31 Small Business Holiday Ideas That Work (Survey Results)

Yael Klass
By Yael Klass
December 10, 2018 · 18 min read

Growing a business can sometimes feel all-consuming.

It often feels like you don’t have any time to do or think about anything but how to get to the next level, how to help your customers, or how to find the right people for your team. Sometimes just getting to the next day can be challenging enough. 

Luckily, the holiday season is a good reminder to take a moment and look around. 

Everything we do is built around you–our users–and growing your business. So, we thought it would be fun to crowdsource some holiday celebration ideas and share them with the community. And that’s what we did – we looked to our customers to learn how you spend your holidays. We conducted a survey and asked over 400 SMB owners and marketers about your holiday marketing and celebration plans.

The results were amazing and we captured 31 of our favorite ideas here.

At Promo, we know that we grow by helping you grow. In 2019, we’ll be focusing more than ever on how we can best serve our users. We’ll be asking for your input, thoughts, ideas, and tips. We’ll share what we learn, too. So, keep an eye out, more is coming from us as we learn from amazing business owners and marketers all over the world.

Happy holidays and don’t forget to celebrate.

1. Host a holiday party

You don’t need a huge budget to have a holiday party. Just take some time out of your schedule to reflect on the year, celebrate what you’ve accomplished, and remember the importance of the holidays and the people in your life. Even if you’re a business of 1, find some time to celebrate with family, other local business owners or even invite those customers who have become welcomed fixtures in your store. Think of it as a well deserved time to celebrate the community you have built around your business because let’s be real, you all deserve a celebration. Not only will it strengthen ties with those around you, but it will also demask the face of the business, you, and when you are happily sipping a glass of champagne welcoming the holiday, it’s not a bad image to have imprinted on their mind. 

2. Collect donations for a local or national charity

Pool your time and resources to help make an impact in your community. You can collect donations from your team, your customers, or your friends and family. Consider hosting a dinner or event to mark the donation. To amp brand awareness, have holiday-themed t-shirts made with your logo and send your team to deliver the collections. This can strengthen your employee’s faith in your business’s commitment to the community, and their sense of community within the business. You can even include your employees and customers by having an online poll or in-store ‘charity box’ collecting votes the charity of choice. It’s the season of generosity and community, so spread the joy and watch your brand’s reputation glisten. 

3. Give employees time to volunteer

Take time to reflect on the season and take stock of what’s most important. Giving your employees some time to volunteer in the community gives them a chance to give back and gives you a chance to reward them for their work. Carve out a workday or an afternoon and let your team choose a cause to donate their time. Just don’t forget about you. Nothing says leadership like watching you lead the pack, try finding the time, even an hour would do, to set the example and providing a service to your own choice of cause. Not only is this great for the community, but volunteering has also been found to increase self-confidence, and pride in one’s work, a precious gift to offer your employees this holiday. And the cherry on top, working for a united cause can be a valuable team-building exercise. 

4. Donate toys or materials to local classrooms

Host an office collection or community drive to gather up toys and materials for children in need. Not only do many kids do without, but many classrooms struggle to provide even basic materials like pencils and paper that students need to learn. This is sure to be an important cause to your employees and customers, many of whom will be parents themselves. Investing in the future generation is so important, and conveying the importance of corporate citizenship to the local community, may even prompt others to follow in your giving footsteps. 

5. Offer holiday giveaways to the community

If the community has supported your business, then pay them back by offering holiday giveaways. You can run an online promotion through social media and email, or an old-school raffle on paper and pencil. Holiday food baskets make awesome gifts! Not only will this give your community a massive thanks for all the support, but your business may become apart of the town talk, as everyone loves a chance to test their luck around the holidays. 

6. Sponsor a local charity

Make a big statement by sponsoring a local charity’s efforts in your community. Choose a cause that your entire team can support and sponsor their upcoming event or fundraiser. Bonus points if the whole team gets time to attend the event! Not only are you likely to create a lasting impression on your local community, but you will probably be invited to more partnerships and events that can spur your future community movements. Remember, neighborly businesses are always the ones who dawn the support of a community. 

7. Employee raffles and giveaways

Don’t leave out your employees if you’re spreading around holiday cheer! You can offer small giveaways and raffles in the office. Even small prizes can make a big difference. Consider doing a “12 Days” style giveaway or something fun and exciting. You may even set it up so everyone is guaranteed some kind of prize. Not only will it increase employee happiness, but it will get them in the holiday spirit, which is sure to make your shop floor glow to any frosty customers in need of holiday cheer. 

8. Donate food to local shelters and food banks

Chances are that your team has extra food at home or in their pantry. Run a food drive to collect food and donate it. Your company could also match the contribution by purchasing extra food to add to the gift. You could even set up a food drive table in your store, or if you are online- arrange a drop off place customers can leave cans of food. With everyone buckling down to give their kitchens a good scrub before the big day, it’s a perfect time for them to clean out their pantries, while reflecting the holiday spirit of giving. It’s like getting two turkeys with one stone. 

