There’s a popular urban legend that claims Hallmark’s marketers invented Valentine’s Day in order to sell more cards. The truth is a bit stranger. According to classics professor Noel Lenski of the University of Colorado at Boulder, it’s actually based on a Roman holiday called Lupercalia where “men stripped naked, grabbed goat- or dog-skin whips, and spanked young maidens in hopes of increasing their fertility.”
These days, it’s all about love. Well, love and the economy. Valentine’s Day sales pulled in $19.6 billion last year, making it an important holiday for businesses. While marketers might not have created Valentine’s Day, they now play the role of matchmaker, bringing customers and brands together. Fortunately, there are plenty of creative ways to ask customers to be your Valentine.
Seduce your customers with emails
The only holiday that surpasses Valentine’s Day for email volume is Christmas. Inboxes will be stuffed, so make sure you are making a good first impression with a clever subject line. We’ve written about the importance of subject lines for holiday emails before, but the main thing to understand is they should be short, punchy and relevant.
Fortunately, card writers all over the world have been working on V-Day language for decades. If you do a Google image search for “Valentine’s Day Cards” you’ll find all kinds of inspiration for what to say. That said, don’t get too clever. Weber Communications found that clear subject lines performed 541% better than less straightforward options. Brevity also makes the heart grow fonder, so a max of 50 characters is best. This might look something like—Hey Cupid, make Valentine’s Day reservations today!
Subject lines are what catch that special someone’s eye, but you need to offer something worthy of affection. Your email’s content should also be clear and interesting to your customers (and hopefully their sweethearts). Emails should be shorter than a romantic novel too. Aim for 50-125 words to get the best response.
Valentine’s Day is a holiday people prepare for, so make sure you’re getting your message out at least a week before the 14th. If you don’t, someone else might woo your customers first.. Nothing kills the mood like a late present.
Make sure your offer is attractive
If you want people to be excited to spend their money with you, you have to give them something that will set their hearts a flutter. Special menus are an obvious choice for restaurants, but other businesses can get in on the action. Bars might offer special deals on romantic cocktails or wine by the bottle. Shared apps and entrees that bring people closer together physically, like fondue pots, can create intimacy.
Think about things that are exciting for couples and will enhance their evening. You can try the old classic; feature food with aphrodisiac qualities. Anything you can shape into a heart and put on a plate will increase the Instagrammableness of a dish. Be careful about swapping novelty for quality, though. Valentine’s Day is developing a bit of a bad reputation with diners because so many spots choose to hustle couples with overpriced prix fixe menus.
For businesses outside the food and beverage space, two-for-one offers are very popular. Everyone from massage studios to car dealerships have used this tactic successfully. These deals can even appeal to non-couples who just want to try something fun together.
Romance will be trending on social media
Valentine’s Day, like all major holidays, gets a lot of play on social media. If you sell flowers or chocolate, it might even be your biggest sales day of the year. Connect with your community by using themed images, hashtags and content. You might even temporarily change your header images in Facebook or Twitter. We’re not suggesting to get too off brand here, but don’t be afraid to have some fun.
Hashtags are always a great tool to promote business on social media. If you’re running a social media campaign, they help you easily track how many potential customers are sharing your content based on who’s posting the hashtag. You should use a combination of hashtags, one that’s unique to your company and popular ones that are used by the masses. For our own social media, that might include #lovezenreach as the unique one and #ValentinesDay or something funnier like #getaroom.
The holiday is all about love, but it’s not the only thing people will be celebrating. In fact, some of them are turning to a proximate holiday that really is made up: Galentine’s Day.
If you’re a fan of Parks and Recreation you will recognize it as a holiday Amy Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope, created for the day before Valentine’s Day. Here’s the gist in Knope’s own words: “Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”
Now, you don’t have to run wild with this alternative holiday, but you can get in on the fun on social media. If anything, it can get you thinking outside the heart-shaped-chocolate-box.
Optimize your ads for people in the mood
If you’re running Google, Instagram or Facebook ads, a lot of what’s said above will apply to your creative. However, to get the most bang for your buck, you’ll need to think about the audiences you’re targeting. This is easily one of the most important factors in a successful online ad campaign.
There are a lot of options for putting an audience together. Insights from ad platforms, loyalty programs and customer-relationship management (CRM) tools can help find customers. One option is to focus on recent purchasing behavior.
On Facebook, you can look through purchasing behavior subcategories such as Buyer Profiles, Clothing, Food & Drink, Health & Beauty and more. Within each subcategory, you can drill down even more. It’s possible to focus on people who have made Valentine’s adjacent purchases like flowers or new outfits, or who eat out in your neighborhood.
You can even target life events. For example, people who have recently changed their relationship statuses from “single” to “in a relationship” are probably still in that early honeymoon stage of their relationship. They’re for sure going to want to go out and do something romantic. Single men in their 60s? Not so much.
Make a significant impact on significant others
February 14th no longer involves goat-skin whips, and it wasn’t actually made up by marketers. But marketers and their tools are important. This is a fun holiday and if you do it right, you have the chance to make not one, but two customers happy.