Want a thriving small business? Look out for the Santa fail

Want a thriving small business?


Ever had a Santa fail? Where the kids see you putting the presents under the Christmas tree?  A Santa fail happened in our house last year and we thought we had done all the necessary planning and preparation.

We had thought of a couple of scenarios in our planning, but did we really put enough deep thought into the entire Santa process?  

I’m sure no-one wants a Santa fail so why didn’t we prepare more?  Why didn’t we really think about what mattered? Our Customers!…and we were blindsided by our little customers: the thinking power of two young Generation Alpha’s.

In many ways our family’s Santa fail is relatable to a small business failing.  A small business can fail for several reasons. One of the top reasons a small business fails is when a business neglects to keep on top of their marketing strategy and their marketing planning.  

As business owners we all want a thriving small business and we know we need to plan to ensure our business and marketing objectives are being met. But how many small business owners have the time to plan – maintaining that strategy focus and momentum – when it all gets a little busy?  I’ll come back to business failure in a minute.

First, our Santa fail, and before I tell you what my Gen Alpha kids did, here is an overview of our planning checklist:

  • Presents bought in advance when kids still at school and not on holidays.
  • Presents well-hidden and not discovered (despite much hunting).
  • Presents moved to several different locations because of the ‘much hunting’.
  • Allowing kids to stay up late in the lead up to Christmas Eve so they would be tired and fall asleep easily on the big night.
  • Watching Polar Express for the ‘nth time to reinforce the magic of believing.
  • Giving kids warm milk to help them fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Prepping milk and cookies for Santa.
  • Waiting over an hour after the kids were in bed before making our first move (just in case all those late nights and warm milk didn’t do the trick).
  • Not wearing any shoes, in case the shoes made too much noise when walking.
  • Lights off.
  • Santa 1 moving presents in stages – from hiding spot to Location A.
  • Checking with Santa 2 that there was no movement in the house. Check kids were still in bed.
  • Santa 1 moving presents from Location A to Location B.
  • Checking with Santa 2 that there was still no movement in the house. Yep! Kids were still in bed, breathing heavily and fast asleep.
  • Final stage – moving of presents from Location B to under the Christmas tree.
  • Santa 1 and Santa 2 drinking milk and eating cookies.

Unfortunately, the kids were one step ahead. They secretly planted their tablets and a laptop in prime locations, hitting the video record button before (VERY willingly) going to bed.  Despite the lights being off when Santa 1 and Santa 2 made their move, there was sufficient evidence to see it wasn’t Santa but rather mum and dad.  Fail 1. 

Our voices were also very distinct.  We had failed to do a jolly “Ho, Ho, Ho” or a “Merry Christmas to all and to all a
goodnight!”  Fail 2!

The kids had done even better planning.  They had done their research and due diligence.  In previous years, the children simply believed.  Little did I realise these little Gen Alpha customers were changing.  The kids were in effect ‘purchasing’ a product/service. In this case it was a Santa service: whereby Santa delivers the presents and places them under the Christmas tree.  They were on a product lifecycle.

the product lifecycle - Stages: 1. Introduction, 2. Growth, 3. Maturity, 4. Decline

Product Lifecycle

Using the Santa service as my product, I want to discuss how this product tracks along the product lifecycle.

Introduction Phase: From a very early age, the target audience (two little children) had quickly become loyal customers of the service due to heavy promotion of the Santa service by mum, dad, relatives and broader society. 

Growth Phase: The customer retention rate was high:  annual Santa photos, numerous shopping trips to visit Santa and take in all the Christmas sights, etc.  There was 100% loyalty in the product and repeat purchasing year on year.

Product maturity and Product Extension: The kids were reaching points of doubt and disbelief in Santa’s existence, however a few words of wisdom (or watching The Polar Express) were simply required to continue the repeat purchase and a boost in Santa product sales.  With this we were able to continue the product extension.  

At this point, the effort to retain these two loyal customers was still minimal.  Business overheads were low: no special bonuses, no discounted offers, no special videos. It was easy. You could say the returns (and profit) came easily.


Decline: The kids were reaching a point in their customer journey where their loyalty was wavering significantly.  I had underestimated my customers and where they were on the product lifecycle.  Sure, I knew at some point the lifecycle would end.  I had expected that I would need to have that difficult conversation where I had to communicate with my customers that the Santa service was ending.  Instead, I had neglected to totally stay at the forefront of understanding my customers. This is the point where my Santa business had finally failed.

Where did the Santa Service fail?

·        I hadn’t done enough pre-Christmas research and had neglected my customer buyer journey. 

·        I didn’t ask sufficient Santa related questions. 

