Year-end marketing in a “not business as usual year”

By Mark G. Auerbach

Generally, I write an article for Succeeding in Small Business this time of year about marketing and promoting one’s business at year’s end. I’ve talked about not overdoing the messaging during the holiday season.  I’ve recommended ways to say thank you to customers.  And, I’ve noted that “timing is everything.”

But, as we all know, 2020 is definitely not “business as usual” year. In a year that began with the disastrous film version of Cats and then moved on the pandemic, toilet paper-hoarding, murder hornets, social distancing, election fatigue, and now, the uptick in COVID19 as cold weather arrives (the list is endless, isn’t it?), there is nothing that says “usual.”

That said, first and foremost, don’t shelve year-end marketing and promotion efforts. Even if your budget is taxed and your nerves are frayed, it’s important to keep your business in your customers’ and clients’ mindset. Because, some day things will change and you don’t want to be forgotten.

What to do

The media industry is having a tough time. Ad revenues from concerts, plays, sporting events, restaurants, and other retail has bottomed. Many ad reps will negotiate rates lower than their standard rate cards. Others may offer incentives for prepayment of ads. Some will give you bonus ads, or website presence.

If you can’t afford print or digital advertising, get your message out via social media. If you can’t afford to do a holiday card mailing to your base, do an email one. If you can’t entertain the customers or clients, you can send them gift cards to local restaurants, shops and businesses.

Keep your message positive. Everyone’s had it tough, and yes, misery loves company, but misery turns people away. Focus on the good things you’ve been able to do…keep as many employees as possible on the payroll during shutdowns; bringing furloughed employees back; supporting the local restaurants and their employees, for example.

Note to the non-profits getting their messaging together for Giving Tuesday on December 1, the national initiative to get people to make online donations: Every non-profit is hurting, including yours. Don’t beg! Thank the donors who have stuck by you during the tough times. Tell potential donors how their “investment” in your organization will serve others. Enhance the quality of your social media messaging, and minimize the quantity of posts. The plethora of political ads has numbed people’s reactions to social media.

As for me, I’ll keep my year-end simple. As I have in the past, I’ve stopped with fancy holiday cards and client gifts. I send out a holiday email, and donate the difference in cost to a couple of local non-profits that are doing good things in the community. There will be no office party this year, but my crew will get gift-cards from the local restaurants I’d have used for catering. I was able to keep two-thirds of my team onboard, even as several clients went on hiatus. So those with me and those no longer on the team will also get gift cards. I’m so grateful to my team, and I worked hard to build a great one. They will be remembered. Being thankful is a good part of succeeding in small business.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on TV and radio on WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB. His new series, On The Mark, premiered in October.

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