Your Quickfire Guide to Cringe-Free Holiday Marketing

December is upon us, and IDK about you, but my inbox, letterbox and brainbox is already full to bursting with folks urging me to snag a holiday deal. Problem is, after a while all these marketing campaigns start merging into one, don't you think?

How can a theme help you stand out, when everyone else is on the same bandwagon? And when you and your competitors are all jostling to use the same festive language, headline formulae and subject lines too... well you just wouldn't let that happen at any other time of year.

Call me a Grinch, but most Holiday Marketing Campaigns make me wanna hurl. Check out my top tips to make your business stand out this December.

Call me a Grinch, but most Holiday Marketing Campaigns make me wanna hurl. Check out my top tips to make your business stand out this December.

Maybe I'm a bit of a Grinch. Being blessed with a modern, ‘blended’ family means that Christmas for me always involves lots of travelling round to different households and not a lot of rest. (Except for last year, where my partner and I ate wasabi peas and instant noodles on a ferry in Thailand.) I also see myself as a minimalist, and believe in valuing unforgettable experiences over expensive physical 'stuff' - Maybe that's why I love working with service-based businesses so much!

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that most 'holiday marketing' makes me wanna hurl. So, I put this guide together to help creative business owners like you avoid the tacky cliches and use this time to stand out instead. Here goes.

1. Ditch the "Happy Holidays" B2B Greeting cards
Yup. How many greeting cards did you get from businesses last year? How many of those do you actually remember? What about e-cards? Actually, don't get me started on e-cards. Thing is, unless your business's Christmas Cards are as good as these, or you take the time to hand write a highly personalised message, then they're hardly going to be a talking point. Two words; Recycling Bin.

What to do instead:
Create a "Welcome back" card for your client list instead + pack it with good vibes and even some valuable tips for the new year. Getting back to it after the holidays requires extra effort, and your customers will appreciate your thoughtful boost when they get back to the office.

2. If you're going to do a '12 days of Christmas' or 'Advent Calendar' campaign... for the love of gravy please make it good.
Like, actually good. As in good for your customers and followers, rather than just good for you and your email list. Your customers aren't stoopid. They can see straight through a thinly-veiled slightly panick-stricken data harvest just as well as you can, so give them some credit!

Try this:
Use this as an opportunity to celebrate your clients. Share their wins, promote their business and spread the feelgood factor - without demanding anything in return. There, that's more festive already.

3. Only share timely and relevant promotions
"30% Holiday Discount", "Buy One Get One before Christmas", "$10 off every session in December" - WHY THOUGH? The final run-up to The Big C is rife with irrelevant offers and promos. Don't let yours be as mindless and automatic as your competitors - be the strategic business owner I know you are!

Ask Yourself:
”What does my ideal client need from me now, more than ever, at this time of year?”

  • If you're a masseur, perhaps your clients have more shoulder stress than usual from carrying heavy shopping bags? Why not offer an express 30-min Xmas Shopping Relief service for a limited time?

  • If you're a lifestyle photographer, some of your clients are probably low-key panicking about their January content, or lack thereof! How about setting up a 'New Year Content Kickstart' shoot, and invite some lapsed customers you haven't seen lately, with plenty of reassurance that 'it's not too late to get profesh content for January'.

  • If you're a copywriter, maybe your clients are silently struggling to launch that new website in January like they planned. Why not reach out with an offer to review their copy with a special speedy turnaround?

    Put yourself in your customer's shoes and see what you can come up with!

4. Leave Festive Puns TF out of your headlines and subject lines
Ok, this one’s actually pretty serious. If I read one more headline that starts with "Tis the season..." or "All I Want for Christmas is..." then I think I'm just going to quit this thing. It may well be "the most wonderful time of the year", but there's really no need to put it in your subject line or header. Let everyone else do that (they will, don't worry).

Your headlines and subject lines are the most important part of your entire blog post / email / article / Instagram post. If you don't give your reader a compelling reason to read what's next, they won't. “Tis the season” might seem cute, but it's not giving the reader any hint of what they stand to gain from reading your content.

(*Whilst we're here, don't even think about a "New Year, New anything" campaign in January. It will be deleted.)

Do this instead:
Write your headlines just as you would the rest of the year - by selling the key benefit(s) of whatever comes next.
How do you do that?

  • Set a timer for 15 minutes and make yourself write down at least 25-30 headlines.

  • Give yourself permission to write down whatever TF comes into your head without judgement or self-editing.

  • Accept that most of them will suck, and that's ok.

  • Get in the flow of and a few gems will pop out of your brain, I promise.

  • Make sure it contains one of your relevant keywords and wham-bam you're ready to go.

5. And under NO Circumstances send out a branded desk calendar
Sorry Vistaprint, but you're the worst. I get that nans and grandads love personalised calendars from their grandkids, but can we please just ban small businesses from making these totally cringe, kinda entitled marketing props?

If it's got your logo on it, it's not a gift.

Switch the vibe around:
Instead of "Hey, you should remember us every day" try the "Hey, I remember the details that are important to you” approach. How? Find out your top 10 customers' favourite artist, illustrator, celeb crush, area of natural beauty, or breed of goat and send them that calendar with a handwritten post-it instead. Then watch your renewal rates go through the roof.

So those are my top tips for avoiding eye-roll-free, forgettable marketing campaigns this December. To quickly re-cap:

  • Trade in your Christmas card for a welcome back card

  • Celebrate your clients, not yourself

  • Tis not the season to data harvest like a d-bag

  • Make your promotions ultra-relevant

  • Festive puns in your headlines and subject lines are BANNED.

  • So are branded desk calendars

  • If it's got your logo on it, it's not a gift

    Got something to add? Hit me up in the comments with your ideas and suggestions 👇

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