Creating a Marketing Plan for Successful Small Town Holiday Celebrations

by Joanne Steele on September 17, 2009

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Downtown Lorain Caroling fundraiser for Palace
Creative Commons License photo credit: ronnie44052

Yesterday we talked about getting your town’s Christmas promotions off the ground. Today I want to help you develop a marketing plan for those Holiday celebrations.

The work outlined in this post is best done through your town’s Chamber of Commerce with lots of help from the whole business community, so read on even if you’re a business!

It’s easy to get involved in the event details – where to get the best deal on Christmas lights, who is going to provide live entertainment, where is the town’s Santa suit stored, how to set up a good looking gift certificate etc. etc. But the very most important thing you need to concentrate on right now is your Christmas Events Marketing Plan.

Your marketing plan details who you’re going to “invite” to each event and how you’re going to get them the “invitation”. It’s always disheartening to spend days, even weeks planning a great event and end up with a disappointing turnout.

A carefully thought out marketing plan can help ensure the success of your events.

To create a simple marketing plan:

1. Create a draft outline of your Holiday activities. At this point it may be a wish list, but get down the basic plan with activities your Chamber and business community have expressed support for and willingness  to help implement. Even one or two activities need a marketing plan.

2. Make a list of activities and under each, note who your target audience is. Who should take advantage of this event? Be realistic. Getting visitors to drive 2 hours may be doable, longer may not be. If you only have one store, shopping may not be a good activity to try to draw out of town visitors to.

Example:

Activity:  Evening shopping hours on Friday nights between Thanksgiving and Christmas – Stores open to 9pm on November 27, December 4, 11, and 18.

  • Target audience:
    • Local residents
    • Residents of the nearby towns of Happyville, Forestville and Farmville
    • Weekend visitors from up to 2 hours away – towns of Bigville, City, and Metro.

Activity: Noon Christmas music singalong in the town square led by the High School Glee Club – Wed. 12/16. Hot cider and cookies in local stores.

  • Target audience:
    • Local townspeople on lunch hour
    • Glee Club parents and grandparents
    • People for Happyville retirement community

3. Identify the most cost effective ways to get information about each activity to the people you want to attend. Think about how each identified group gets event information. Newspaper, monthly event calendars and regional publications, Internet newsletters, radio PSA’s, television PSA’s, posters, flyers, online blogs, Twitter? Be specific about WHICH publication or blog, and WHAT radio station.

So now your list is going to look like this:

Activity: Evening shopping hours on Friday nights between Thanksgiving and Christmas – November 27 , December 4, 11 and 18.

Target audience:

  • Local residents
    • Marketing:
      • Flyer in window of every participating business by mid November.
      • PSA on local KHOO radio beginning week of Thanksgiving.
      • Newspaper article in local newspaper re: Local First activities.
      • Emailed announcment to all members of the MyTown Chamber and MyTown Economic Development Institute.
  • Residents of the nearby towns of Happyville, Forestville and Farmville
    • Marketing:
      • Announcement in Town Cryer December events calendar.
      • PSA on KTHEM local Radio.
      • Email announcement that local MyTown businesses can send to their customer list.
      • Cooperative advertisement in each of these town’s local newspapers using fund put together by all participating businesses.
      • Listing on the MyTown Chamber online events calendar.
  • Weekend visitors from up to 2 hours away – towns of Bigville, City, and Metro.
    • Marketing:
      • Listing in the Daily News weekly events calendar for BigVille starting week of Nov. 16th.
      • Listing in City News weekly events calendar starting week of Nov. 16th.
      • Listing in Metro News weekly events calendar starting week of Nov. 16th.
      • PSA to regional television KAAT serving all three metro areas.
      • Listing in Our Area Arts monthly magazine events calendar stressing abundance of unique and locally made Christmas gift items.
      • Press release to The Big Newspaper about small town Christmas shopping in MyTown detailing all the benefits and activities. For publication Thanksgiving week.
      • Purchased radio sponsorship spots on public radio station KWHAT.
      • Tweet about stores that will be open open on a daily basis for the month of December.

4. Next, get on the Internet and the telephone and ask for deadlines and submission details from each media outlet. Each publication and media outlet has a schedule for accepting information. Many have submission requirements including specific people to send to, use of online forms, sending on letterhead, “can be read in 15 seconds” etc.

You need to gather all this information so that you can actually create a media calendar and an information database of the outlets you are going to work with.

Remember, each activity you plan needs it’s own target audience and list of outlets you’re going to use for marketing.

If you have a favorite data management program such as Microsoft Excel or Filemaker Pro use it! As Siskiyou County Director of Tourism, I kept, used and regularly updated a list of all regional media outlets which included information about schedules, submission requirements, names, addresses and email address of people who handle press releases and events calendars.

Put this together for your town for your Christmas promotion. Once you have it, you will be surprised at how often you will use it in the future. If you or the volunteer you tap to do this research does not have database skills, use an old fashioned card catalog and 3×5 cards. You can easily create a computer database later. The time consuming work is collecting this valuable information.

You may already have the information for all your local and regional media outlets. Great, you’re way ahead!

5. Use the information you collected from media outlets to add deadlines to a Christmas Events Marketing Calendar. Post this where you see it everyday. A missed deadline is a missed marketing opportunity, which could result in lower Christmas revenue for your town and businesses.

Next,  I will teach you how to write an effective press release.

1 Polprav October 16, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Hello from Russia!
Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?

2 Jeff Atkinson September 17, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Great Blog post. I am going to bookmark and read more often. I love the Blog template ? if you need any assistance customizing it let me know!

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