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What Small Businesses Can Learn from Starbucks’ Seasonal Marketing

23. December 2015 07:49

red coffee cup

No matter what you think about the Starbucks red cup controversy, the media attention gained by the debate can’t be ignored. How can changing the design of a cup mean so much or cause so much conversation?

As this incident shows, establishing a ritual that people come to love and look forward to every year – like Starbucks with its holiday cup designs – can be an important part of your branding strategy. Here are a few tips to create the same type of anticipation and excitement in your business.

  1. Have a giveaway. Make it a tradition to give some sort of add-on product or service to loyal customers every year at the same time. Some ideas: offer free gift wrapping, give out free hot cocoa, or add on free window cleaning for the first 10 customers to schedule their holiday janitorial services.
  2. Have a contest. Photo contests are always fun and it’s easy for customers to participate. Think about having customers photograph their Halloween costumes or ugliest Christmas sweater. When it comes to the holidays, you don’t necessarily have to relate the tradition to your business. Show how you get into the holiday spirit by rewarding contest participants for sharing their funny photos.
  3. Be socially conscious. Consumers like to feel good about where they shop. Market your brand so customers know their purchases contribute to the greater good. Start an annual “we’re closed for the community” day where you and employees close the business to volunteer for a worthy cause or community event. Another idea is to collect nonperishable food items in your office or store and offer a discount for customers who donate.
  4. Be different. Don’t just promote traditions during the major holidays. What about celebrating the first day of summer by having a sunny sidewalk sale? Does it snow in your area? Advertise discounts on cold-weather gear on the first snow day in your town.
  5. Limit the supply. Part of Starbucks’ marketing genius is making certain products only available for a specific (generally short) period of time. Do the same in your business and customers will want to make sure they make a purchase in time to get that limited-time-only product or service. To make sure you have enough inventory, you could take preorders on certain items. You could also set up appointments for special services weeks in advance so shoppers feel a sense of urgency.

Promote your traditions consistently on social media, your website, and in your brick-and-mortar location. Soon enough, customers will start looking forward to your business’s special rituals and spread the word.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.


General | Small Business | Small Business Trends | Tips for All Small Businesses

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