·        I didn’t enquire whether the whole Santa thing was puzzling to the kids. 

·        There had been very little questioning from the children as to whether Santa was real or not. (I assumed that was a good thing because I didn’t need to have any difficult conversations about Santa). 

·        I assumed my customers hadn’t changed. 

·        I assumed the market hadn’t changed.

·        I didn’t listen to my customers. Importantly, I didn’t listen to their silence. 

·        I failed to consult, research or ask for feedback.

·        I failed to keep up with the desires, needs or problems of my customers,

·        I failed to see the changes in my customers or the competition.  

Get customer centric at Christmas
Get customer centric this Christmas

It is not up to my customers to tell me that they are not happy with my product or service.  It is up to me to be proactive and ensure my customers continue to be happy.

My target audience had changed their attitudes and behaviours and my Santa service had not kept up. 

As my kids grew so did their approach to the entire Santa service offering.  They were no longer a captive audience and they were old enough to do their own market research – to explore the market and see what other information, products and services were on offer.  Who knew offering the service of Santa was so difficult?

How do you keep up with your customers on the buyer journey?

Failing to adapt and grow as the market and your customers change is a common error in business growth.  Many small businesses fail to update their marketing strategy (or never had a strategy to begin with).  If you want a thriving small business, it is important to do regular assessments of your target customers and your competition.  A few things you need to consider:

·        Do a SWOT Analysis – look at your Strengths, your Weaknesses, your Opportunities, and your Threats. 

·        Review your key competitors and see if what they are doing has changed.  How do you track against them?

·        Look for opportunities or gaps in the market – where can you improve? Where can your business grow?

·        Then assess these potential opportunities or gaps. 

·        A simple and easy way of assessing potential opportunities is using the SMART criteria.  Is the opportunity Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound?  These criteria will help you make key decisions and help in your planning.

·        Are your target customers still the right fit for your products and services? Do you need to change your offering to suit your target customer? Can you extend the life of your product?

·        Is there a gap in the product market for a new option?

·        Are you still communicating to your customers through the right channels? Are you asking the right questions and giving them the solutions to their problems?

·        Are you getting a return on your marketing investment?  Is the product or service still profitable?

·        Are you meeting the business and marketing objectives?

For all the planning and effort of being Santa last year, not only did I fail to fully understand my customers it meant my return on the time and effort of the whole Santa experience produced a zero return – there was no customer surprise and delight, no enchantment when the presents were magically there in the morning and no joy that the cookies had been eaten.  The gratitude had shifted from Santa to mum and dad and it certainly lost much of the magical childhood innocence along the way. 

Could I have extended the Santa service another year if I had done more research and planning?  I believe so – we could have dressed as Santa as a start (Fail 3).  In hindsight, I saw the secretive plotting and planning.  But, I had become distracted and busy and missed the golden customer moment – the moment when I could have saved the Santa Service for one more year. 

In your business don’t underestimate the need to keep the lines of communication open with your customers, to understand their needs or problems and how your product or service will adapt or grow to solve those problems.

The big picture - The marketing strategy

It is easy to become busy or distracted in our small businesses.  We lose sight of the big picture and get stuck in the daily, tactical tasks.  We run out of time to think about how our big picture, marketing strategy will look in one, two, three years’ time and then our business fails to grow and thrive.  Worse still, our business goes backward and eventually fails. 

Small business owners: take a look at the big picture on an annual basis, know your business and marketing objectives, review your marketing strategy: your customers, your products and services.

The annual visit from Santa is a good way to remember when to review your business and marketing strategy. The Christmas holiday period is typically a quiet time and the perfect opportunity to review your business goals and marketing strategy.  Planning keeps your business momentum going.  Hit the ground running for 2021.  Avoid the Santa fail!  It’s not too late to start your marketing planning now.



outsourcing your marketing strategy and marketing planning

Have you ever considered outsourcing your big picture planning?  Look Deeper Marketing has limited availability over the December and January period to undertake your small business marketing strategy and planning.  We can help you develop and review your big picture objectives, understand your target customers, your competition and more. 


CAll US on M: 0420 300 110 to find out more


About Leanne Di Fazio

About Leanne Di Fazio

Leanne has over 20 years marketing experience in large corporates and small business in Australia and the United Kingdom.  She is passionate about helping small business grow and thrive. Leanne is the founder of Look Deeper Marketing: who specialise in marketing, strategy and planning for small business. Look Deeper Marketing bring affordable marketing consultancy to small business in Macarthur, Sydney and surrounding areas, with packaged options so you know exactly what to expect. Look Deeper Marketing: take a deeper look at your marketing. 

Scroll to Top