How to capitalise on Valentine’s Day (even if you don’t sell chocolates or roses)

Valentines day

Just because you're not a florist or retailer doesn't mean you can't get creative with marketing and promotion campaigns to capitalise on Valentine's Day – just as these three small business owners have.

At a glance

Here’s a snapshot of the advice given by our interviewees:

  • Be creative with what you've got. Is there an existing product you could put a Valentine's Day twist on?
  • Offer a discount for a strictly limited time.
  • Run a giveaway with an unusual product and ask entrants to tag multiple friends in order to maximise reach.
  • Try targeting a non-traditional demographic (i.e. not just couples). You could focus on 25-30-year-old singles, for example.

Valentine’s Day marketing isn’t limited to traditional gifts. More and more small businesses are coming up with clever, fun and unusual campaigns that attract attention precisely because they are unexpected.

Three small business owners outside the traditional Valentine’s Day space share their tips for capitalising on the occasion.

Give an existing product a Valentine’s Day twist

As an online retailer of veterinary pet supplies, Vet Shop Australia is not a natural match for Valentine’s Day.

However, brothers Steven and Dr Mark Perissinotto, who co-founded the company in 1999, don’t let that get in the way of a good marketing campaign.

“On Valentine’s Day, people are thinking about hearts. So every year, we use the event to talk about heartworm,” says Steven Perissinotto. “It might not be a sexy or interesting topic, but it is an important issue for dogs and, to an extent, cats.”

Vet Shop’s annual promotion involves education, entertainment and sales. An expert-written blog post raises awareness of the risks of heartworm, while a special offer provides a 20% discount on heartworm products.

“We promote the campaign via our best social channels – Facebook, Instagram and our EDM.

“We’ve found that offering a discount for a strictly brief period works best. If Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday, we offer the discount for just one day; if it falls on a Friday, Monday or weekend, we offer it for the weekend only. Most years, we achieve a 15-20% uplift in sales.”

Run an unusual giveaway

For Jess and Jake Munday, who in 2018 co-founded Custom Neon – a company which sells tailor-made neon signs – the trick to attracting attention in the lead up to Valentine’s Day is running an unusual giveaway.

“We wanted to give people an alternative gift idea – one that would last a lot longer than chocolates or roses,” Jess Munday says.

Image: The Custom Neon team

“So in 2019 we decided to give away a red neon heart. We posted a photo on our most popular social channels – Facebook and Instagram – and asked entrants to give it a like, follow our page and tag four friends [to go in the draw].

“For those who didn’t win, we offered a temporary Valentine’s Day discount.”

The campaign inspired over 600 comments, won 300 new followers and generated 14 new sales.

“We think it worked because the prize was desirable for our key market at the time – females aged 25-30 – and because people were keen to tag their friends, which created more of a ‘Galentine’s Day’ vibe than a traditional Valentine’s Day vibe.”

(In case you’re wondering, Galentine’s Day, which happens on 13 February, is all about celebrating female friendships.)

Create creative date ideas for diverse audiences

When most people think Valentine’s Day dates, they think of romantic, candlelit dinners and picnics in the park.

However, Felicia Lannan, Director at Wildhouse Circus, a contemporary circus company based in Melbourne, thinks differently.

“We don’t sell products that would be typically used to woo a romantic partner, but we do have upcoming performances to promote – so we jump on the bandwagon!” she says.

“In 2020, we gave away a double season pass by running a ‘tag your partner’ competition on Facebook and Instagram.

 “We wanted to give people an alternative gift idea – one that would last a lot longer than chocolates or roses,” Jess Munday, co-founder, Custom Neon
“Given that Valentine’s Day is often stereotypically heterosexual, we also wanted to celebrate, via our posts, the love of an LGBTQ+ couple who was part of the cast of our all-female show BOSS SQUAD.”

Another reason the campaign worked is that the company’s members, followers and fellow arts organisations are keen re-sharers, which helps Wildhouse’s promotions to reach an extensive, engaged audience organically.

Other ideas for unconventional Valentine’s Day campaigns

  • Celebrate the love in your business’s life: does a special staff member deserve a post? How about a Galentine’s Day post for your female employees?
  • If you lack the resources to run a new campaign, you could add a Valentine’s Day touch to planned content by adding a joke, pun or statement.
  • Think about making Valentine’s Day giveaways over social media interactive. While tag-and-share promotions can work, it can be a good idea to experiment with inviting entrants to submit photos, videos and stories.
  • Use content that not only inspires likes but also shares, re-shares and saves – because it’s especially helpful, insightful, beautiful, funny or relatable.

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