During the lead-up to any holiday, your inbox is likely flooded with a host of email from companies offering discounts and other promotions tied to the season. I’m sometimes jealous of these for-profit brands: it would be fun to think of exciting ways to tie sales into a holiday. On the other hand, thank goodness we don’t really have to sell anything!

Our customers don’t groan when we market to them–they love us and our products. And we can find fun and interesting ways to engage with our cardholders during holidays. In fact, it behooves us to go beyond beautiful in-branch book displays and bulletin boards to market our collection and best programs while our cardholders are in the spirit of whatever season they’re celebrating.

Here are my tried and true tips for taking advantage of any holiday season to remind your cardholders of your presence and all that you offer and to capture their attention!

Collection-based marketing. This is my favorite tactic. I enlist the help of my librarians to curate lists of new holiday-themed books for adults and kids. In my experience, the lists that generate the most holds and check-outs contain 10-12 new books and are mostly fiction, with a few exceptions: decorating, entertaining, and cookbooks. Start planning these lists at least two months before the corresponding holiday so you have time to make sure the list is complete and all your promotional pieces are in place. Then, pick a date about two to three weeks before the holiday and begin promoting the lists to the corresponding audience. Watch the holds and check-outs fly in as your cardholders get into the mood of the season with new titles!

Promote the best of your library events.  At least two months before the holiday, begin to scan the program calendar regularly for any program that’s fun and interesting. You want to target programs that can’t really be found at any other place in your community and are highly tease-able. Again, promote these programs to the corresponding audience about 2-3 weeks before the event for best results.

Inspire your readers. Post ideas for holiday gifts, recipes, and more–especially if they are literary-themed–on your social media accounts, especially Pinterest. If you don’t have a Pinterest account at your library, starting one during any holiday season is a great opportunity to showcase your library as a place where ideas and information are found. You are an information hub, not just a book peddler!

Do contrasting marketing to rival Amazon and your local bookstore. Start checking your competitors’ website and ads as soon as they begin their holiday marketing. Figure out what their offers are and how you can counteract those offers with free stuff! For example, we know that, as we approach Black Friday, stores will begin to promote their sales heavily. We can create similar marketing campaigns that emphasize our free products and services in contrast to the big-name stores. You can also host a mobile device or gadget petting zoo, where you have several models of tablets and smartphones available for cardholders to test and examine before they make their big purchases. The event can be a great way to promote your digital offerings to an audience that is clearly interested in going mobile. Or set up a call center or event where you can take questions from cardholders who need help picking out a gift, cooking a big meal, or figuring out etiquette questions like which fork to use!

Don’t forget holidays that are uniquely library-oriented. We can celebrate fun days like Take Your Child to the Library Day and eBook Day in ways that stores cannot. Use the ideas above and add that library-themed angle to your marketing of these days for fun that your cardholders will appreciate. Last year, for Take Your Child to the Library Day, my library did a gift card giveaway for parents who brought their kids to a branch.

Have you done something fun and successful to market your library during a holiday? Please share your successes in the comments!

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