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Ah, the lazy days of summer! Beaches, breezes and a total lack of attention to our small business marketing plans! During days when we’d rather be sailing than selling, it’s easy to let our marketing efforts drift off into a warm sunset (or a cold mojito?) Besides, everyone else is busy summering, too.
Nobody’s really paying attention to you unless you’re selling ice pops or swimming pools, are they? As a small business with a definite slow spell in summer, we share the summer slowdown with a lot of our clients. And while that’s not always a bad thing (you should be here around January 1st when everyone realizes they’d better get on the marketing bandwagon again!) it’s probably not a good idea to let the warm weather lull you into thinking that sunshine pays the rent and salaries.
So what’s a business person to do? How do you market to customers who have short attention spans on a good day and none on a summer day? You can start by giving your marketing a makeover.
Here are a couple of quick tips and ideas for adding a little sizzle to your summertime marketing.
Keep It Short
As if we’re not already a society in perpetual fast-forward, summer days have an extra urgency to them. Get to the golf course, finalize the cruise plans, hike the kids to day camp, pick up the burgers for next Saturday’s backyard gala.
In the midst of all that, your brilliant marketing messages are ignored at best, reviled at worst. So how do you appeal to a horde of bustling consumers? You keep it short and sweet.
For example, during the summer months, our email campaigns get shorter and the pictures get bigger. One might argue that email campaigns should be short and sweet all the time, but we’ve found that people are willing to read and click and explore… just not when they’re eager to get out on the boat.
So keep your messages pithy and make them visual so you can catch your customer’s attention an instant before they hit that delete button.
Keep your offers short and sweet, too. Now is not the time to tell people to visit your website, then fill out a form, then confirm the acknowledgement email, then submit three photos to your Facebook page to be entered into a drawing that you’ll hold sometime in September.
If you’re offering a special promotion, think in monosyllables. If you can get your point across in a sentence or two, you’ll fare better than someone with three paragraphs of explanation: buy this, get that. Easy! Do this, earn that. Simple!
Of course, I’m breaking my own rule by blathering on and on about how to keep your messages short, but let’s chalk that up to a psychological deficiency and move on.
Give Stuff Away
Summer is a time when we celebrate our inner child. And what does our inner child love more than presents? Gimme gimme gimme! I want it! This is a great time to give something away. In the context of your business, that could be a free consultation, a free month of service, a free gadget or gizmo or upgrade.
It could also be a cross-promotion. Just because you’re an interior decorator doesn’t mean you can’t give away a coupon for a free ice cream cone with every upholstery order. Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but you don’t have to stick strictly to a free-something that “belongs” to your business.
You can also take advantage of the myriad promotional summer items that already exist and brand them for your business with a timely marketing message. Golf balls, Frisbees, beach balls, water bottles… these can all be branded and provide opportunities to create a fun, relevant campaign.
People will be out there floating on rafts in their pools anyway… how awesome would it be if your company name was splashed across them and visible on every sunny day?
Turn Summer On Its Head
By now you’re yawningly familiar with the “Christmas in July” events that so many retailers hold. Heck, I’ve seen communities put on entire Christmas parades in the middle of the summer.
While that idea is a tad passé and can easily become part of the noise, you can create your own non-traditional event that’s unique enough to get people’s attention.
So go ahead and have a Thanksgiving in July event (and show a little appreciation for your existing customers while you’re at it). Choose from any number of offbeat “holidays” like “Be Nice to New Jersey Week” (hey, I like that one!) or “National Blueberry Month” (I like that one, too, especially if it comes with pie).
There’s really no end to the bizarre dates and celebrations you can commandeer. All it takes is a Google search and a little imagination.
If you’ve got a little imagination, start your own event. No reason you can’t make the second week of July “Wicker Furniture Appreciation Week” or “Be Nice to Accountants Week”. Make it an annual tradition with some out-of-the-box marketing, throw in some free stuff, and you’re on your way!
Go Where The Business Is
You’re probably just as eager to get out on the boat, take a dip in the pool or bask on a chaise in the backyard (even better if you can get your kids to mow the lawn while you do). So take this time to mix business and pleasure by hosting an event at a local community summer spot – a pool, park, ice cream shop, or boardwalk restaurant.
Other vendors and businesses in your area are probably just as eager to drum up some business, so make a few phone calls and see what kind of mutually beneficial partnerships you can facilitate. Make it a trivia night, a product or service demo, a giveaway, or a good old-fashioned meet-and-greet.
And if you can give stuff away while you’re there, all the better.
If you haven’t jumped on the social marketing bandwagon, now’s the time to do it. People are more likely to catch you on their Facebook page as they’re posting photos of their last barbecue than they are to visit your website. And trying Twitter will force you to keep your messages short and to the point. With only 140 characters, you’ve got to be precise and targeted.
Take advantage of social apps like Foursquare. If you can incentivize people to visit your location with a deal or offer, then do it. It doesn’t have to be complicated. If you own a restaurant, offer a free appetizer to anyone who checks into your location. It might cost you a few dollars in promotional efforts but the traffic you’ll build will far outweigh the investment. And the use of Foursquare is free, so no excuses there.
In fact, if you’re got a local business and you’re NOT using Foursquare, well, I’m too polite to call you dumb so… let’s just say that’s pretty dumb! Try out a Groupon or Living Social deal if you want local business, too. The more places you can be, the more likely your customers will notice.
Go Really Social
If you’ve got the gumption, why not host your own summer event and invite your customers, clients and even prospects? Have a backyard barbecue at your home if you can swing it. Or rent out a few picnic tables at the local park and invite people for a day of paddle boating and softball.
Propose it as a fun event, with an opportunity for networking for everyone involved.
Keep it light and keep it social. Sometimes it’s ok to leave the heavy-hitting marketing at home and just build relationships. Remember that people do business with people they like and trust.
The next time your prospect is in the market for a carpet cleaning, car wash or 401K package, they’re more likely to remember that you made a mean burger at your summer event than they are to recall the 472,936 email and direct mail advertisements they got from competitors.
I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for a loyalty card. Give me a hole to punch and a reason to get to ten and I’m there. Even after the loyalty card has expired, I’m more likely to be there because I’ve made a habit out of frequenting your business.
Why not hook suckers like me and start your own loyalty program? It doesn’t take much. You can print cards pretty cheaply, or go for the super low-rent version and just go with an index card and a special stamp.
Give away a free-something after ten purchases, or offer a discount on the 11th. Even service businesses can take advantage of loyalty cards. Ten lawn-mowings? Throw in some fertilizer on the 11th. Spend $100 on services? Get a 10% discount on your next service. Of course, you can use loyalty cards any time of the year, but summer is a great time to start a program and catch the attention of your otherwise beach-minded customers.
Are you still reading this?? Time to stop and get to your marketing! Take an afternoon on the beach to relax and ponder the ways you can use summer to your advantage. Pick just one of these ideas and make it happen for your business this season.
Got any other ideas? We’d love to hear about them! Let us know how you make seasonal marketing work for your business.