ATTENTION CHAMBER PEOPLE AND LOCALLY OWNED BUSINESS FOLKS! This post is for all of you.
You are brimming with ideas for things you WISH you had done differently this Christmas season. You may be regretting starting your marketing too late this year. New things you’d like to do have come to mind everyday.
And, human nature being what it is, on December 26th, these ideas will have evaporated as you turn your attention to winter and spring.
Get a TO DO list started for next Holiday Season and make an appointment with yourself to look at it in JUNE.
The Holiday Season is huge for tourism related businesses. Make it everything it can be for your own town or business!
1. Your Decorations
Did you see something this year that you wish you had? Lights? Artificial wreaths and garland? Charming Christmas characters for store fronts and Main Street?
Remember that everything goes on sale right after Christmas. Save money by getting what you want this year. Just don’t forget that you have it!
TAKE PICTURES! You can use these in your online and print advertising next year. It’s a real bummer when a good marketing opportunity presents itself and you don’t have the images to take advantage of it.
Take pictures, with permission, of your happy customers enjoying shopping, dining, strolling, relaxing and having a wonderful time with their families. These images are worth their weight in gold!
2. Your Events
Supercharge your small town Christmas event for your locals as well as your visitors by figuring out what you want to do next year.
Get on the Internet right now (or between midnight and 2am when you’re not busy) and look at what other small towns are doing that is garnering regional and even national attention.
I can’t tell you how many small towns look at what is showcased on places like The Today Show, and think, “We could do that!” Yes, you can, but it takes planning starting in the summertime.
Businesses, did you have a special in-store event this year? Do you wish you had? Get your ideas on paper right now while it’s on your mind.
If you’re an adventure business did you offer special gift certificates?
Restaurants, did you think about special music events? art showings? Santa breakfasts?
Lodgings, did you think about discounts for shoppers? Partnering with stores and restaurants for a shoppers special weekend?
Write yourself a note about what you wished you’d done, and put it some place where you’ll see it on June 1st! I guarantee you’ll forget about it if you don’t.
3. Your marketing
Small towns featured on national television grabbed the attention months, or even a year in advance. More importantly, getting the regional attention that will attract people to your town starts right now.
Find out where your customers are coming from this year. Ask them.
Look for patterns. Lots of people from one place means you need to target marketing there next year. To conserve your limited advertising dollars, find out how and where they heard about you.
Look for surprises. A few people from a different area is a new opportunity. Again, ask them how they discovered you and follow up that information with marketing next year.
Create opportunities. If you travel somewhere in your region and see a big success, either a business that is doing really well, or a bustling little town, start a relationship now, build on it over the winter and spring and plan a collaboration for next Christmas season. You market them and they market you.
Remember that you’re not selling stuff. I’m serious. People are buying stuff, but they are capturing feelings and giving them to their loved ones. The feelings people come to small towns for are connection, love, return to simpler times, slower pace, uniqueness, nostalgia.
Take a look at how Seneca Falls, New York, US has captured this with their Christmas Event. They bill themselves as the “real” Bedford Falls of “It’s a Wonderful Life”fame.
In the United States, the traditional Holiday Season, from Thanksgiving to Christmas is THE sales opportunity of the year. Year in advance planning can result in amazing success for small locally owned businesses and rural towns.