We are quickly approaching the end of the year, so you know what that means: holidays. And hand-in-hand with holidays come holiday promotions and a slew of holiday marketing articles for retail businesses.

I’m not knocking that; retail businesses have to fight fiercely with big box retailers and Amazon.com. But what if your business isn’t retail-based? Are service industries and businesses just supposed to pack up and wait for the snow to thaw? Of course not!

Many service-based companies can rely on selling gift certificates, but that’s not an option for everyone. For example, people probably aren’t going to gift their loved ones an air conditioning inspection this Christmas. So even if the season is slower for you, here are eight easy ways to drive awareness and clients your way while the general public saves their pennies for presents.

1. Decorate, especially if you’re in a location with history

Gaby Emington owns and operates a salon on the Upper East Side in New York City. There are literally dozens of hairdressers, so competition is fierce, especially during the holidays. So how did Emington stand out during the slower seasons? She decorated her salon. Maryellen Nugent Lee, a longtime client, says that the salon “became a winter wonderland of nostalgic Santas and Christmas villages that reflected the Yorkville neighborhood’s German roots at the holidays. People who normally breezed past the salon would stop to see the lovely European decorations in the front window.”

No matter what your business, decorating your storefront for the season is sure to stop people walking by. As they look at the décor their eyes will move to your business name and some of them may muse that your service is exactly what they need.


2. Introduce new services

Need a reason to bring in more business or snap up some publicity? Try introducing new services during the holiday season.Denise Sharpe, salon owner and beauty consultant, does this. Denise explains, “We waited until this time of year to introduce a new offering for the beauty and skin care side of the business. It has brought renewed interest with existing clients and brought in a new segment of the market.”

It may be harder to cut through the holiday noise, but your loyal customers will be extremely interested in your new offerings.

3. Put a holiday spin on your services

Just because your service may not be an obvious holiday expenditure, it doesn’t mean you can’t turn it into one.

We waited until this time of year to introduce a new offering for the beauty and skin care side of the business. It has brought renewed interest with existing clients and brought in a new segment of the market. – Denise Sharpe

Rich Storm is an NYC-based photographer. Even though it’s the off season for weddings, he makes sure to spin his services for the holidays. He offers holiday-themed photos, family portraits for holiday cards, and holiday party event photos.

The MotivAct Group provides personal and professional development seminars. They also offer workshops and individual coaching that focus on setting/achieving goals, managing stress, and enhancing mind/body balance. So, really, not the first business you would think of when considering where to spend your holiday money.

However, President Tom Ingrassia says “We actually find that the holiday season is a very busy time for us.” He continues by saying that they keep up their sales by promoting “our programs to businesses and organizations as a way to help people develop strategies to manage stress and stay balanced during the ‘holi-daze.’ We accomplish this during our workshops through an innovative fusion of guided meditation and re-energizing neck/shoulder massage.”

4. Turn to daily deal sites

Air National is an air conditioning and heating service whose retail branch extends nationwide. However, their local branches are located in Texas and Florida. Their local branch sales slow down significantly during the winter because temperatures stay a lot milder in the southern half of the United States.

So how do they fight back against the winter business doldrums? Significantly more marketing. One of the things that Air National does is offer discounted heating and AC-system inspections through daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. These deals literally bring the Air National brand into potential customers’ homes for a low overhead cost.

5. Use direct mail/print marketing

In addition to the daily deals sites, Air National uses print marketing to connect with old and potential clients. They send out coupon mailers and postcards.

Eric Farlow handles public relations for real estate company Orlando Metro Properties and he seconds the tactic. He says that the company “plan[s] on using mailers to wish the community a happy holidays and remind them that Orlando Metro Properties is there for them.”

A tangible reminder that comes in the mail is a great way to remind your clients that you’re there for them. You can send anything from coupons to holiday greeting cards.

6. Throw a holiday party

Instead of lamenting about all of the holiday parties that are occupying your customers, why not just throw one yourself?

…people will always remember how you made them feel, thus keeping your business in mind after the holidays. – Dana Sidberry

Gaby Emington makes sure to offer food at her hair salon. Throughout the years it has ranged from a sprawling buffet of pastries and coffee to a week-long buffet of kringles, a type of Scandinavian pastry. Clients are inclined to stick around to talk and munch, which also makes the salon look inviting to passersby.

Denise Sharpe’s salon has a Holiday “Hairdown” Party every year. Sharpe invites clients to get glammed up for holiday parties. She explains, “This has gotten people’s attention because they want to look fabulous.” The salon has even reorganized their space to make room for holiday parties and group celebrations.

Dr. Jonathan Kaplan, a plastic surgeon in San Francisco, has paired with Yelp to host one of Yelp’s Hot for the Holidays parties. “Since I’m originally from Louisiana, we’re having a Cajun-style themed party while people walk around the office checking out all of the surgical and non-surgical services we offer,” he says. This brings a ton of potential customers into Kaplan’s practice during a slower season and lets them see the services without having to commit to anything.

Even if you don’t have the resources for a full-blown party, you can consider setting up light refreshments to keep your clients around, happy, and in the holiday mood.

7. Work on your business or customer service

Boosting your marketing will help. But if you are still looking at a lot of downtime, you can use the slower season to build up your business and renew your commitment to customer service. Dana Sidberry, the owner of the Motivation Marketing Firm, likes to use the holidays as a time of reflection and service. She elaborates,

“I think about the year, our clients, the highs and lows and the path we’ve traveled during the year. Then, I take those thoughts and turn them into great customer service. I send greeting cards, small gift cards, and handwritten messages because people will always remember how you made them feel, thus keeping your business in mind after the holidays.”

Air National in Houston will personally call their clients to check in and announce their free or discounted services.

Denise Sharpe and her team use the time to sharpen their own skills. They invest in training and development leading up to and during the holiday season. Photographer Rich Storm works on the SEO of his website to bring in more traffic from search engines.


8. Focus on the upcoming new year

So maybe it’s going to be slow this holiday season no matter what. That doesn’t mean you should kick back for the last two months of the year (unless you want to, of course).

Tom Ingrassia from The MotivAct Group likes to use the holiday season to put focus on the upcoming new year. “We promote our one-to-one coaching for success programs as a better way to set your goals for the coming year than by making New Year’s resolutions–which most of us normally forget about by January 5!”

Helping your customers start off their new year on the right foot will only help your business start off strong.

So don’t let the slower holiday season get you down! Working a little bit harder to get your name out there, thinking creatively, and embracing the spirit of the season could be exactly what you need to keep your business fresh in your customers’ minds.

Storefront image courtesy of Gail Frederick on Flickr

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