I’m writing this post the day after Halloween and that means it’s essentially Christmas…at least from a marketing perspective. While this sort of holiday “rushing” may bring on moans and groans from most of us, companies do it because it’s lucrative and drives sales. People spend a lot of money on holidays and they tend to get excited about how they spend their money.
That’s why holiday promotions are invaluable at a chamber level. You may not be selling items for Christmas but using holidays in your marketing is a way to appeal to the audience, get them excited, and refresh your marketing on a constant basis.
But how does an entity like the chamber get involved in the holidays? After all, you don’t have the leverage of holiday sales. But there are tons of other things you can do to attract attention. First, let’s talk about holidays.
Using Holidays at the Chamber of Commerce
There are two kinds of holidays when it comes to marketing. There are the major ones where businesses or schools are closed; the ones people think about when you say the word holiday. We’re talking about Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Fourth of July. You’re likely already using them in some way in your marketing. They’re the obvious ones. We’ll get back to them in a bit.
Don’t Forget Secondary Holidays
Then there are what I will call the social media holidays. These are tons of fun. (Today’s actually National Author’s Day.) There are all sorts of days like those named after food and drinks. There’s “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”
If you can imagine it, there’s likely a day of celebration for it. You can use these days in a variety of ways such as:
- content for social media and sharing
Happy #nationaldaughterday Having twin daughters have been such a blessing. Can’t believe they are becoming little…
- an excuse to dress up
- creating a contest around one
- interviewing someone who’s an expert in the field (interview or highlight a vet or dog shelter employee for National Puppy Day, for instance)
- sharing things about your employees, self, or community that are linked to the day
Here’s another example to get your audience into a celebratory mood and increase engagement (notice the question at the end of the post).
Happy #NationalTacoDay from Curls Unleashed. Where's the best taco spot where you are from?
Don’t forget to share a list of them in your newsletter ahead of time. This will help members who have a vested interest in specific days (like National Taco Day) to think about their celebrations ahead of the actual day. It also provides members with another reason to open your e-newsletter.
While you’re celebrating these fun observances, don’t forget the ones that mean a lot to your business community like Small Business Saturday and Shop Local events.
Small Business Saturday is the day after Black Friday and it is focussed around getting your community to shop at small businesses. If you’re thinking about participating, consider these ideas for drawing a crowd:
How to Draw a Crowd for Small Business Saturday Using Social Media
- Take a look at how the large chains advertise Black Friday. They hold deals back and then slowly leak them to build anticipation. You can help some of your member businesses do that through social media highlights like the one below:
In two hours, we’re going to tweet a deal on holiday goodies that you won’t believe.
- When the time comes post an image with the deal on top of it. Be playful. Hold some things back and share others.
- Take pictures of your downtown merchants decked out for the holidays and post them asking people to comment on their favorites.
- Create your own version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” using Small Business Saturday as your theme.
- Create a homemade video of your shopping areas set to a foot-thumping tune.
- Show someone “training” for holiday shopping.
- Write a blog post about the wonderful treasures you can find at your town’s small businesses.
- Show off some of your small business loot.
- Create a small business shopping guide or holiday shopping contest.
- Interview people on the streets as to what their favorite local or small stores are.
- Spend a lot of time browsing your local shops and share “overheards” at the stores. Best to keep them about the specials found in the stores and stay away from juicy bits of convo.
- Encourage guest blogs and allow store owners to talk about the specials they’re offering this holiday season and on Small Business Saturday.
Now, let’s get back to those really big celebrations…
Ideas for Celebrating Holidays with Major Chamber Marketing Campaigns
Now that you’ve seen how those minor celebrations can fill your content calendar, not to mention increase engagement on your pages, let’s talk about how you can use large-scale marketing campaigns around the holidays.
Most of what we’re going to share here falls under what’s known as experiential marketing. Experiential marketing is–just as the name implies–all about providing an experience. It grabs attention due to its uniqueness and elevated fun factor. Experiential marketing gets people talking and is a favorite on social media sites.