9. Send holiday cards to current and past customers

In the age of electronic communication, a handwritten note goes a long way. Help your team say thanks and spread some holiday cheer by sending out holiday cards. It’s a gift of appreciation for their support, thoughtfully demonstrated by crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. Take this opportunity to connect with your current customers and reconnect with past ones, staying top of mind while spreading the celebration. Let’s face it, who doesn’t get a warm feeling when they receive a holiday card. You want your customers to feel like they have just taken a sip of a hot chocolate everytime they think about your business, and this is a great way to heat the pot. 

10. Cook or bake food items to donate

If you have a talented chef or baker on your team, use their skills to create some homemade food that you can donate to a charity or family in need. It’s cheaper than buying store-made food and can serve as a bonding activity for the staff, too! As employees from all different occupations can come together to whip the eggs and stir the icing. Don’t forget to take pics or videos of the process and finishing touches, no one can resist an amateur cooking video, especially if the finishing touches look good enough to eat. 

11. Call customers and clients to wish them happy holidays

It seems like the only phone calls we receive these days are robots and telemarketers. Stand out from the crowd and give someone a fun surprise with a personal phone call. Just taking the time to wish someone a happy holiday season could brighten their whole day! It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, just enough to leave them with a smile on their face, and perhaps even the motivation to pass along the message of holiday cheer to those around them. You never know what an impact one phone call can have. 

12. Offer specials on gifts or gift cards

Reward your customers by offering them a discount or a special on items purchased as a gift, gift cards, or any other purchase made to give to someone else. Many companies offer a free bonus gift card during the holiday season so customers get something for themselves to go with the gift they’re purchasing. Perfect, for introducing new customers to the mix. Just think how many of go out of our usual ‘shopping circles’ to search for the perfect gift. While your store maybe their brother’s favorite gym gear provider, your gift card will give them the perfect excuse to see for themselves why your store is worth the trip, which just might lead to another lifetime customer. 

13. Provide discounts for sharing, donations, or volunteering

Give your customers an extra reason to get into the holiday season! You can offer discount codes or other small perks to customers who show proof that they volunteered or donated to a charitable cause. Consider having customers share photos on social media while they’re participating to receive the special gift! You can even match it with a trending hashtag to gain even more friction on your socials. People love to show off their giving actions, pair that with a gift and you have a recipe for widespread responses. If that encourages even more people to give to their community, the more is the merrier! 

14. Host a toy drive

One of the most classic holiday activities is a toy drive. Collect new gift items for a local shelter or charity like Toys For Tots. You can either have your team bring in toys themselves or collect money to buy in bulk. There are plenty of worthy places to send toys, from state homes to local churches who will ensure the right families benefit. Every child deserves to feel the wonder of the holidays and if you can contribute, you can share in the wonder of the season with them. 

15. Create holiday mailers

If you want to get really creative, design and print custom holiday mailers to your clients or customers. Not only will this make for a nice surprise in their mailbox, but studies have shown that direct mail is actually more effective than email marketing! Likewise, a great number of people collect holiday cards to decorate their home for years to come, so with the right design, it’s the gift that will appear year and year again, reminding all of your holiday spirits and giving nature. 

16. Send holiday ecards

No budget for printing and postage? No problem! Ecards are cheap (or free) alternative to holiday cards and mailers. If you have a large email list, you can give your customers a break from the constant holiday promotions with a joyful, thoughtful message and no sales pitch! They just open up a seemingly ordinary email to find a cheerful and warming message that reminds them of the special time of year, giving them a jingle to their step and an amicable image of your business. 

17. Match donations from customers, clients, or employees

Help donations go further by offering a company match for charitable giving. You could offer a small stipend for every employee up to a set dollar amount or host a giving contest and then match the amount raised. For a powerful demonstration add visual cues, such as matching the size of the check presented, or if oversized checks are in short supply, use large rubber balls with the numbers on them for a powerful demonstration that won’t set you back. This campaign has been successful in creating mass brand awareness, as your brand becomes the towns subject line, with your generosity and giving nature front center. 

18. Give small gifts to loyal customers or clients

Chances are that your most loyal customers are the backbone of your entire business. Pay them back for their loyalty by surprising them with a small holiday gift. Candles, wall hangings, and branded merchandise all make great, inexpensive gifts! The nature of reciprocation is real, showing them that you care and appreciate them will only strengthen their relationship and loyalty to you. Not to mention, who can resist telling their friends about a surprise gift. The right thoughtful surprises may even inspire new customers in the new year.

19. Offer donations for every purchase or sign up

Give shoppers an extra incentive to purchase by offering a donation for every transaction. The holidays are about being giving, but most people’s motivations are limited by overbooked schedules and a list of tasks before the big day. Allowing your customers to experience the joy of the giving season by donating to a worthy cause, while ticking off their to-do list, will make them feel good about their purchase. No wonder offering donations can boost sales by up to 12%, according to research! Your customers are dying to get into the giving spirit, be the one that lets them. 

