budgets to influencer endorsement and product placement.

Why is this approach to marketing so effective? It boils down to the simple fact that people tend to trust the people they know more than they trust salespeople. For many of us, familiar social media personalities feel like they’re our friends and so we’re inclined to take their recommendations more seriously.

As a small business, the best way to approach influencer marketing is to team up with “micro-influencers”. These are people with fewer than 10,000 followers, but whose audience overlaps significantly with your target market.

3. Give the gift of gift wrapping!

Festive shopping can get pretty hectic and so many customers will pounce on any extra services you offer that can make their lives easier. If you run a retail business, it’s worth thinking about offering gift wrapping to your customers this holiday season. Doing so will let customers take care of two tasks at the same time, and may well spark a few positive discussions about your brand when the gift receiver asks how their gift came to be so beautifully packaged! 

4. Create a memorable unboxing experience

The joy of giving and receiving gifts is as much about the presentation as it is about the product itself. And with the rise of consumer-generated “unboxing videos”—which regularly receive millions of hits on YouTube—an increasing number of retail and e-commerce brands are doing all they can to make the experience of unpacking their products as exciting as possible.  

To create a memorable unboxing experience, your brand packaging should be sturdy, easy to open, and you should try to include delightful little flourishes wherever possible. This might mean using premium quality packaging materials, branded stickers, and including handwritten, personalized notes for the gift recipient.

A thoughtful and well-designed unboxing experience will keep your brand top-of-mind the next time a gift-giving celebration comes round, but it will also compel many of those receiving the gift package to share the special moment with their followers on social media, thereby adding to the buzz around your brand. 

5. Run a contest or giveaway on social media

Contests are a fun and cost-effective way to attract new followers and generate hype around your offers during the holiday season. 

The key to getting maximum exposure is to design a contest that calls on participants to engage with your social media accounts for a chance to win a prize. There are countless ways to structure your contest: you could opt for a classic “comment to win” contest, a “most-liked photo caption wins” contest, or ask followers to share the contest with a friend to be entered into the prize draw. Just keep the rules simple and make sure it’s clear to your followers what they are.

6. Update your visual identity to channel the festive spirit 

What better way to ensure your brand exudes festive vibes than to give your website and social media profiles a mini-makeover for the holiday season.

Whether you’re gearing up for Halloween, Black Friday, Christmas, or the New Year, it’s a great idea to decorate your online platforms accordingly, just as you would in a brick-and-mortar store. Just be careful not to introduce these seasonal updates too soon—no one wants to hear Christmas carols in July!  

You can switch up the design of your website and social platforms to mark the holiday in question by updating your profile pictures, headers, background images, page elements, and font colors. You can also get playful with your CTAs, on-page greetings, and social media copy to create a more festive atmosphere.

7. Use dedicated landing pages for seasonal promotions

If you plan on driving visitors to your website for a specific holiday promotion, it’s a good idea to direct them to a dedicated landing page that you build exclusively for that promotion.

Unlike typical web pages, dedicated landing pages do away with anything that could potentially distract visitors from what’s on the page in front of them, such as navigation bars and links to other content. For this reason, dedicated landing pages are especially effective at driving conversions, yielding conversion rates as high as 20% compared to around 1 – 3% for regular web pages.

8. Embrace the power of a countdown timer

Using a countdown timer is one of the best ways to create the kind of urgency and exclusivity that gets your website visitors to take action now. By giving shoppers the unmistakable signal that your seasonal promotion will be short-lived, a countdown timer is an incredibly useful tool for boosting your holiday sales.

Don’t forget, you can easily add a countdown timer to your home and landing pages using the Leadpages drag-and-drop page builder.

9. Make the most of your email list

Email marketing is one of the most effective channels for driving shoppers to your store at any time of year, allowing you to benefit from the fact that you’re reaching out to subscribers who—by definition—have already expressed interest in your brand.

Indeed, many of those in your email list are your existing customers, and existing customers are the best customers, spending on average 31% more than new ones.

