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3 Ways to Stand Out This Holiday Season Without Offering a Discount

You don’t need me to tell you that there is a lot of email being sent this holiday season. Actually, it's not even limited to email. There's just a lot of marketing noise this time of year. Lots of businesses think they can capture subscribers' attention with increasingly desperate offers: 15% off one week, 20% off the next, then 25% off, etc. etc.


But I am here to tell you: It is possible to stand out during the holiday season without offering those kinds of discounts. You may not win the price war, but you can expect to capture your audience’s attention with relevant content, a mobile presence, and customer reviews. And that will benefit you in the long run, not just between now and Christmas.


Here are three ways to do it:


1.       Relevant content. Plain and simple: If you are sending relevant content, you will stand out. You're reading this blog post because it’s covering a topic you care about. Your customers are going to read your emails and social media posts for the same reason. Not only does relevant content based on your customers' interests help you stand out, it can lead to as many sales as free or discounted shipping offers can.


Delivering relevant content is easy to do! On your social media pages, pay attention to what your fans and followers respond to and engage with. Send more posts like that. For email, pay attention to what subscribers are clicking on and what they said they wanted at sign up, and send them targeted relevant mailings about those topics. Just in time for the holidays, you’ll see a higher open rate and click through rate when you need it most.


2.       Mobile. Your customers are on their mobile devices, and the businesses that are there too are the ones that stand out. It’s not just about having a mobile friendly website, but having a Yelp page and claiming your venue on Foursquare. You should expand your presence because, according to Microsoft, 70% of all mobile searches result in action within one hour. Be there when customers are looking for you! And don’t stop there. Continue to engage them in your location with QR codes and text offers. Use a QR code to link to a product video or your Yelp page. This brings me to the third way for you to stand out ... reviews.


3.       Reviews. Do you trust ads? I don’t, and apparently, the majority of consumers don’t either. What your customers do trust is consumer reviews. They search for them online, they ask their social networks, and they rely on those before making a purchase. In fact, 92% of consumers read product reviews when considering purchasing a product, according to ChannelAdvisor's August 2010 “Consumer Shopping Habits Survey."  Reviews are important, so ask for them! Ask people to share their thoughts and opinions in an online survey, a Facebook poll, or just by directing them to your Yelp page. Once you have the reviews, don’t let the trail end there. Promote them! Quote customer comments in your emails, link to them from your Facebook Page, or use a QR code to link to them in your store.


By talking to your customers about what they care about, engaging them where they are with mobile, and validating your messages with reviews, you can set your business apart this holiday season, no discounts needed.


What ways do you use to stand out at holiday time? Share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page.


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Of all the three options, I think relevant content is the most useful. It establishes your company as experts in your field and makes you more trustworthy. An educated consumer is the most loyal.

You're absolutely right! And loyal customers are repeat customers, which drives sales and word of mouth marketing.

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I patronize businesses that support causes I like, such as Cinnabon donating up to $10K to Operation Gratitude for Foursquare checkins.  When the holidays come around, Cinnabon doesn't need to discount because they have built-up a "loyal fan-base" throughout the year.

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This probably falls under Relevant Content, although I would consider it to be a fourth suggestion - Helping Hand: instead of actually trying to "sell" your products or service, offer suggestions to improve people's lives (i.e., save time/money, streamline their work, increase productivity, relieve stress, maximize their effectiveness, etc.). You're right that this time of year everyone has a hand out to 'take' something. But imagine how memorable it would be - particularly in this economy - if someone gave you something that made a difference in your life.

Robert makes a great point! Cause marketing is a very effective way to have your organization stand out. Reminding your customers of your shared values can go a long way. Whether its donating a portion of your profits to a charity you both believe in or volunteering time, it is a way your business and your customers can feel good and give back this holiday season. Not only does it portray your company in a positive light and drive that loyalty, it's something your customers will share with their friends and family. That sharing gives you increased exposure and widens your reach.