5 Business Lessons from Hallmark Christmas Movies

‘Tis the season to be jolly, amiright?! Depending on where you are in life today may be the best shopping day ever, the best email unsubscribe day ever, the best tree-cutting day ever, or possibly even all three. (To you, I bow down because getting through just one of those has nearly done me in!)

This is the first year I’ve ever said this: I started Christmas early. We strung the lights on the house last weekend because the weather was so great and there was a chance of snow later in the week, so we wanted to take advantage of the clear skies. This alone would be bordering on heresy if you grew up the way I did but also… I’ve been watching Hallmark Christmas movies for a couple of weeks now.

I would feel a little guilty about it all, except now you get the benefit of me cheating on Thanksgiving. This Black Friday I’m delivering the greatest gift: I’m turning it all into a business lesson so that if you, too, feel a bit indulgent today you can now blame it on me and say you’re watching the movies for business reasons. Here are five lessons I’ve picked out–so far–from me jumping the gun on Hallmark Christmas movies.

1. Know your target audience

So many of the movies have an 8-year-old kid because middle-aged people are watching most often. They can’t imagine a romance without kids involved. Despite the unusually high number of very attractive 40-year-old dads whose wives tragically died a few years ago, they’re aiming to make these feel normal in some way.

Give them content they understand and they’re more likely to stick around for the money-generating opportunities. You know, commercials.

2. Hyper-Specific Niches & Shoulder Clients

So hey, let’s talk about the Ulcerative colitis meds or sleep aid ads, yes? (Surely that’s NOT targeted to me even if I fall into that middle-aged target…) This is where shoulder clients come in to play. Do I, as a woman in her late 30s, need these meds? Nope. But a lot of people my age do and I know a lot of people who do so I sympathize.

Targeting narrowly gets you in the sweet spot, but it doesn’t actually negate people who are adjacent to your target. Those are the shoulder clients. They’ll still pull what they need from your content even if they’re not a perfect fit and they’re a shoulder-width away from the target. If what you offer is close enough they’ll still self-select in. Even if I don’t want a subscription to $10 boots. Or a beer bottle keeper you can buy for a discount by using the code FARTCANDLE15.

3. Getting All Into the Promo

Another Hallmark cliche? Product placement from a Canon camera being held incorrectly (seriously, can’t one of the film crew correct the actors on this? It’s a problem in every dang movie!) to a Balsam Christmas tree strategically placed in the background. It’s choppy. We’re not exactly watching these movies for their high production value but even so, these moments all but scream sellout.

I can’t help but compare it to when you’re on a mailing list and without warning, the writer suddenly starts promoting someone else… except they didn’t warm the audience up to the joint venture idea and just hopped in. Authenticity matters. Know your place and make sure you’ve planned this out and don’t just jump on the promo bandwagon or you’ll turn people off real quick.

Side note: Hallmark did do their merchandising correctly. They created a whole line of stuff from popcorn bowls to sweaters and socks saying “these are Hallmark Christmas movie socks.”

4. Adding a little FOMO to the mix

Many of the movie titles sound the same that I’m honestly getting confused as to which movies I’ve seen. Was it Home for Christmas or was it Going Home for the Holidays? Half of them even have subtitles, because the generic title tropes are that bad. But that’s okay because they have an app to both reduce and increase FOMO.

There’s nothing like a checklist to make you aware that you’re missing out and haven’t completed your goals yet and also give you the satisfaction that you’re on the path to success. I liken it to the neverending list of tech tools we “need” to make our business work, from funnel design to course library platforms and then reading some guru telling us we need these ten tools to be successful and realizing we’re only currently using seven of them. On the one hand, you’re 70% of the way there, even if we haven’t even heard of the other three and their names all sound like someone threw a bunch of letters onto a board and went with the first random collection. But now we’re wondering about those other three. Do we need them?

5. Build Relationships

True connection is important whether it’s from running into an old connection in the town you grew up in (because eeeeeveryone grew up in a snow-laden small town right?) or if it’s a new connection made while steering the grocery cart around the small-town aisles like we’re still driving in the city.

The same is true in our online business world, too. Whether you’re following your college roommate on Instagram and notice you suddenly are both running businesses as online service providers or you meet a new online friend, you’ll eventually have to have a real connection or take that relationship offline long enough to build a relationship.

Hallmark Christmas movies all follow a formula. Cute girl meets cute boy. One of them either has a kid or the other has a parent that recently died. She has a big career decision to make. In the meantime, they’ll bake cookies with a smudge of flour delightfully placed on their noses. (I even read that Hallmark has a list of sets for these movies because they need to feel the same as the next one!) There will inevitably be a town Christmas tree lighting with exactly 40 people at it, no matter the size of the city, because there isn’t a budget for more extras.

Realistically, we’re not all high-powered career women from the big city who go home for the holidays and accidentally run into our ex-boyfriend and realize we’re meant for each other and that a single kiss will seal our future. This is where the business lesson breaks down.

The movie ends when the couple realizes they were meant to be. When you realize you’re meant to be a business owner, your journey is only just beginning. You’ll try and fail and try again. You’ll experiment till you get it right and even then, you’ll still hit the occasional snag. There won’t be one glorious day when your golden blonde locks are perfectly styled and the twinkling music starts playing to let you know you’ve arrived.

You get to decide that for yourself.