So it’s a smart move to place email at the forefront of your holiday marketing campaign, and let your subscribers know of your upcoming events, special offers, and any other holiday-related announcements that they might find valuable. Just be sure to temper your promotional emails with some heartfelt well-wishes and let your subscribers know that you’re grateful for their continued support.

10. Run gift card promotions

A gift card promotion is a time-honored method used by businesses to increase their revenue over the holidays. Since gift cards are instantly redeemable and small enough to slot into a greeting card, they are especially appealing to shoppers who are either not sure what to get their loved ones, or who have simply left it to the last minute to get them something!

Whether you offer physical or digital gift cards, be sure to clearly advertise them on your web store and promote them through your digital channels. If you want to entice more customers to buy gift cards during the holiday season, consider offering them at a discounted price or offer a free voucher (of lesser value) with the purchase of another voucher.

11. Show some love with printed holiday cards

We’ve already mentioned the value of letting your customers know that you appreciate their business at this time of year. Indeed, many businesses choose to do this by sending their customers printed holiday cards.

However, since modern technology has made large-scale card printing and delivery pretty effortless, brands now have to try a little harder for such gestures to really make an impression on their customers.

The best way to get around this is to make sure that the cards you send have a genuinely personal touch. This may involve writing your customer’s name by hand or adding a short personalized note to the card. Of course, your ability to do this will depend on what information you have in your customer database and on how large your customer base is. But the point is that the more personalized your card, the less likely it is that your customer will view it as a cynical, empty gesture.

12. Make sure your website is optimized for mobile

One of the most effective ways to improve your customers’ shopping experience is to optimize your website for mobile use. 

As of 2021, 54% of total e-commerce sales take place via mobile, and so it’s now more important than ever to ensure that your website visitors are guaranteed a user-friendly journey irrespective of what kind of device they’re using. You can test how well your website performs on mobile by using Google’s free mobile-friendly test tool.

Fortunately, all pages built with Leadpages are mobile responsive and automatically adapt to the device being used to view them.

3. Host a flash sale

Flash sales, or time-limited offers, have become a staple marketing technique for ecommerce companies during the holidays. This is simply because the time-sensitivity of a flash sale is very effective at getting customers to take action in order to avoid missing out on a great deal. 

A flash sale can last an entire weekend or be over within just a few hours. As a rule, the shorter amount of time the sale lasts, the more your customers will feel compelled to act quickly. Announcing your flash deal at the last minute will also intensify the urge in people’s minds that right now is the time to cash in on the limited time offer. Around a week before the sale, it’s a good idea to tease your followers that something special will soon be announced and that they should keep an eye out for updates. This will generate more buzz and ramp up the anticipation ahead of the sale.

14. Offer exclusive holiday gift bundles

As a small business, offering big seasonal discounts and free giveaways may not always be a viable option. However, even businesses with the smallest holiday marketing budget can generate more interest in their products by putting together special gift bundles.

The beauty of a gift bundle is that it gives customers the satisfaction of getting more bang for their buck while simultaneously helping you boost your average order value. You can maximize the appeal of your gift bundles by offering multiple options to cater to different tastes and budgets.

15. Reassure customers with a special holiday returns policy

We’ve all had the experience of buying a product online only to discover that it doesn’t quite meet our needs or expectations when we receive it. This is especially true when we’re shopping during the holidays, where every gift purchased increases the odds that at least one of them won’t measure up to the standards of the gift recipient.

Of course, customers are fully aware of this possibility and will look favorably upon any business that offers a fair and reasonable returns policy. Bear in mind that many customers will start their Christmas shopping early, and so a standard 30 days return policy may not provide a big enough window for items to be returned. It’s therefore worth offering a more flexible return policy during the holidays to give customers that extra breathing space. For instance, you could extend the returns window to 60 days after the original purchase, or allow returns to be made throughout the month of January.

Are you ready for 2021 holiday marketing?

The thought of preparing your business for the busy holiday season can seem a little daunting, but there’s no doubt that the sooner you start planning your holiday marketing campaigns, the better your chances of success. 

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