I’m not a big fan of Christmas and Year-end Holiday cards. They are not only expensive, but boring and predictable.

Every year I look for creative marketing ideas that won’t break the bank, but will break through the clutter that my poor clients are dealing with.

This year, I thought it would be fun to share some of the creative ideas I’ve found along the way.

1. Dress up your website or blog logo like" /> 12 Low-Cost Marketing Ideas for the Ho-Ho-Ho-lidays! - Small Business Trends

12 Low-Cost Marketing Ideas for the Ho-Ho-Ho-lidays!

I’m not a big fan of Christmas and Year-end Holiday cards. They are not only expensive, but boring and predictable.

Every year I look for creative marketing ideas that won’t break the bank, but will break through the clutter that my poor clients are dealing with.

This year, I thought it would be fun to share some of the creative ideas I’ve found along the way.

1. Dress up your website or blog logo like Google.  Do it not just for the Year-end Holiday season – but for EVERY holiday that comes a long. This idea is not only easy, but fun and will bring a smile to your web and blog visitors’ faces. If you don’t have a designer of your own – use go here and have them do a series of logos with fun holiday flair. Do you use Twitter.com, the social media site? Then take it one step further, and decorate your Twitter background, too. Go to TwitterBacks, download the specs or existing backgrounds, customize one with your own design. Then submit it to the TwitterBacks gallery of Twitter backgrounds, giving you a little extra marketing visibility.

2. Try Personalizing or Customizing. These days there are so many fun and interesting ways to personalize just about anything.

  • How about personalizing postage stamps with your logo or a personal picture? Take idea #1 (a holiday version of your logo) and put that on a stamp. If you do decide to send holiday cards (OK, we understand), use your personalized stamps. Don’t stop there — use the personalized stamps for sending out invoices and other customer communications during the season.
  • Get a necktie or scarf with your logo image all over it, and wear that same tie or scarf to every holiday event. You can become a walking brand at holiday parties.
  • You can also personalize cookies, candy and chocolate. For example, if your customers are chocolate lovers, M&M’s will let you pick a color and write your own short message on the hard candy shell, and Hershey’s will write a personal message on your very own bar of chocolate. Or how about a giant fortune cookie with a customized message inside? Why not bake your own cookies? There is NOTHING like receiving something handmade, it shows your customers you’ve taken brain time and energy for THEM.
  • Create water bottles or other beverages with your logo and/or team photo on it.

3. Meet Your customers half-way: One auto shop owner told customers to bring their own oil and washer fluid and they would change their oil at a reduced rate. Take a look at your business process – what opportunities do you have to save your customers money by letting them “contribute” to the work? I thought of this one when a client was telling me about a restaurant where you cook your own food. I remember thinking – why go out? But that particular restaurant was selling the experience and ambiance rather than the food.

4. Create a Video Card on your site or on YouTube. YouTube videos have become a popular form of cost-effective promotion. Why not pull your group together and sing a Holiday Song, or take a look at HP’s take on this idea. Notice their subtle use of product placement. If this sounds like an idea you’d like to try, Microsoft has put together a little how-to article on how to make your own video quickly and easily.

5. Give your best customers a digital picture frame loaded with images of the team that usually services them. Create a group shot in the lobby and take some candid shots of individuals around the company – making the product your customer uses or taking a call. You can also include photos from your annual customer appreciation event if you have one or any other pictures you may have taken at their locations with their people.

6. Create 12-days of “your product”.  Or maybe create a product or service of the month. Feature a product or service every day or every week during the Holidays — or every month throughout the year. Many of your customers don’t even KNOW about — let alone purchase — all the different products and services you have to offer. Companies in the food business use this strategy a lot; think beer-of-the-month, cheese-cake of the-month, or coffee of the month. But if you remember the “Book-of-the-Month” clubs, then you know that you can use this with many other products; Cigars or teddy bears are just a few. There aren’t too many companies offering services that do this, but I think some of these might be interesting: maid service companies could feature an extra cleaning detail each month; trainers or consultants can offer featured webinars, reports or newsletters.

7. Write a free (industry specific) downloadable Holiday Survival guide for your customers. We’re marketing experts — so we’re giving you this one! What are some tips and tricks you know because you’re an expert and an insider in your business that your customers would really appreciate? Try some of these templates for your e-book.

8. Write your own “Holiday Story.”  With so many low-cost photo book options out there, it’s a no-brainer to hire a writer, take some pictures (or use your employees’ kids to create illustrations) around a holiday story. You can develop a story that features some of your core corporate values wrapped around the holidays and perhaps some “case study” examples that not only feature your heroic capabilities and Goodwill toward men, but if you put a humorous spin on it – will be a keepsake AND a promotional item for your customers. How about some customized cartoons or drawings? For instance, Blurb is a tool that will let you create your very own high-end book. At just $12.95 each, this is a wonderful keepsake for customers.