20. Sponsor a community event

Help host a community dinner or other local event by providing funding, food, or volunteers. Just send out some feelers, and you’ll be surprised by how many events are in need of sponsorship. Try partnering with a nonprofit organization to sponsor their year-end events or holiday drives. You’ll have the opportunity to help your community while enjoying brand visibility, goodwill, and potential word-of-mouth marketing. 

21. Create a holiday video for customers or clients

With the rise of video content, one easy way to spread some holiday cheer is by creating a holiday video. Record employees sharing holiday well wishes or a group holiday greeting. Share the video on social media or send it out by email. Encourage your employees to share it with family and friends. A holiday greeting can ensure the face of your brand reflects the holiday season. People are excited for the holidays, and when your business reflects that cheer it underscores the connection of your business and excitement. If we learned anything from Pavlov, it’s that conditioning is effective. 

22. Decorate the store or office

Just as holiday decorations can make a home feel warm and fuzzy in the cold winter months, the same is true for your store or office. Take some time to put the team in the holiday mood, your customers will love it! Decorating your store or office is a great way to celebrate and do some team building! If you operate online, you can add custom graphics or temporarily redesign your page to reflect the holiday spirit. If you make your homepage something your customers love to look at, they’ll spend more time looking around. 

23. Have an office contest with the winner receiving a donation in their name

Introduce a little friendly competition for a good cause. Games like Jenga, Scrabble make for fun activities. Or tie the contest to the holidays by having an ugly holiday sweater or best homemade decoration contest (popcorn on a string doesn’t count). Don’t forget to post the contenders to your social so your customers can have a chuckle and comment their opinions. 

24. Partner with a local organization to host a holiday meal

The holidays are a special time for many of us. However, for some of us, it’s the time we are most in need of support. Offer a holiday meal for those who need it the most. Join up with a local nonprofit or charitable organization to organize and promote the event in the community. You could be surprised by how many people in the community will come together to create a holiday meal, that every person deserves. 

25. Sponsor a family in need

Many organizations can help your company sponsor a needy family. Provide everything from basic necessities to gifts, food, and decorations for that family to make their holidays merrier. Some programmes will let you see a family’s wish list for the holidays to see what they desperately need. While this may not convert into more sales for your business, it is the opportunity to give a family in need a merry holiday that they will remember for years to come. 

26. Create a cultural and holiday education program for employees and the community

Help those in the community learn about the holiday celebrations of different cultures, their histories, and customs. December isn’t just for Christmas, there are a range of holidays from Hanukkah to Kwanzaa to Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mexican holiday. The holiday season is all about coming together and celebrating one each other’s uniqueness. An education program will not only promote inclusivity but attract a range of customers, eager to share their own celebratory traditions. 

27. Capture a video of local events and celebrations to share

A simple way to brighten someone’s day is to share a video from local events, holiday celebrations, and other happenings. Happen to make it to your town squares Christmas tree lighting? Your customers may not have been so lucky and would love for the opportunity to share in the magic. It’s likely to be a hub of engagement and can sprinkle the holiday cheer, just that little bit further. 

28. Help someone from the community unite with their family for the holidays

There’s no better feeling than helping someone. That’s especially true when you’re able to help people unite or reunite to share the holidays together. Behind the gifts and sparkling decorations, let us remember that this holiday is about cherishing our loved ones. For those who live far from home, this time of year can be painfully lonely. Find someone from the community or someone on your team who could use some help to join friends or family for the holidays. Offer assistance to make it a reality. 

29. Commit a portion of sales or profits to a charitable cause

One super easy way to feel like you’ve done your part is to commit a percentage of all sales or profits to a charitable cause. You can even get everyone involved choosing the charity, there are loads of worthy causes out there and the right one will make it all the more worthwhile to you and your customers. Don’t forget,  you can partner with a local organization to gain more traction and advertise the special to let people know that their dollars will be put to good use. 

30. Host a customer contest that triggers a donation prize

Turn up the competition! Ask your customers to work together to accomplish a goal — like donating 100 pounds of food, making 50 blankets, or serving 40 home cooked meals. You will be amazed how a goal can unite and motivate your team to get in the giving spirit. When they reach that goal, offer to match their generosity with a large donation from your business. Not only will your employees feel like they are working for a worthy business, but your business will have done its part this giving season. 

31. Holiday-themed team building exercises

Celebrate while strengthening your team’s relationships. Which team can produce the best-decorated tree the office has ever seen? Who can help their blindfolded co-worker pin the beard on Santa? A holiday-themed Zumba class to work off the amass of holiday treats we are all guzzling down or north pole themed escape room? The list is endless. You could even have them work as a team to create holiday-themed projects, cook, bake or build something together. How hard would it be to make Frosty the snowman in cake?  This holiday is a time for joy all around, so why not bring the joy of a close team that is sure to last all year long. 


About the author

Yael Klass

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