Santa on water skis? Yes, I admit to doing it. In the 1980s, I owned a radio station. I had just taken it over and needed to bring lots of attention to it. So I invented the “Summer Santa” promotion. I had learned that our news director played Santa at Christmas time to make a couple extra bucks. He already had a suit. He already had a belly full of jelly, a jovial laugh, and a Christmas-like spirit. It was an instant promotion, and it was easy. Spot the “Summer Santa,” recite a phrase about the station, and win a Christmas gift in July. We took “Santa” everywhere, including the lake where everyone was spending time on July 4th. And yes, he did actually water ski in the Santa suit. I know because I drove the boat. Have you ever seen a wet Santa? It’s quite a sight.
Eric, Are You Suggesting I Do a Christmas in July Promotion?
No, not exactly, though there are some elements you can employ to get attention.
Money Does Grow on Trees
Instead we’re going to do something really Christmas-like together. Money does grow on trees, and we’re going to plant a money-making Christmas tree in July. Are you in?
Everything in marketing starts with a seed. Plant a seed, nurture and water it, expose it to sunlight, watch it grow and blossom, and it grows money.
Getting Early Attention from Christmas Shoppers
What does everyone do around Christmas time? They sell like crazy, they promote like crazy, and it is darned near impossible to get anyone’s attention at Christmas to sell something. So we’re going to get them thinking about a Christmas gift in July, when they're not thinking about Christmas.
Now I’m presuming that you’ve already got a list of previous buyers. If you don’t, this won’t work.
A Step By Step Plan You Can Do This Week To Stimulate Business
Here is the move. Ready?
You write a Christmas letter. You can make up your own, or you can copy mine. You mail it out to your list and wait for the magic to happen.
Oh, and the critical thing is that you send it to the spouse or partner of your buyer. For instance, if the one was the one who loved and bought the painting, send the letter to the other. If they both bought the painting, send it to one of them. Note, I did not say e-mail this. I want you to use mail. E-mail is too easy to delete.
Step 1. Get a red mailing envelope. Put your name in the return address area. Put these words on one side of the envelope: My First Annual July Christmas Letter. Open immediately.
Step 2. Enclose a candy cane. It makes the envelope lumpy and creates curiosity. You may want to wrap the packaged candy cane in some foam or paper. People cannot opening resist a lumpy envelope.
Step 3. Get some Christmas letterhead. You can usually find it at a craft store like Michaels, or at an office supply store like Staples or Office Depot. It’s stationery with a Christmas theme.
Step 4. Write the letter (copy to follow). Make sure to have a strong headline. Sign the letter.
Step 5. Easy to Find Contact Information. Make sure you have put your mobile phone number and e-mail on the letter so they can find you.
Step 6. Enclose a photo of a recent painting you’ve done. Place information on the back: “Thought you’d like to see one of my recent paintings. This one is called NAME and might look great hanging in your home.” With your contact information. If they throw out the letter they might keep the image. Nothing but the image should be on the front.
Step 7. Put it all in the envelope.
Step 8. Lick it, seal it, stamp it.
Step 9. Mail it.
OK, here is the letter. You have my permission to use it or adapt it, copy it into your word processor, personalize it, and print it. My letter below is written as though it’s personalized to the wife, mentioning the husband. You need to adapt to the persons and titles you are sending it to. (Note this could be sent to corporations too).
Why on Earth Am I Sending You a Christmas Letter in July?
I Promise It Will Make Perfect Sense in About 20 Seconds
Your Name Here
While you’re enjoying this candy cane and remembering last Christmas, I want to give you an idea. Remember how stressful Christmas shopping can be? Sometimes it just robs the joy from the holiday, trying to find the perfect gift.
But I think I’ve found it for you: Me.
Well, not me, exactly. But my artwork.
Wait, before you crumple up this letter, here’s what I was thinking.
You once bought one of my paintings, and I remember that your husband loved it. For this Christmas, I can do a custom painting based on something your husband really loves … a special place, a special memory, or something meaningful to him. Since he already likes my art and my style, he’ll love a custom painting done just for him.
In fact, I daresay it may be the most memorable Christmas gift he ever receives.
Of course, the reason I’m contacting you in July is so we have time to put our heads together on the subject. I’ll do some sketches till I get it the way you want it, then I’ll begin the painting. And it will be ready for Christmas. (I also do birthdays and anniversaries.)
Here’s the catch.
Yes, there is always a catch. Paintings take a long time to paint and a long time to dry, which is why I’m contacting you in July. Hey, that rhymes. Santa would be proud.
The catch is that I can do only three custom paintings before Christmas. Once I book those three paintings, I probably won’t be able to do more. So if you like the idea, give me a call, tell me the size you’re thinking about, the scene, the colors, and I’ll quote you a price and give you time to think about it without feeling obligated.
Your husband will get the world’s most special Christmas gift, custom-painted for him. I hope you like the idea. And I promise I’ll keep it a secret.
I’ve enclosed a picture of a recent painting to remind you of my artwork. But I can paint anything you want, painted in my own style. Just call the number below and let’s talk turkey … well, Christmas turkey.
Merry Christmas … in July!
PS: This is our little secret. I haven’t sent the same thing to your husband. Imagine how his eyes will light up when he sees a painting of something meaningful to him. Maybe his childhood home, the old farm, your favorite vacation spot, his Aunt Nellie. Anything. But if you like the idea, call, because I can do only three custom paintings for this Christmas, if I start soon.
Side Benefits to the Letter
Will this work? Absolutely. And if nothing else, you’ll get talked about, create attention, and get a chance to put a photo of a painting you’re trying to sell in front of a potential buyer. It will be a great image piece because of your creativity, and, yes, you should get a few orders. Be sure to get a deposit and explain terms of deposit so you don't work for free. The deposit will get you some of your money up-front and the rest you'll get when the paintings are done, usually way before Christmas.
Can you do more than three? Probably, but you want to create scarcity and time pressure. Plus, no one wants what everyone can have. This is special.
You’ll need to be ready for the call. Know your prices and sizes and be ready to e-mail the information when they call. Most important, get them talking about what scene they want painted. Get them imagining the excitement. Get them thinking about where it will hang and how the recipient will think of them every time they look at it. It’s an easy sale, and a great way to communicate that you do commissions. (Don’t use the word commissions, though; that’s an unknown insiders’ term to most people.)
Will you have the guts? Some of you will, and I think you’ll see great results. The best results will come from previous buyers, and the more recent, the better the response. Don’t be afraid to send out a few hundred of these. You can always paint more, and not everyone will bite, but I guarantee they’ll be talking about you.
Oh, one more thing. If you mail the exact same letter 2 weeks later you will increase response.
Merry Christmas from your Summer Santa friend, Eric Rhoads