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Small Business Marketing

Three Non-traditional Marketing Ideas for the Holiday Season

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With only a few days left before Thanksgiving, the 2014 holiday season is officially here.  Thank goodness you, like all the other highly organized small business owners out there, finalized your holiday marketing plan over the summer so you could be well prepared for the season.

Ha, ha!  I’m joking, of course.  The chances are much greater that you, like all the other real small business owners, are scrambling at the last minute to think of some type of holiday promotion you can do to get more customers through the door of your business during the last month of the year.  Of course you could do the traditional holiday sale…just like everybody else.  There’s nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that it’s expected and completely unoriginal.

What I suggest as an alternative is doing a holiday promotion that actually captures the giving spirit of the season, and doing it in a way that will make your customers love you, help out your community, and introduce new people to your business–all at the same time.  Here’s three ideas to get you started:

Matching Donations

Most non-profit organizations are getting ready to kick their year-end giving campaigns into high gear.  Why not find a non-profit organization that is active in your community, and offer to match any donations during  a certain time period, up to a certain amount?  In this way, the non-profit will need to mention the name of your business whenever they promote the matching donation campaign, in essence providing your business with free advertising (minus the cost of matching the donations, of course).  If you are strategic in selecting the organization you partner with, the benefits to your business can be significant.  Here’s a few tips:

  1. Pick an organization that your target audience is likely to be support, and be excited about.
  2. Pick an organization whose current employees, members, or existing donors would be potential customers for your business
  3. Ask the organization to provide you with the mailing address of all donors who respond to your matching offer so you can send them a thank-you card…along with a coupon for your products or services, of course.

Food Drives

If you have a business with a physical location that your customers visit, or if you have a service business that involves visiting your customer’s homes or places of business, consider doing a food drive to collect canned goods and non-perishable items to donate to a local food bank or homeless shelter.  Of course, you’ll want to approach the organization first and get them on board, and see if they’ll use their volunteer network to help you promote the food drive.  If properly promoted, this could be a great way to get people to pay a visit to your place of business, and possibly spend some money while they’re there…all without using the word “sale”!


If you don’t have the manpower to plan or execute either of the ideas listed above, one alternative would simply be to sponsor some type of event happening during the holiday season to raise money for local charities (as Diane Eschenbach points out on the Kabbage blog).  For example, you could sponsor a Drumstick Dash running race that raises money for a local homeless shelter, or a holiday concert that benefits a community organization of some kind.  Again, think strategically:

  1. Look for sponsorship opportunities that give your business more than just a logo on the back of a T-shirt.
  2. See if there is a way to get your employees involved as volunteers for the event you sponsor–that will give them the chance to have personal interactions with potential customers.
  3. Look for sponsorships appropriate to your business–for example, if you’re a financial planner, sponsoring a benefit concert that attracts a wealthier audience might make more sense than sponsoring a foot race.

Document and Publicize

Hopefully, after reading the ideas above, you’ll think of at least one way your business can do some good in the community during this season.  Whatever you do, make sure to document it well with pictures and videos, and issue a press release announcing what you are doing (or issue it after the fact, announcing the results).  Then, you can post your pictures, videos, and articles on your website and use them in your marketing kit to help build trust with prospective customers–even long after the holidays are over.