Check out this video:
Okay, so that example takes a huge budget and giant resources. But experiential marketing can be done at any budget. You simply need the following components:
- a fun idea
- something that surprises and delights the audience
- social media sharing and a hashtag (yes, your audience should help with this but you need to get it out there too)
Here are a couple of popular experiential marketing campaigns for chambers:
Chamber Elf on the Shelf
The chamber elf is a great engagement tool. People really enjoy it plus you can use it to bring more exposure (and hopefully, holiday revenue) to your members. Here are a few ways to use the elf:
Where Is the Elf?
Circulate the elf among a new member business each day. Take a pic and upload it to social media. Ask people where they think the elf is. This gives local businesses a quick plug.
You can also hide the elf and ask people to go find them at a local business. This causes people to go out and explore. You could award chamber bucks to the person who found the elf.
The Fayette County Ohio Chamber of Commerce used a similar idea. Whitney Gentry shared, “I created an event on our FB page for it and did pay to boost the event. Every day the elf was at a different place – with a photo and a little poem giving hints as to where he might be. The first person to guess where he was that day was entered in a drawing. At end of 23 days, we drew one name from the daily winners to get a basket of goodies from everywhere the elf had been.”
Elf Member Spotlight
Like the idea above, move the elf to a different member business each day and post something on social media about where it is but don’t make it a mystery. Write the post like it was the elf talking about all the different things Santa can pick up at the member business for Christmas. This becomes an unofficial holiday guide from an elf.
You’ve undoubtedly seen the pics on Pinterest of the Elf on the Shelf “dolls” getting into all sorts of precarious and hilarious situations. Create some of your own in the chamber office or around town. Post every day to Facebook. Your community will likely log on to see what your crazy chamber elf is up to.
Carissa Cammack had this fun suggestion about teasing your audience and building the chamber elf program up. “Turn your picture into a puzzle that is revealed over several days. With teaser comments of the upcoming promotions the Elf brings. Make the puzzle interesting with background or something to throw people off a bit. It’s a good way to get buzz going before you actually start the program.”
Additional Quick Ideas for the Chamber Elf
- Add your chamber elf to your newsletter.
- Bring your chamber elf to a networking event. Put a name tag on them and watch their antics.
- Have someone dress up as an elf.
Shop Local Incentives
This chamber promotion can draw criticism from some groups and whether you embrace it or not will largely depend on your member demographics. Some feel promoting local over members with national brands can be alienating. Other chambers have discovered great success.
If you decide to do it, here are a few ideas to increase the interest in shopping local:
Business Bingo: get a stamp from a local business when you patronize them. You can give each person who gets “bingo” a prize or enter them into a drawing for a grand prize.
Business Scavenger Hunt: create a list of things for people to seek at local businesses. Give them a prize for completing it.
“Shop Lokal” Cards: The McAlester Chamber of Commerce devised a shop local program to help retain sales tax revenue. The cards are $10 for the year and provide the owner with discounts to participating stores. Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Jeff Warmuth, told the McAlester News Capital, “We want this to be about the community; it’s about the McAlester region. The purpose is we leak $60-80 million a year to other communities. What we are doing (by shopping in other communities) is investing $60-80 million in their communities instead of ours. The Shop Lokal program is about re-capturing some of that $60-80 million.”
Get Caught Shopping: The Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce hosts a get caught shopping campaign for several weeks leading up to Christmas. Community members are urged to wear a button in support of shopping local. If they are “caught” around town wearing them (and shopping local), the chamber “elves” give them a gift card worth $25-$250.
Make it Fun: The Seattle Good Business Network created a three-year program designed to show the fun behind shopping local. They compiled hundreds of photos of people shopping local and visiting businesses. Both shoppers and businesses held up handmade signs. The Network also created a video and hosted numerous public events.
Chambers are social organizations and there are few better ways to illustrate that than by being authentic and fun on social media and through holiday marketing promotions. These special occurrences give people a reason to talk about you and share what you are doing. Holidays are ideal ways to make connections and connections increase and strengthen memberships.