Small business owners just can’t match the low prices and holiday discounts at big-box stores. Expert brand strategist Amber Williams returned to our small business webinar series and offered an important reminder; small business owners have something more powerful than mega sales. “Your greatest advantage as a small business owner this holiday season is that you are a small business owner. You are in tune with your people,” she explained. “You know exactly what to say to them to put a smile on their face, to captivate them, and to move them to action this time of the year.” That connection is the beginning of an effective holiday message. She offered additional tools and tips for campaigns that really sparkle.
Define your goal.
First, identify exactly what you want your campaign to actually do. That’s always the first step, whether you’re creating a Google ad or a placement in the local newspaper. Do you want to build brand awareness? Generate store traffic? Be sure to include a call to action.
Consider what your customers want beyond your product. Though you’re creating a message to get people through the door this season, you should take into account what customers want at this point in their lives. Are they looking for confidence? A break from their busy lives? Can you help them with something that’s been frustrating them about your particular industry? Answering these questions in your brand storytelling shows you are truly in their shoes.
Tell a complete story.
Knowing where your customers are coming from means you have a sense of what they’re already doing. That knowledge helps you understand how your product fits into their lives. Audiences want to see themselves in your story; build your brand storytelling around those moments. “When it comes to selecting a story for your holiday campaigns, you are telling the stories that you already know your customers are experiencing,” explained Williams.
She also reminded our community that the basic storytelling framework contains a situation, a problem and a solution. Remember that your product is actually the last part of your message because it solves a problem you’ve identified. “The resolution is what you introduce to them.”
This framework is a common strategy brands use, especially at holiday time.“You see them leading with people and leading with story, [then] seeing the product woven in at the end,” Williams observed. “That is intentional, and that is critical to captivate people and ultimately get them to convert.”
“Your greatest advantage as a small business owner this holiday season is that you are a small business owner. You are in tune with your people.”
A deep understanding of your customers’ needs can also determine how you package your existing product. At a time when sales are tricky and supply chain delays affect product availability, your holiday messaging can give new life to what you already have in stock. \
Don’t forget the joy.
The last component of a successful holiday brand campaign is happiness. No matter what, or if, your customers celebrate, they should come away with a sense of joy.
Say it in a letter.
Williams recommends an exercise to her clients where they write a letter to potential customers in order to hone in on seasonal storytelling. The format she uses is
“Dear (customer name),
“I know you’ve been (blank).” This is where you identify the customer’s values and what they truly want.
“We understand that (blank).” Here is the problem they’re trying to solve at this time of the year. Are they seeking connection with loved ones? An easy way to package gifts? The problem they’re looking to solve this time of year.
“You should have/know (blank).” What do you believe your customers deserve? What do you need to assure them of?
“I want you to (blank).” What do they need to do in order to appreciate your product? This sentence is where joyful and evocative words like “give”, “share”, and indulge come in.
Keep each of these to a single sentence of about 10 words. This exercise is great for getting clear on how to talk to your customers.
Get your message out there.
Once you’ve developed the message, it’s time to choose the medium. Williams recommended sticking to the methods that have worked for your business earlier in the year. If you got major traction from social media, focus on building a social campaign.
Also, don’t forget the power of email marketing. “Email will always be the number-one channel for conversion,” she advised. It can take months to significantly increase your list, so consider using your existing subscribers to get more customers, through something like a referral reward program.
Interested in pitching editors? The approach to cutting through the clutter of the holiday season is similar to creating your campaign. “Consider what the message and meaning is behind your products and use that as your pitch.” For example, instead of starting about how great your new spatula is, explain that you have a solution for stressed home chefs who just want to get back to family time. Williams also suggested that business owners find editors and journalists that are covering similar products or subjects, so they can be of service to them on their particular beat. Be sure to send no more than a paragraph about your product when first reaching out.
Ultimately, impactful brand storytelling and editor pitches will always come back to what you’re uniquely able to give, during the holiday season and beyond.