Promoting an app during the holidays can be an uphill battle. With people's attention squarely focused on buying gifts, decorating, hosting and attending celebrations, and everything else that goes along with the season, getting through to your target audience with an online marketing message about your app can seem like a long shot.

Luckily, there are some strategies you can use to be heard above all the holiday hustle and bustle. These are tried and true methods that my digital marketing agency has used successfully with our own clients - in fact, we've found them to be the nonnegotiable secrets to marketing apps during the holidays. Here are three examples of the approaches we've used with our clients to great effect.

1. Appeal to holiday-related emotions in your content and images.

Digital frame provider Nixplay offers an app that complements its WiFi cloud picture frames, allowing users to upload images directly from their mobile devices to their friends' and family's frames, as well as their own. By promoting the app online, they're both encouraging the purchase of new frames and driving continual brand engagement among existing customers.

In order to grab the attention of sentimental holiday shoppers, Nixplay taps into the emotional states we associate most with the holidays - longing for family togetherness, recalling fond memories, and sharing joyful, magical moments with others - in their social media and content marketing. Blog posts that talk about how the app can bring families together for those magical moments even when they're far apart, and evocative images and posts on social media that bring all those feelings to the forefront, are perfectly poised to encourage holiday downloads.

2. Reduce the stress of the holidays with simple advice.

Last-minute appointment booking app TapToBook allows users to get the inside scoop on local businesses' current open time slots. From spas and salons to fitness classes and outdoor adventures, businesses registered with TapToBook update their last-minute availability in real-time, so that app users can easily find an opening whenever they happen to be free.

For the holidays, TapToBook's marketing message focuses on the fact that downloading their app provides a huge convenience factor for anyone's hectic schedule. To support that theme, their blog posts and social media posts provide simple, straightforward tips on using the app to their best advantage during the holidays. Whether it's keeping visiting relatives entertained, finding time to care for your own health and fitness during the holidays, or even looking for a last-minute gift, the easy-to-digest advice they provide is an effective incentive to download their app.

3. Harness holiday excitement to drive enthusiasm for your app.

Time management game app Cooking Fever provides players the opportunity to test their restaurateur skills and build on their successes by earning or purchasing helpful extras in-app. Creating excitement around the game is a major part of their marketing year-round, but especially during the holidays.

By running holiday-themed contests and specials on social media for in-app purchases, and making seasonal changes to the bright, eye-catching images used in posts, Cooking Fever taps into the holiday excitement already in the air, and positions itself as another way to have fun and enjoy the holidays. With people already in a festive spirit, it only takes a few strategy tweaks and holiday mentions to channel that enthusiasm and get them downloading the app.

No matter what kind of app your business offers, you can use these same three strategies to boost downloads throughout the holiday season. By appealing to holiday emotions, providing a holiday convenience, or tapping into holiday excitement in your digital marketing, you can capture the attention of your holiday-focused audience and keep those downloads coming through the New Year.

Published on: Nov 28, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.