9. Create a real-life or a digital “Holiday Tree” decorated with your organization’s features and benefits. You can use little snowflakes printed with goodwill messages, low-cost decorations that convey a message or even edible goodies. Do this for your best customers or perhaps even some of those prospects that have been on the fence. To really save money, go to your local office supply store and purchase Inkjet or LaserJet pre-scored business card paper, then create a design that’s a combination of text messages and pictures. Print them off, put in a hole punch and a ribbon, hang on the tree — VOILA — a daily reminder to your customers on why they choose you. If you’ve got pictures of you and your customers that you’ve taken over the year — throw some of those in there. If you’re not that crafty — then create your ornament cards digitally on Moo.com and they’ll be shipped to you. All you have to do is hole punch and hang.

10. Commission a special holiday greeting. Some of you just can’t resist sending out holiday cards. So if you must, make it a special and unique card. Commission a humorous cartoon through Andertoons, for example. Then once you have the image, use one of the online custom card-making applications like MyCardMaker.com, Zazzle or Moo to create your card. Or talk with your local printer and have them professionally printed in your own backyard.

11. Create a Customer Recipe Collection. Instead of collecting recipes from friends and family, let your customers know that they are part of your family by including THEIR favorite recipes mingled in with yours. This will not only be a promotional tool, but a keepsake that people will cherish for a long time. Hp has made this whole process painless by providing an easy recipe collection how-to article to get you started.

12. Holiday Cards and Invitations. Now, if you really insist on sending Holiday Cards, here is a very low-cost alternative. Simply download this PDF template and type in your personal message, and then print it out on a nice heavy weight card paper and you’re all done. And if you’re having a holiday get together for your office or any club or organization you belong to, try this easy template for a holiday party invitation  that’s ideal to distribute, post or send.

When it comes to making an impact during the Year-end Holidays, even smaller businesses can run with the best of them. Whatever level of effort and/or money you want to put into holiday marketing, there’s something to choose from. Start now while you still have plenty of lead time so you can make sure your business is top of mind with customers as we end the year and start a new one.

Now it’s your turn. Tell us your creative, low-cost or no-cost marketing ideas! Better yet, if you’ve got pictures or videos, send them in or share a link with us. Just enter your information in the comments section below.

* * * * *

Ivana Taylor About the Author: Ivana Taylor has spent over 20 years helping industrial organizations and small business owners get and keep their ideal customers. Her company is Third Force and she writes a blog called Strategy Stew. She is co-author of the book “Excel for Marketing Managers.”


Ivana Taylor

Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

31 Reactions

  1. Hi Ivana,

    Excellent post. I like your point 2 the best. In the past we have done personalized wine bottles (working with a local winery) and personalized cookie tins where we took the names of our top 50 customers and gave them wine and cookies with their name on it. It was a huge hit with the customers. It is a double win for us because our company prints labels and it is a way to showcase our label printing capabilities.

    Peter Renton

  2. Mark Anderson

    Hey, thanks for the mention!

    I normally send out my year-end gift around Thanksgiving. It’s non-denominational, it’s about thanking, and it gets me in ahead of most.

    In recent years I’ve sent out custom hot sauces with my cartoons on the bottles (“Thanks for making this my hottest year ever!”), chocolate bars with my cartoons imprinted in them (“Thanks for making this my sweetest year ever!), and other stuff like that.

    This year my customer base has grown quite a bit, so I had to find something cost-effective, but creative, but I’m not going to give it away here… πŸ˜‰

    Great ideas, BTW!

  3. Wow, there are some great inventive ideas in there, thanks for sharing!

  4. Good tips…I usually try to theme the website for the holidays, I get good feedback when I do. Just for fun I’ll theme it for the not so conventional holidays too (flag day, presidents day, etc), that usually gets the best responses!


  5. These are some really good ideas! They’ve got me thinking of what I can do for the holidays… I’d like to do something dog oriented. Maybe I could put a recipe for homemade dog treats on my website.

    It might sound a little off the wall but my best sellers are dog and cat paw car magnets! I bet some of my customers might like them!

    Jo Anne

  6. great, practical tips for marketing in today’s market. Business owners are always looking for ideas – thanks. #3 was my favorite. I can appreciate is as a business owner and especially as a consumer.

  7. Wow. Thank you for sharing them all, Ivana. Perfect for bootstrappers like me. πŸ™‚

  8. Anita Campbell

    Hi Ivana, now you’ve got me checking out Moo.com. I’ve heard you talk about it before — sounds like a great service. Love the M&Ms idea, too. Anita

  9. Great ideas! Another one that you reminded me of is Hallmark Software that allows you to create multimedia cards and send them via email. I have it on my computer, and will try and create something personal for each of my clients.

  10. We have started using Send Out Cards: http://www.sendoutcards.com. they have a big selection of holiday cards, either postcards or greeting cards. You go online, personalize cards and they even will be mailed for you. The envelope looks hand-addressed (not exactly, but enough that it catches the recipient’s attention).

