Not every business thrives during the summer months. Unless you're selling ice cream or cleaning pools, it may be a slower season for your business. Many small businesses suffer from a summer slump in sales. With the warmer weather come some great opportunities for businesses to build customer loyalty and leverage the slower pace to deliver great marketing initiatives.
Here are a few of our favorite tips that you can implement as the temperature rises.
Take Lots of Photos
The grass is green, the sky is blue, and people are tanner and wearing fun clothes (and less of them). What better way to capture your business interacting with smiling, happy customers than in the summer? Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are tailor-made to show off compelling and interesting photos, and summer is a perfect opportunity to share them to engage more customers and grow your user base.
But don’t just stop there – encourage your customers to take their own shots and post them to your page, or create your own hashtag trend to spread out virally.
If your business is Joe’s Sandwich Shop, introduce a new, special smoothie for the summer and upload photos of the fruit going into it, how they’re made, and of course the delicious final product in high-resolution with the condensation on the edge of the glass just begging people to drink it. Upload it to Twitter and/or Instagram under the hashtag #joessummersmoothies and offer up discounts or prizes to the customers that take the most funny/best/interesting shots involving your smoothies. Get creative – it’s all about getting your customers to participate and interact with your business in a visually-appealing manner.
Give away seasonal items. Offer a free beach towel, T-shirt, or a bottle of sunscreen to customers as a reward for making a purchase, suggests Simon Vainrub, owner of Vain Advertising in Chattanooga, Tenn. If you have clients who come in for appointments, considering giving them a summer-related item when they show up for the consultation.
Go to where the customers are. Find those summer crowds at festivals, beaches, local parks, outdoor shopping areas, farmers markets, etc. Put up a booth, hang a banner sign or do some guerrilla marketing by handing out your fliers with a seasonal give-away like water bottles, frozen popsicles, branded beach towels, pocket fans, etc.
Host a local event. Consider planning a barbecue and inviting some of your best customers. Use the opportunity to thank them for their business, showcase other products and services they haven't yet tried and share your offerings with their guests.
Find some new product. Tour operators can take advantage of the slower call volume to get out of the office and explore an area that you'd like to visit with your customers. Plan a fam trip and craft a new itinerary that you can offer in the coming months. For suppliers, this might be an opportunity to shadow some of your customers as they experience your product to see where you can create new experiences, add value and/or craft a new story to tell that will help entice future visitors. Is there an opportunity to create a new scavenger hunt, tell the attraction story from a different point of view, focus on themes that appeal to niche markets?
Offer a seasonal special. Consider the slower months a time when you can reduce the price to attract a higher volume of sales.
Package Deals - Give customers a discount if they book more than one service, such as a theater ticket and dinner together for $200 instead of $250. Offer transportation and lunch for $25 instead of $28. You get the idea.
Straight Discounts - Test the market by offering a 10 or 15% discount on certain services in July, or discount a few of your slower selling products and see how it goes. You can always extend the offer if the promotion is working, and if it’s not yielding results, you’ve only risked one month. Try sending an email announcing the offer to a previously non-responsive segment of your list to gauge response and expand from there.
Referral Bonus - Leverage your relationships with current clients, past customers and even select vendors. Share a special offer with them. Be sure the offer includes some sort of incentive for the current contact and a special value for their referrals. Ex: Bring a friend - you'll each receive 10% off your trip and, the first to book receives a $25 gift card.
About the Author…
Stephen Ekstrom is a well-recognized tourism marketing expert whose influence reaches millions of travelers every year. He's been profiled by the New York Times and appeared on CBS, NBC and NY1. He is a fixture in the travel trade and has served as a board member, expert panelist, committee chair, mentor and program facilitator. Fire Starter Brands, founded by Ekstrom in 2010, manages a network of over 6,000 opted-in global travel trade buyers, advising, teaching and assisting smart travel industry suppliers and destination marketers. Stephen currently lives in South Florida with his two dogs, Match & Rudy.