Occasion-based marketing can give your conversion and response rates a healthy shot in the arm, but many businesses don’t take advantage of this kind of opportunity. Some probably feel that this kind of approach is too fluffy, or not just right for their product or service.
It’s true that you should carefully analyze, research and target your marketing campaigns to meet the needs of your business and your audience. But occasion-based marketing does deserve a place within most larger marketing strategies because it is a great example of approaching prospective customers at a time when they are likely to be more receptive to your pitch.
Using St. Patrick’s Day as a timely example, I’m going to show you how this kind of strategy fits in with occasion-based marketing generally and how to crush it with your St. Patrick’s Day marketing strategy.
What are “occasions” from a marketing standpoint?
First of all, understand that by “occasions” I mean not only holidays, but other special, sometimes seasonal events. Strong occasion-based marketing isn’t just regular marketing plus a few holiday-focused giveaways or sales. It is the careful staging of promotions and other marketing tactics within the cultural context of events.
“Occasions” also include times of the year when certain things happen. Spring, for example, is an occasion. We share cultural ideas about the coming of spring that include our need to do some spring cleaning, take a trip for spring break, or otherwise start something new. When you consider occasion-based marketing, think about it in these broader terms to free yourself from seeing holidays as your only opportunities for occasion-based marketing.
Brainstorming occasions for your marketing strategy
People are often more receptive to making purchases related to particular holidays, events and occasions. We are already prepared internally to spend money and effort at these times, so it’s a good time to make an appeal to your target audience. There are a few good tactics you can employ to get the most out of your occasion-based marketing:
Watch for news. Trending topics show you what people are interested in day by day, so if there is a relevant connection between your business and a news topic that’s getting a lot of bandwidth, take advantage of that. As an example of this, when Arizona passed its short-lived SB1062 which would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ customers, there was a massive backlash across the country. Many businesses took advantage of the controversy by advertising “we serve everyone” specials. This brought them new business from people who hated the law, and also generated publicity.
As you watch current news unfold, look for relevant connections with your business. If there is a tax controversy, can you offer a special for your customers who are opposing the hike? Smart tie-ins like this work.
Watch for events. There are countless events happening all over the world every single day. Is there a race in town? A big game? Even events that are industry specific can give other businesses a hook. For example, a web design conference in your city could be the perfect opportunity to talk to attendees about your restaurant.
Life cycle events. Events in your customers’ lives like birthdays or anniversaries can present opportunities for targeted deals and promotions. This is also true for business cycle occasions such as tax season or the end of the fiscal year; these events offer you a smart way to introduce time-saving products and services such as accounting that help businesses take care of their annual problems. Even if you don’t have a good tie-in for a big promotion, it pays to acknowledge life cycle events and builds rapport with your audience.
Holidays. Yes, holidays can still be good times for marketing promotions. Don’t go crazy every time there’s some special day on the calendar unless it’s relevant to your business; you could probably find a food holiday for almost every day of the year, but you’d annoy your customers fast if you launched endless promotions based on all of them. Instead, look critically at holidays and choose those that would make potential buyers more receptive because they are relevant to your service or product.
One-time events. Many occasions are cyclical, but there are also lots of one-time occasions that your business might be able to use. You can integrate cyclical events into your overall schedule, but it’s easy to miss out on those events that just “come up.” Make sure your process is responsive and flexible enough to include relevant one-time and other unplanned occasions.
Occasion-based marketing tips
Now you need to know how to benefit your business by engaging in smart occasion-based marketing. Here are some tips for making these kinds of strategies work for you.
Test your strategy. See how your occasion-based events are doing by running the same promotion or campaign attached to an event or holiday and without the occasion. Compare the response rates you get from both versions of the same campaign.
Make the occasion a point of connection. Don’t just run a promo for the holiday; take the opportunity to connect with your target audience too. Even if your offer is a steal, you don’t just want them to take that one offer and disappear; you want to earn their loyalty so they keep coming back.
Stay relevant. Know the right context for your business and choose occasions that are relevant to your audience. Ask yourself when your audience will probably be paying attention to your kind of product or service. When are they going to be most interested?
Use real-time marketing. If you’re interested in creating instant interest in your brand, use real-time marketing. Try a meme naming or photo contest on social media; each participant can post to earn the chance to win a prize. This is low-tech and low budget, but makes the most of real-time engagement.
Make your occasion-based tactics part of your overall content strategy. Even if you decide to run a last-minute promo for a local event outside of your normal schedule, make sure that your promo fits into your larger strategy. Don’t let special events hijack your larger brand message.
Be authentic. Make sure genuine interactions are part of your occasion-based strategies. Customers love to get an “insider’s” view of your business, and interactions surrounding holidays and special events are perfect for this. Each time you run a seasonal or event-based promo, especially one that asks users to post pics, you and your team should post pics too.
Use social media for occasions. When you post about your promos and occasions on social media, you’re inviting interaction from followers. This can help you create better buzz, but also show how genuinely excited about the event or promo you and your team are.
Understand social signals. Make sure you understand what your social media interactions are telling you by using social listening tools like Social Pulse. These help you see and follow trends that matter to your audiences. You can also use these tools to assess how past occasion-based posts performed so you can choose the most promising promos.
