‘Tis the season for holiday marketing! Does the holiday season create stress? For many marketers in the professional service industries, an added layer of pressure is heaped upon us this time of year. The holiday season can be overwhelming for everyone, whether marketing director or weary shopper.
Life’s pace is ratcheted up a notch during the fourth quarter. Drivers are more aggressive, stores are more chaotic, children are more rambunctious, parents are more frazzled, employees are more anxious, and managers are more cantankerous. We sprint from obligation to obligation as though propelled by rocket fire, allowing precious few moments now and then to look forward to the peace and joy of the pending holidays themselves, when we imagine ourselves resting our wearing bodies and enjoying quality time with our loved ones. Until the squabbling and family drama starts. But we don’t think about that now. There is too much to do; too many places to be. And we move on.
The holidays can be taxing. Especially for CPA firm marketers.
Marketers in the accounting universe often bear the biggest burdens of all marketing pros. Why? Because:
- You must convince your partners and executive committees that holiday marketing is absolutely and unequivocally necessary.
- You must prove – with analytical reports, facts and figures – why it has to be done the right way or not at all.
- You must be exceptionally creative to avoid making the Powers-That-Be fearful that the campaign is too artsy. Or whimsical. Or frivolous. Or expensive.
- You must accommodate everyone else’s hectic schedules, skulking outside conference rooms to steal ten minutes to review the campaign plans, gift options and budgetary needs.
- You must design campaign plans that enhance your brand, express appreciation to your clients and referral sources, build rapport with prospects that will carry through to the New Year, and highlight your firm’s expertise with a shiny, bright light.
- You must beg, plead and occasionally bribe firm leaders to sign holiday cards, write personal notes, and hand-deliver gifts to their clients and referral sources that generate the top 20% of the firm’s revenue.
- You must differentiate your firm from the competition and ensure that the campaign is appropriate and politically correct without delving into boring or generic territory.
- And, typically, you to do all of this on a shoestring budget, at the last minute, when most people are more interested in attending someone else’s holiday party than hosting their own. With determination. And a smile.
What’s a holly, jolly marketer to do?
Don’t despair, marketers! Retailers are not the only ones who benefit from holiday-oriented marketing and public relations. Don’t miss out on the tremendous opportunity that the holiday season presents. Get through your professional services holiday marketing with a little more joy and a little less stress with these 10 quick tips.
1. Get organized with a campaign calendar
Create a holiday season marketing campaign calendar and share it with partners. Include your plans for emails, newsletters, cards, videos, social media, mailings, gifts and parties. Note who is responsible for each aspect of your campaign, when each task should be reviewed (if necessary) and completed, and what the anticipated costs are (as appropriate). Stay organized so that you’re not sucked under by the overwhelming mire of Hectic – ahem, I mean Holiday – Season.
2. Maximize the holiday theme
Use the holiday theme to its maximum advantage in your calls to action, marketing messages and social media conversations to expand your reach and engage harried consumers. The majority of consumers expect holiday-themed communications this time of year. Many of them look forward to them (despite the lack of time, and running-running-running). Make yours stand out from the rest in some clever way. You can do it. Other professional service providers have broken the mold. You can, too. Put on your creativity cap, drink some genius juice (no, it’s not real, to my knowledge) and don your most jovial jumper to be inspired by the holidays.
3. Take your theme through to landing pages
Do you really need a new landing page if you already have one? Yes! Develop special holiday-themed landing pages for your online and email marketing campaigns. Holiday-inspired landing pages during the peak holiday shopping season automatically appeal to consumers’ state of mind. Keep messaging and branding consistent all the way from your emails, posts and ads through to your landing pages. Browse the best retailers’ holiday landing pages for inspiration if the genius juice isn’t doing the trick.
4. Put your professional services on sale
Have a year-end sale (yes, even professional service providers can host sales), promotion, special offer, give-away or other retail-esque goodie. Or present a discount for new clients who contract for next year’s tax/accounting/legal/payroll/banking services prior to December 31st. Or those who pre-pay for services.
5. Offer competitive convenience
Offer the same kind of convenience that Black Friday and Cyber Monday retailers do: allow your email subscribers to modify their preferences, give prospects access to early-morning, late-night or weekend appointments (temporarily), and host an open house (throw in some snacks) for free consultations or a no-holds-barred question-and-answer session with an expert.
6. Urge action with a deadline
Give prospects a deadline to urge action, but more importantly, create a feeling of value. Don’t fake the sense of urgency, though. It will be obvious (and irritating). Be real. Give them a reason to buy now, rather than procrastinating until next year. Christmas and New Year’s Eve are ready-made deadlines, but be wary about using them if your office will not be open. Choose a day where you will be available to answer questions, reply to emails, and take meetings for your deadline to avoid putting potential prospects off by a delayed response.
7. Personalize everything
Emails. Gifts. Cards. Videos. Invoices. Everything. Need I say more?
8. Host a signing party
Cater an early morning breakfast spread (complete with mimosas and Bloody Mary’s, if possible), extended Friday afternoon lunch or early evening cocktail party at the office when it’s time to get the partners and department heads to sign their holiday cards (assuming you supplement your e-cards with print holiday cards, at least for some of your most valuable contacts). Take photos during your signing party and use them in your messaging, or compile them into a holiday video.
9. Repeat yourself
Refresh and repeat your messages through a variety of channels in order to stay top of mind throughout the most prevalent advertising season (Facebook is your friend!). Change your visuals and update your verbiage, but if there is one particular “message” that you’re trying to get across before the end of the year, don’t be afraid to repeat it. Repetition is key. Only 2% of sales are made from the first contact, with 3% on the second. Don’t leave 95% of your potential business opportunities on the table.
10. Dish with the media
Talk to the media about why you chose the uber-unique client gifts you’re sending out this year, what the surprising or heartfelt response was when a gift was presented to a particular person or organization, which holiday-related charitable activities your firm is involved in, where your team leaders are volunteering in their spare time, why you organized a Flash Mob or “random” Christmas Carolers at the local mall, or anything else that expresses the spirit of the holidays. The media is always looking for uplifting, inspiring and unique stories to share. Pitch them the stories they are looking for and your firm will benefit from the exposure.
The holiday season essentially runs from Halloween through January 1st. You still have time to get on the holiday train to benefit from savvy year-end marketing campaigns. Boost your firm’s brand, gain some additional visibility, build relationships and pave the way for a prosperous New Year with some creative, inspired and well-planned holiday marketing. Remember to give thanks and be grateful for the business you already have.
What is the most inspired thing that you have done to promote your firm, express gratitude, build relationships, and increase recognition using the holiday theme? Share your stories in the comments below.