Summer can be both a blessing and a curse for a small business. While more people are out and about, much of their expendable income is going towards vacation and travel, leaving many businesses suffering through a sales slump.
Hopefully, you can count on your regular customers to keep visiting you during the summer, but how can you use this season to capitalize on reaching new customers?
Below are a few tips on how to best leverage your marketing budget to draw new customers during the dog days of summer. Of course, it’s not currently summer everywhere in the world, so you can bookmark this for later, or apply these tips to other seasonal slumps.
1. Make strategic partnerships
A great way to open yourself up to a new segment of customers during a slow spell is to partner with an established business that serves your target demographic in a different, but complementary, way. In order to align with the right partner, make sure to be specific about what type of customer you’re hoping to attract.
Once you’ve engaged this partner, simply identify a product or service that you can provide for free (or deeply discounted) to their customers at a low cost for your business. The established business gets the benefit of rewarding their customers without impacting their bottom line; the partner business reaps the reward of a new crop of customers.
Associating your brand with a well-regarded, established brand that caters to the same markets is a great way to improve brand recognition while expanding your customer base in a strategic fashion.
2. Get out into the world
Summer in most places means a plethora of outdoor activities. From concerts to festivals, and picnics in the park, there are scores of opportunities for businesses to get out into their communities and catch the eyes of potential new customers.
Sponsoring a local event benefits your business in many ways. First, it serves as visible proof that your company is involved in and supports your local community. It also provides you an opportunity to feature things like booths, signage, giveaways, and demonstrations—all chances to introduce people to your product or service that may have never heard of you before.
3. Be timely
Summer is full of great reasons to celebrate! Don’t overlook the chance to capitalize on both the weather and the calendar. In the United States, the blockbuster event is obviously Independence Day, but you’d be surprised by how many quirky, niche holidays exist and how fun and easy it can be for a business to create buzz centered around these days.
For the southern hemisphere, Christmas and summer go hand in hand, so there is a built-in holiday to promote. In Australia, there is even the option for Yulefest, which is the celebration of Christmas in July, their winter. It doesn’t replace Christmas, but it’s another opportunity for small businesses to use a holiday to its advantage.
Depending on the type of business you run, you may be interested in days that celebrate certain foods or beverages, or days reserved for the veneration of poets or classic cars. August alone holds days that celebrate coloring books, friendship, underwear, and cherry popsicles.
Building sales, giveaways, and promotions around these sometimes silly “holidays” can be a fun way to inject some lighthearted energy into your summer marketing that will get the attention of both returning and new customers. Get more information on year-round “holiday” opportunities by visiting the National Day Calendar.
4. Create buzz
While November and December may be anchored by massive Black Friday sales and holiday promotions, summer doesn’t always lend itself easily to such promotions. But a great way to bring old customers out of hiding and grab the eyes of new ones is to create a fun and trendy product with limited availability for the season.
Think strategically about items that people need and want the most on long, hot summer days and then find a way to integrate that with your brand identity. Limiting availability to the summer season drives customers to immediate action.
You may even want to consider offering incentives to customers who share images of the product on their social channels and tag your accounts. There is nothing that builds buzz faster than someone seeing the same product show up on their social feed 10 times a day.
5. Host an event
Summer is typically a season when customers have more downtime. With school not in session and people longing to spend time outdoors, there is a natural opportunity for businesses to host dynamic events to not only celebrate with existing customers but attract new ones, too.
You can craft something as simple as an after-hours sip and shop or a seasonal chef’s tasting with selected wine pairings. Or you can take it to the next level and sponsor an outing with customers, like a boat cruise or a night at the opera. Think about what your target audience enjoys and try to meet them where they are.
Summer can feel like a punishing time for many businesses, and hopefully, you have the necessary business financing to keep you afloat during the slow season. But if you look to the natural energy and movement of the season to find inspiration for marketing your product or service in new ways, you may be surprised how many potential new customers you can attract.
Meredith Wood is the editor-in-chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. She is a resident Finance Advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more.