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7 Must-Do’s (and 5 Never-Do’s) for Holiday Promotions

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Digital Marketing
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7 Must-Dos (and 5 Never-Dos) for Holiday Promotions

The holidays are right around the corner.

For me, this means a few things: football is back (hello, barbecue tailgates), I’m on the road until Thanksgiving, and there’s a marketer just waiting to hit my inbox with a holiday promotion.

Despite the fact that the fourth quarter comes with a mile-long to-do list and perhaps some added pressure, holiday planning doesn’t need to be a bah humbug. It also doesn’t need to feature your product library 1 day a week for 60 sixty days.

To help your business get the most out of this holiday season, I put together a list of holiday promotion do’s and don’ts to focus your efforts on what will land you on your customer’s nice list—and what will land you on the naughty list.

7 Must-Do’s for Your Holiday Promotion Planning

Have a Plan

Ending the year on a high note is vital, especially for consumer-facing businesses.

Even if you’ve left your planning for the last minute, you can still avoid the Naughty List if you strategize as to how you’re going to approach the holiday season.

Just as you would for any other campaign, your plan should include the basics:

  • Establish your goal(s)
  • Know why it makes sense (for you and your customer)
  • Outline how it’ll work and benefit your customer
  • Determine what will be featured
  • Define when it will take place and for how long

Build Excitement

sears catalogRemember how great the Sears Christmas catalog was?

Long before Google, Pinterest, Instagram, and Amazon, Sears was the influential tastemaker kids and adults used to build its wish lists.

While we may never see these gigantic catalogs ever again (unless The Cheesecake Factory plans to expand its epic menu), there’s still an opportunity to create the same type of hype for your products.

By using your email lists, social channels, and website, your company can get in the spirit and highlight the stuff your customers already love.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to have a countdown to when the biggest deals and reveals will be. Amazon, unsurprisingly, does a terrific job with letting their customers know Black Friday and Cyber Monday are on the horizon. It’ll often have countdown clocks for highly-anticipated items immediately on their homepage, emails, and across their social channels.

Feature What Your Customers Want

One of the easiest ways to build excitement? Give them what they want.

Sure, it’s obvious, but why do you go to see your favorite band year after year? Because it plays the hits.

It’s perfectly fine to introduce a few things you want to feature, but once you’ve built up a certain level of excitement, the goal is to keep momentum.

Talk to your customers and see what’s on their wish list. Not only will it harbor good rapport, but you’ll also gain invaluable insights that can be used long after the holidays.

Holiday Promotion Tip

Get Your Audience Involved

It’s often the simplest of promotions that works best.

Whether it’s an Instagram contest or a giveaway raffle in your retail location, doing something with your campaigns gets everyone in on the action and gets your customers engaged.

For example, a specialty food shop could start a hashtag contest focused on the table where their customers traditionally eat holiday meals, as well as all the memories that correspond with it. The best stories could win contestants a free meal or give them the option to have food donated to a local food bank in their name.

Ask your audience to involve their friends too. This will be a great opportunity not only to get your customers to advocate and market for you but also to help identify your biggest fans and influencers.


While big-box retailers may seem confused by this idea, email lists don’t need to be used exclusively to sell something.

Promoting your business’s holiday season activities across each channel allows different segments of your audience to see what they might be missing elsewhere.

Fashion retailer, No Rest for Bridget, pulled this off beautifully in 2018.

It leveraged its emails as a gift guide catalog, using a simple white background to allow each item to shine through. Its Instagram account then highlighted specific items by pairing these pieces to present complete looks its customers could see themselves in.

No Rest for Bridget shared offers on each channel with every link driving back to its website where they’d ask for the sale.


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A post shared by No Rest For Bridget (@norestforbridget) on

Since it’s likely that all your customers don’t follow you everywhere, cross-promotion makes it easier for them to keep up with exclusive contests, sales, and other seasonal content.

