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



holiday marketing tips

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 low cost marketing ideas for the holidays.

Here are my two criteria for holiday marketing ideas:

  • Inexpensive – They have to be low cost. They can’t break the bank.
  • Creative – Yet, they have to break through the clutter that my poor clients are dealing with. So they have to be creative in order to stand out.

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 like Google

Decorate your website for the holidays.

Do it not just for the year-end Holiday season – but for EVERY holiday that comes along.

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 for social media? Then take it one step further, and decorate your Twitter background, too. You can do the same with your Facebook cover image. Lots of graphic design tools like Canva and PicMonkey help you make a social media cover image easily.

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. 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.  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? And make it an experience, rather than the same old, same old.

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

YouTube videos have become a popular form of cost-effective promotion.  You can also load it on your website.  And send a link in an email.

Why not pull your group together and sing a Holiday Song. Do some subtle product placement or shout outs to customers.

Or commission something on Fiverr.com.  You can get one in a week.

5. Give A Personalized Team Picture

Here’s one of the most low cost marketing ideas for the holidays. Simply take a picture.

Create a group shot in the lobby. Or create a collage using candid shots of individuals around the company. Show team members “in action” – 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 include any other pictures you may have taken at events.

This helps create a personal bond between people in your company and your customers.

6. Create 12 Days of “Your Product”

Create a special promotion with 12 days of your product or service.  Or create a product 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 Holiday Survival Guide

I like low cost marketing ideas for the holidays that are integral to your business.

Creating a guide is great for any kind of consultant or services business.  It shows off your capabilities. We’re marketing experts — so we’re giving you this one!

Create a downloadable guide for your customers.

What are some tips and tricks you know because you’re an expert and an insider in your industry?  Think about what your customers would really appreciate learning.  What are questions they commonly ask?

Place these ideas into an e-book or PDF format.

8. Write Your own “Holiday Story”

Hire a writer, and 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. Perhaps include some “case study” examples that feature your heroic capabilities. Put a humorous spin on it. It will be keepsake AND a promotional item for your customers.

For example, a few years ago, Mark Anderson, the professional cartoonist of Andertoons, created a small Thanksgiving booklet which he sent to customers. It contained a collection of his  Thanksgiving-themed cartoons. It was small and lightweight, and inexpensive to create and mail.  Yet it made a big impact.

How about a customized book? For instance, Blurb is a tool that will let you create your very own high-end book.  This is a wonderful keepsake for customers.

9. Create a  Printed or Craft Holiday Ornament

Create ornaments for the tree highlighting your organization’s features and benefits. You can use little snowflakes printed with goodwill messages.  Create a design that’s a combination of text messages and pictures. Print them off, put in a hole punch, and add a ribbon so it can hang on the tree.

VOILA. It’s a daily reminder to your customers of why they choose you.

If you’ve got pictures of you and your customers taken over the past 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.

Or go to the craft store and find wooden ornament templates to hand decorate.  Or create edible goodies.  Do this for your best customers or perhaps even some of those prospects that have been on the fence.

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 custom image from him, use one of the online custom card-making applications like Zazzle or Moo to create your card.

Or talk with your local printer. Have the cards professionally printed in your own backyard.

11. Create a Customer Recipe Collection

Here’s one of those marketing ideas for the holidays that will also be memorable for years to come.

Instead of collecting recipes from friends and family, let your customers know that they are part of your family. How? By including THEIR favorite recipes mingled in with yours.

This will not only be a promotional tool, but a keepsake. Your customers will cherish it for a long time. Here is a downloadable recipe collection how-to article to get you started (thanks to HP).

12. Holiday Cards and Invitations

Now, if you really insist on sending Holiday Cards, here are some low cost alternatives.

First, find a great stock image, and superimpose some text with a customized greeting on it.  Print it out on heavy stock card or have it printed at the local print store.

The trick is to pick an image with lots of “empty” space on it.  This means having a simple plain background.

See the image at the top of this article?  That is an example of an image with lots of open area (the lower third of the image, the part in brown).  You can place a text message using a graphics program such as PicMonkey on the open area.  That image was a free-to-use image from Pexels (with a Creative Commons license).

Here is an even simpler alternative. Simply download this PDF template and type in your personal message. 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.  It’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 are plenty of low cost marketing ideas for the holidays to choose from. Start now while you still have plenty of lead time. Make sure your business is top of mind with customers when the holidays roll around.

More in: 31 Comments ▼

Ivana Taylor - Book Editor


Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the siteโ€™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… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    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!

    Thanks,
    Matt

  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. ๐Ÿ™‚

  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

    Ivana,

    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

    Kevin
    http://www.kidsdesk.net

  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

    Aloha!
    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. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks!
    Bethany at Natural Beauty Jewelry
    http://www.naturalbeautyjewelry.com

  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.

    http://www.cafepress.com/givitup/1364950

    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
    http://www.advertise4less.com

  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  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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