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Martin Wales

[December 3, 2001]

Customer Catcher

By Martin Wales

On Holiday Marketing

How effective is it to market during the holiday season? Due to the Christmas and New Year's holidays' proximity to one another -- and the tendency of many employees to take extended holidays during this time -- this is often a question that many businesses ask. There are several factors to consider before determining how much money and effort you're willing to invest in marketing and advertising through the holiday season.

There are pros and cons to be considered. I will reveal my bias immediately on the side of going for it during this festive time. There seem to be more reasons in favor than against marketing at the end of December.

Offer Your Company's Season's Greetings
Holiday mail gives you a legitimate reason to contact your clients and prospects. Most marketing is based on creating "events," or reasons to communicate with the public. Seminars and conferences are held to draw crowds that can then be sold a variety of offerings from vendors in booths. Press releases announcing a new product version are hardly highly anticipated news stories, but they give a manufacturer or software publisher a reason to try to get some press. Use your seasonal messages as your reason for another contact.

Spread Good Will To All
Holidays and all their trappings encourage kindness and openness with friends and strangers alike. This time of year presents an opportunity to contact people who have not yet had any contact with your company to introduce yourself and your technology solutions.

Relax By The Fire
If it is indeed a slow economic period, then many companies that sell products and services will experience a decrease in activity. This means less time is required to administer sales and installations. More time is available than during busier times of the year to evaluate new ideas for increased effectiveness and productivity in their own business processes. Take advantage of this downtime!

Home Alone?
In many companies, I have found that the owners and executives are in the office more while they encourage their staff to take some time off. This leaves the decision makers present with fewer gatekeepers protecting them. With less insulation around these key contacts, you are more likely to hear their voice directly as they answer their own phones. Also, there tends to be less corporate travel around the holidays as decision makers stay close to home to be with family and friends and avoid being caught in peak holiday travel traffic. This situation also increases your chances of speaking directly with a decision maker.

Not A Competitor Was Stirring...
Many companies believe that the holidays are "slow" times and assume that they won't be able to get in touch with the people to whom they're trying to sell. It's only logical that some of your competitors are among this group, and that they are therefore less aggressive at this time of year. You wind up at an advantage, since your message is competing with far fewer direct marketing campaigns for your prospects' attention.

Handling The Holiday Hangover
Just like getting back from a long business trip, the holidays create a pile of "administrivia" to deal with when you return. If people are away from the office over an extended period, they set aside time upon their return to open and answer their various forms of mail -- whether voice, snail, or e-mail. It doesn't hurt to be there, and it's even better if you have marketing that includes technology solutions to deal with too much data and other business "hangovers."

Help Prospects With Their New Year Resolutions
With the New Year comes the desire to commit to personal development -- that includes making businesses run better too. The new calendar year is an anchor for a fresh start. Executives plan new initiatives and begin looking for appropriate technology to resolve their issues. Individuals look to their New Year's resolutions and seek to improve their personal efforts by purchasing their own items, such as a PDA, or lobbying their managers for additional support, like customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Dealing With Mr. Scrooge
On the downside side of holiday marketing, you need to consider your own industry vertical and niche. Some industries literally shut down for the holidays. There are also those who feel overwhelmed with personal activities for both social and business reasons and tend to shut out any additional demands on their time.

Your holiday greetings are just one amongst hundreds during this heavy mailing season. Your holiday note or marketing may not receive the attention you had hoped, as it is lost in the piles of good wishes. And, remember that not everyone celebrates Christmas. You can be respectful of people's diverse beliefs by sending general season's greetings rather than messages that are specific to one religion's holiday.

Merry Marketing And Happy New Year
There you have it. Merry Marketing for your business! If you have any questions or reflections during this season, as always, please feel free to contact me. At this time in our history, peace and good will are messages of significant relevance. In closing, on a personal note, I wish you and yours a safe and joyous holiday season.

Martin Wales, the Customer Catcher, is a business development specialist helping companies win and keep more business with a focus on CRM. He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator focused on maximum results with minimum risk using a company's existing resources. Contact him at martin@customercatcher.com.

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