Add a Little Holiday Magic

Being around and sharing gifts with those you care for most is a cause for cheer and celebration…you could even say the holidays are a little magical.

Chances are your customers feel the same way.

To make the customer experience that much more magical, consider adding a small gift to your customers’ purchases during the holiday season.

As Derek Halpern showcased, adding something extra to a customer’s purchase has been shown to provide more perceived value compared to offering a discount.

A discount can be a Christmas wish come true for your customers, but once the holidays are over, they’ll be looking for the same deals.

Provide a Call to Action

Sometimes we can get lost within the joy of holiday festivities.

No matter what tactics you decide to use, always make sure you’re asking your audience and your customers to take some type of action.

Whether it’s to participate in a giveaway as a means of collecting more emails or asking a visitor to make a purchase before the sale disappears for 365 days, don’t be shy about making the ask.

5 Never-Do’s for Holiday Promotions

Sooner Isn’t Always Better

pumpkin spice latte

You don’t need to start promoting your Black Friday plans just because Starbucks is all PSL, all the time.

In a research study I did with my team last year, we discovered that 63% of marketers disapprove when they see a holiday marketing campaign at full tilt right before Labor Day or just before March Madness.

For the holiday season, a reminder might be good in October, sure. But don’t devote your entire 4th quarter to “the most wonderful deals of the year” before the calendar is within arm’s length of Black Friday.

63% of marketers disapprove when they see a holiday marketing campaign at full tilt right before Labor Day or just before March Madness. Click To Tweet

Sending Too Many Emails

Just because the seasons have changed, doesn’t mean the rules have. People are still annoyed when their inboxes are bombarded with emails.

According to a study done by TechnologyAdvice, the main reason people unsubscribe is that they get emails too often from a single sender.

In addition, 43% of email subscribers wish they received fewer emails from the companies they’ve signed up with. Your emails should delight your customers all year long, but especially now.

43% of email subscribers wish they received fewer emails from the companies they’ve signed up with. Click To Tweet

Holiday Promotion Tip for Email

Even if your own data suggests your customers are fine with getting 5 emails a week from you during the first 3  quarters, don’t ramp up just because you’re seeing twas in every commercial.

Ease off a bit. Refocus and clarify your messaging to ensure each email helps you achieve your marketing goals.

This way, you’ll still be welcome in their inbox by Valentine’s Day.

Give Everyone the Same Gift

Now here’s an example where crossing the streams is a bad thing.

Every part of your audience is special, and you’ve worked hard to attract and nurture each customer.

So why, during the holidays, would it be OK to show the same message and/or offer them the same gifts?

If Dick’s Sporting Goods offered a customer who’s only ever interacted with and purchased golf clubs a free camouflage hunting vest as a gift with their holiday purchase, that probably would cause quite a bit of confusion for the links enthusiast.

Show your audience the same respect you do throughout the year and don’t ruin a good thing just because it’s easier to have option for everyone.

Get Fancy

While you may only have 3 holiday parties to get to, your customers have 7, plus they still need a gift for Nana.

People are busy. Remember that.

Having giveaways and contests is great — just don’t make them complex. Make sure rules can be understood quickly and participation is easy, like taking a photo and using a hashtag.

Lose Your Reason In the Season

It’s fun to drive excitement and intrigue around a great prize. Just don’t get lost in spending additional dollars on a prize that has no connection to you.

For example, here’s the only company that should be giving away an iPad during the holidays: Apple.

End of list.

Holiday promotions are great, so long as they make sense for your customer, your business, and the season. An iPad is a wonderful gift for your customer … but it’s not a gift you should give.

This would be a great opportunity to reuse the 4 R’s from my book Talk Triggers (remarkable, relevant, reasonable, and repeatable) to see what kind of gift makes sense for you during the holidays.

There is plenty more we do during the holiday season that we wouldn’t do at any other time of year. The secret is to not complicate it for yourself or your customers.

The simpler your campaigns and sales messages, the easier and more enjoyable it’ll be for everyone.

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