The holiday season is about giving thanks, reconnecting with relatives, and eating more than what is considered humanly possible. It’s not the time for plugging your small business. But while the retail stores enjoy the endless sound of ka-ching, what’s a non-retail small business to do? While everyone is seemingly spending all their year-end cash at brick-and-mortar retail and online stores, you can develop leads that will jump-start business in the New Year.
“To get fruit you have to plant seeds,” says Mac McIntosh, who has been helping businesses generate leads in the New England area for more than 20 years. “I call it the four rites of lead-generating marketing: Talk to the right people on the right list, make them the right offers or calls to action that are appropriate to where they are in their buying process, get them from erroneous inquiry to consideration to purchase, and develop the right media—outbound or email marketing consisting of blogs, websites, or targeted direct marketing and telemarketing.”
To hear McIntosh tell it, developing leads during the holiday season is not based on anything revolutionary—hard work, research, and even a sense of humor all come into play. And even though it’s considered bad form to hard sell potential clients during the holiday season, you can still reach out and sow the seeds that turn into fruit. McIntosh offers six tips for business lead generation during the holidays.
1. Develop Inbound/Outbound Marketing. “The holidays are a good time to develop inbound and outbound marketing platforms. Inbound marketing is a searchable website or blog that can be found from Google keyword searches. It’s about customers finding you on a social network or through recommendations.
Outbound marketing is creating an ad or entering a trade show to attract prospects, or writing offer emails or developing telemarketing ideas. The best marketing is where you’re doing both: You’re being found on the web, and you’re also reaching out to prospects that are likely to become clients. And there’s also the inbound/outbound follow-up: Someone makes an inquiry, and you send them something in addition to a basic white paper. ‘If you’re interested in the white paper, perhaps you want to come to our webinar.’”
2. Develop a Social-Media Identity: 3 to 1. “If you haven’t already, join LinkedIn and Twitter. Do it now and have your company Twitter name reflect what you offer. Follow others in your industry, and retweet their posts. Watch keywords, watch hashtags. The person you retweet will often retweet your tweets. Follow a ratio of 3 to 1. Tweet something useful and relevant three times before pitching any service. You might tweet a white paper on selecting the right architect, then later offer a special holiday deal: 50 percent off a consulting fee in the year ahead.
Three out of four tweets should be useful and relevant, which gives you the right to keep tweeting the potential client. It’s part of the trusted-advisor relationship and having a conversation. On LinkedIn, join groups with other designers or groups that your customers belong to, like solar installers or architectural firms. Join the conversation and answer questions. You can even start your own group on LinkedIn.”
3. Send Cards with a Twist. “Send a gift or a gift card to your current customers—they are existing referral sources. Personalize something relevant, like photoshopping your head onto an elf, and include that in a custom holiday card. It’s shtick, but it stands out.
If you’re a solar company, talk about the warmth of the sun during the colder holiday period. Give a gift like a keyring with your logo on it. That will keep you in their thoughts in the year ahead. Send a Thanksgiving card to current customers, which not many people do, or a January “Sorry I am late with this holiday card.” Then you will stand out. But always wait until the second Monday after New Year’s when they will be back to business.”
4. Time Your Market. “In a non-retail business like HVAC or interior design, potential clients research brands and technologies and green options; it’s not an impulse buy. When blogging or tweeting or emailing, the message to them has to be about the benefits they will receive directly, not a hard sales pitch. How do you help them lean toward hiring your company? It’s about timing and the long haul. When blogging or tweeting or creating a white paper, the information has to be useful and relevant. Then you become a trusted advisor, not just someone trying to sell them something. So when they are ready to buy, you are first on their list.”
5. Email a New Year’s Resolution List. “Create a wish list or resolution list of things that should be done better in your industry and email it to current clients, and post it on Twitter and LinkedIn. Then ask if other people in your industry or clients have similar wish lists. Ask for comments. Offer a self-critical analysis. The last sentence can be a request to call your office for more information. But you have to be careful—not everyone has the same sense of humor.”
6. Build Up, Build Out. “During the holidays, focus on building your database, targeting prospects for outbound marketing, developing content, calls-to-action offers, how-to guides, case studies. You can have that information on your website available for download or from a landing-page form leading to a download. Then refresh, reuse, rebundle, and repackage.
Rebundle means putting four or five offers together into a decision-maker kit. Repackage means turning a white paper into a video, or a video into a checklist; you’re using the same content packaged with different media. You could record a podcast of the same content previously covered in a white paper. Have an interviewer asking the questions that are answered in the white paper.”
When should you advertise this post-holiday season? “This year it’s January 7th,the second day of the first week after New Year’s Day. A lot of people take the entire week after New Year’s Day off. After that, they’re all back in the office and focused. By then they have cleared out their inbox and caught up with their messages. They’re back into the work mindset, and they will be more receptive to an ad, an email, or a webinar offer.”
McIntosh also offers some holiday dos and don’ts: “Don’t direct mail to potential clients around Christmas and New Year’s Day. You’ll get lost in the shuffle of dozens of flyers and catalogs. And when sending cards, don’t assume everyone is Christian in this global world. Always say ‘Happy Holidays,’ which can mean Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah. Be culturally sensitive. And if you send Thanksgiving cards internationally, be aware that Canada uses a different date for Thanksgiving than the U.S.”
For more lead-generation ideas, check out Jingle-bell Rock Your Lead Generation Campaign!