Holiday marketing ideas on a shoestring budget

4 minute read

Every small business owner wants to make the most of the holidays, when billions of seasonal spending deliver a year-end boost to the bottom line.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as sitting back and welcoming a steady stream of holiday shoppers. Some savvy marketing is required to make this vital season a success. And unlike bigger competitors, small business owners can’t afford to spend massive amounts of money to get their message into the minds of buyers.

The good news? It doesn’t take deep pockets to deliver quality results. There are plenty of productive holiday marketing ideas that can be done on a shoestring. This year, give your seasonal sales a lift by putting some of these low-cost strategies to work.

Stir up interest online and through social media

Build buzz for seasonal sales events by using your website and social media feeds to generate interest in the products you feature. Write blog posts that talk up those items, and then link to the articles from your company’s social media accounts. Make sure to include professional images of the items, giving prospective buyers a good look at what you’re selling. Try using a free tool like Canva to help you with visuals and formatting.


Update your website and social media accounts with seasonal imagery, tease shoppers with advance notice of deals and discounts, and engage customers with helpful, informative posts about gift ideas, new products, or anything else related to holiday celebrations. The goal is to create content that people will share and respond to, thereby spreading your message (and attention for your business) far and wide.

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Throw a holiday party

Don’t worry; it doesn’t have to be an extravagant affair. Think of it as a holiday open house or a way to entice people into your store to browse. Dress up your business with seasonal decorations, put on some holiday music, and serve up treats such as cider and gingerbread. Send out invitations on social media and to everyone on your email list. Most importantly, arrange your merchandise so that sale items are featured prominently near the front of the store. Tempt guests to return with a limited-time coupon that expires at the end of the holiday season.


Leverage local media

Pitch yourself to a local reporter as the source for a topical story. Free website Help A Reporter Out can help connect you to journalists. Any resulting coverage is the equivalent of free advertising. As an added bonus, your reputation as an expert will be enhanced, thereby generating increased attention for your business on social media and elsewhere.

Reporters don’t have much time, so be especially strategic with your subject line and opening sentence. Test them on a friend to see if they’re interested in reading more.

Ready to ace the holidays? Download our Holiday Success Guide now and find more holiday content to help make this your best season yet.

Partner up with another business

Is there another small business in your community you can partner with for holiday marketing efforts? Ideally, your partner would be a related business that’s not a direct competitor. Propose an arrangement in which you work together to promote one another’s products and services, or create special deals for customers who patronize both businesses.

Offer customized gift cards

No matter what business you’re in, gifts cards are a great way to boost seasonal sales. Shoppers love the convenience of gift cards as an easy option to take care of those hard-to-buy-for folks on their list. Merchants, on the other hand, like gift cards for two reasons: not only do they make a sale now, but the recipient often spends more than the gifted amount, meaning there’s extra revenue to be had when the cards get used.


Consider building additional interest in gift cards with a short-term promotion that adds a bonus percentage on top of the purchased amount. If you’re concerned about how such an offer might affect your margins, consider limiting the promotion to a fixed number of cards, or to those sold on specific dates. Finally, make them reloadable: some satisfied recipients might keep using their cards for future purchases.

Gain exposure through charitable acts

The holidays are the season for giving; so don’t forget about your share. And while virtue is its own reward, you might just get something back, too. Involve your small business in local charities and community service, either by volunteering your time and expertise, or by donating old equipment and merchandise. Besides being a great bonding and networking experience for you and any staff who choose to participate, your acts of charity could generate attention and exposure.

Finally, no matter which of these strategies you choose, don’t forget to analyze the results – it’s valuable information that will help you decide how to allocate your marketing resources next holiday season!

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