Use the right voice. A tender, emotional appeal might work on Mother’s Day, but it’s likely to annoy your audience on a more raucous event like Halloween or the Super Bowl. And although St. Patrick’s Day is certainly linked to Ireland, the spirit of the holiday as observed here in the US is probably more linked to having fun, celebrating, and even taking a humorous approach than it is to, say, a serious look at Irish Pride or history.
Perfect St. Patrick’s Day event ideas
St. Patrick’s day is right around the corner, and it’s a great event for a marketing promo. In 2015, about 127 million Americans celebrated the holiday and spent around $4.6 billion in the process. Just as important is the fact that people anticipate St. Patrick’s Day and see it as a chance to have fun and be social. This makes the holiday the perfect time to be creative and even more interactive than usual with social content.
Here are some ideas about how to make the most of St. Patrick’s Day marketing.
Start early, but not before Valentine’s Day. There is about a month between St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day. This matters because even if you’re not doing occasion-based marketing for Valentine’s Day, lots of people celebrate it; if you start marketing for St. Patrick’s Day too soon, you’ll be wasting effort on an audience that isn’t there yet. Once you clear V Day, though, definitely start marketing for St. Patrick’s Day. Make use of the whole month so you can get maximum impact from your promos.
Host a party. Especially for an event like St. Patrick’s Day, a time when lots of people will go out and attend parties anyway, it can pay off to host your own party or open house. Whether you host in-office or at a local restaurant or pub, you’ll get some great, shareable photos of your team having fun and interacting with clients and friends.
Luck of the Irish promo. Ask your followers to show how lucky they are in a social media promo by posting pics of themselves in green with the reasons they feel lucky. And remember to use this chance to interact and be genuine; if you do run a promo asking users to share their photos, your staff should post their own pics too. Don’t forget to use trending hashtags and your best brand standby hashtags too.
Share your company spirit. Even if you’re not running a specific promo that asks for photos, share your own. You can Photoshop some fun St. Patrick’s Day graphics into a shot of your team and post for the holiday, or just show how many people at your location are wearing green. Seeing the fun, personal side of your business again and again keeps customers loyal and interested.
Watch the big boys. There are a few companies who always nail St. Patrick’s Day promos: Bailey’s and Guinness in particular always run very successful campaigns in March. Most of us don’t have that kind of budget, but we can still learn from their successes. Model your own promo after the Bailey’s “Kiss Me, I’m Irish!” campaign or the Guinness “Friendliest Day of the Year” campaign to make use of their proven tactics. (And while you’re looking at those campaigns, share their great images and infographics with hashtags to find new people.)
Quiz your audience on their Irish pride. Although almost everyone in the US knows what St. Patrick’s Day is, they may not know much about the history of the day or the country of Ireland. This is a great chance for you to create entertaining and interesting quizzes or post daily trivia questions that your followers can answer for a chance to win a small prize. Here is a cool Irish words quiz from the Oxford English Dictionary online.
Name your poison. Ask your followers to share their favorite Irish food or cocktail recipes and share some of your own. This is especially useful if your business is very visual and active on platforms like Pinterest or Instagram; great photos with recipes go a long way for these audiences.
Tell your Irish story. Do you have Irish heritage? Do any of your staff members? Share a favorite story or old family photo to make a special connection with your fellow Irish-Americans.
Good luck charms. Take to social media and post photos of your team’s favorite lucky items with a short story in the caption.
Promote your naturally relevant products. If you sell socks online, take this month to highlight your green offerings. Small one-person outfits like “Lulu’s Little Lovelies” can get great results with posts that show off festive-looking products and a #StPatricksDay.
Create your own occasion hashtag. Dunkin’ Donuts created the #GooDDluck hashtag for their 2012 Twitter St. Patrick’s Day sweepstakes and they’ve been using it ever since. If you’re good about posting regularly and using your own hashtag along with more mainstream tags (like #StPatricksDay or #StPattysDay) you might start a trend. Some other popular hashtags for St. Patrick’s Day include #clover, #green, #Ireland, #Irish, #KissMeImIrish, #leprechaun, #parade, #shamrock, #stpattys and #stpatricksparade.
Favorite Irish sayings. Irish culture has a truly colorful and expressive set of folk sayings that are really fun to share on social media. Share the ones you like best and invite your followers to share theirs.
Show your green business practices. St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect time to show that your business’s green side is deeper than a night of green beer. Post about your use of green, recycled products in the day-to-day running of your office, or share facts about how your product is green and sustainable.
Lucky raffle or giveaway. Put together a raffle drawing or giveaway for St. Patrick’s Day and make the most of your target audience feeling lucky.
Famous Irish-Americans. St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t have to be all about drinking and carrying on. If your business has a more serious or professional brand voice and the thought of posting your team photoshopped to look like leprechauns, try an interesting cultural approach instead. Post facts about famous Irish-Americans like John F. Kennedy or the history of the Irish in the US.
This St. Patrick’s Day take your chance to engage in some smart occasion-based marketing. What are your potential customers going to be receptive to hearing about this March 17th? I’d love to hear about your own St. Patrick’s Day marketing ideas.