  11. Hi Everyone! What wondrful ideas you’re adding. I want to thank @Andertoons for making the point that sending something on the “off” holiday or non=traditional holidays is a wonderful idea – i.e. Thanksgiving or maybe 4th of July? The point is to communicate with your audience, build a little bit of a relationship and be authentic! I’m going to be checking out some of these great links – thanks!

  12. Really good ideas here. I’m a little ahead of myself, but last week I changed my blog graphics to a winter theme. I really liked the idea of having a nice holiday greeting video posted on your site too. That’s a nice idea to connect with your visitors on a personal level. Thank you for these great tips!

  13. Martin Lindeskog


    Regarding your point, 4. Create a Video Card on your site or on YouTube.

    I will create a special X-mas / New Year’s greeting with a video email system called Talk Fusion. You will find a light version of the video on my website. With Talk Fusion you could use holiday templates, your own logo and graphical profile if you want. It will become very personalized, compared with other generic frames like YouTube and Google videos. YouTube has a great viral effect and you could use that too. But If you really want to get across to your recipients with a personal twist and flavor, I recommend you to check out Talk Fusion and other personalized video email systems.

  14. Laurel Delaney

    You go girl! You can’t beat these brilliant bootstrapping ideas! Will share with the best of the best. And happy holidays!

  15. I have always dreaded sending out holiday cards — just too much work. About two weeks ago I discovered a service called SendOutCards.com that allows me to send greeting cards through the mail, but do it from my computer. The cards are highly customizable and there are about 13,000 of them to choose from. I am sending out a lot of cards — not just for holidays, but birthdays, thank yous, nice to meet you, etc. I think this is a big deal in terms of retention and referral marketing.

  16. Ivana Taylor

    @Michael York – I love this idea Michael – I love the convenience and the fact that you’re sending them more often.

  17. I really liked your article. You shared some great resources and we are always looking for new and creative ways to reach our audience. Thanks for sharing


  18. Ivana, mahalo for all the great tips!
    Our customers love sending out their own “private label” candles for any occasion. We put their logo, art, message, or image on our candles for a top-of-mind gift that lasts longer than the traditional card. The most popular are our Maui Girl Surf scents. They smell like “Hawaii in a candle…”! Check it out at http://www.SparxCandles.com

    Ally | http://www.SparxCandles.com

  19. Awesome ideas! We plan to dress up our website this year for the holidays – almost like decorating the tree. πŸ™‚

    Bethany at Natural Beauty Jewelry

  20. Great ideas! I think I will try to Christmas theme my website too. Sounds fun and exciting. Thank you for all the great items you’ve written not just this one.

  21. A cool alternative is Sharenik.com (http://www.sharenik.com) which allows you to share up to 15 of your own photos and videos with up to 500 friends. You can add a personal greeting, see who views your card and gather user comments. Check out Sharenik’s homepage for a cute video holiday card sample.

  22. I’ve had this section on my online print on demand store since I opened 3 years ago.


    You are your own best advertisement! Think outside the box. Put your domain name on everything you can not just business cards. Wear it on a t-shirt, have your kids wear it on a baseball cap, put it on your car in the form of a sticker or a license plate holder!

  23. advertise4less.net

    Great Post! These are really some great ideas on ways to save money marketing. I really like number 9. Not only is that original, but totally creative.

    Amanda Warner

  24. We offer a unique and helpful service at Amazingmail.com. Go online, create a card in a variety of sizes and send out in quantities as low as 1… yup that’s a one.

    As soon as you completed your card or cards it hits the mail the next business day. Go online now and sign up for some free cards (use the code FACEBK).

    It’s great for corporate and personal holiday cards.

    Dean at Amazingmail πŸ™‚

  25. The story idea works all year round. The best marketing ideas always package a story. More importantly, the best brands really do have a story behind them that is easy to pass along through buzz.

  26. What great ideas!!! You are right, year end gifts are typically very boring and predictable. You have some very unique ideas here, I especially liked the “12 days of your product”. It still peaks the customer’s interest, which is what everyone is trying to do around the holidays anyway. I also like choosing different website themes for different times of the year. It adds something fresh and new to your site!

  27. Yes, I agree that gifts get old and it is always nice when you can spice it up a little bit with something new.

  28. Great ideas which work on all seasons.

  29. There is also a customer appreciation program at customerrave.com that send personalized gifts, wrapped in personalized wrapping paper, with a variably image personalized card. You have to see it, words dont quite do justice. Or just go with the gift wrapped in the personalized wrapping paper at giftskins.com

  30. Great post! These ideas could be used for a variety of holidays and special event other than Christmas and New Years.

  31. For the creation of marketing materials and holiday greetings, the Brother Creative Center is the best solution. With options to customize your creation with logos and arts you want, the holiday is a great opportunity to improve your brand equity.

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