elf on a shelf balloon at the macy's thanksgiving day parade


Growth  |  4 min read

What Elf on the Shelf Can Teach all Small Businesses

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Andrea Parker

Around this time of the year, parents and small business owners alike join in the holiday spirit and try to delight the people they love most, whether that means children or customers. In keeping with a somewhat new holiday tradition, we wanted to share what Elf on the Shelf can teach small business owners. Despite the sneaky nature of the elf, the creators of the concept showcased some of the necessary skills required of small business owners: authenticity, consistency, and daring to be bold.

Lessons from Elf on the Shelf

1. The idea for Elf on the Shelf occurred over a cup of tea between a mother and daughter who decided to make their own family's holiday tradition a business. There was no initial business plan or attempt to commandeer the holidays, just the thought that others could share in the joy that their own family's tradition brought to them. Lesson learned: As you build your business, make sure you include a personal touch. If you’re close to the cause you’re promoting, your passion will make it easier to turn an idea for your business into a success.

2. Six years of development and branding went into Elf on the Shelf before it became a holiday sensation. Though they were consistent with their product, the creators never could have anticipated that a paparazzi photo of Jennifer Garner’s child holding “Elf on the Shelf” would appear on the Today Show and create a new children’s holiday phenomenon. Lesson learned: While Elf on the Shelf’s popularity soared via a serendipitous sighting, prepare your business for any amount of publicity by creating a consistent image and branding. The easier your product or service can be identified by customers and prospects, the more likely your brand will affix itself in customers’ minds.

3. Once Elf on the Shelf became a staple holiday product for consumers everywhere, the company expanded their products. Capitalizing on their idea, they created Birthday Elf that makes sure children behave during the month prior to their big day. Lesson learned: If your core product is performing well, try adding something new into your line of products, while still keeping in mind your target audience. Make sure it’s relevant and falls in line with your current offering, but don’t be afraid to expand and diversify.

Customer rewards

If Elf on the Shelf stands for nothing else, it is a reminder that someone is thinking of everyone who believes in him. Elf on the Shelf is like a holiday sticky note that makes children everywhere feel important enough to be on Santa’s watch list. Much like children, your customers need to be reminded of how important they are to you. Be sure to WOW them over the holidays by sending them a note, but be sure to send different types of appreciation emails year round to let your customers know how much they mean to you.

1. There’s nothing better than being rewarded for good behavior. Like Santa’s presents that await children who have shown good behavior during Elf’s stay, customers love to be rewarded for engaging with your business. To reward them, try punch cards, coupons or special offers just for them.

2. Think visually. Just one photo helped make Elf on the Shelf a holiday hit, and photos are what help to uphold the tradition. Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram are littered with Elf on the Shelf’s mischievous adventures during the entire month of December, and every year it seems to become bigger and better. The power of visual content for Elf on the Shelf has launched it from a simple product to an entire experience that people want to talk about and share with their friends. If you want that for your business, you must realize the power of visual content.

Once you’ve done that, don’t forget to have fun! If you don’t have something as clever or consumable as Santa’s scout elf to market, no problem; use this as a chance to share behind the scenes moments of your business. Get creative and tap into inspiration from others in your industry who are doing it well. At Keap this month, we're going to have some fun with our own Elf on the Shelf, so be sure to follow us on Facebook and have a very happy, fruitful and rewarding holiday season!

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