There can be, as Julia Sutherland wrote in 2014, a “’feast or famine’ effect of seasonality, and the unpredictability that comes with having a business built on conditions during a particular season.” Recently, I wrote that business owners should “lean in” to the emerging and advancing technologies to optimize their business success; this article is taking the opposite view to that “lean in” mentality by discouraging you from leaning into seasonal marketing.
This does not mean that you should not embrace seasonal marketing when, as they say, ‘tis the season; but, what may be vital to your year-round business is having a solid year-round business strategy that minimizes the effects of seasonality on your revenues and maximizes your success.
Of course, every business is going to have boom and bust times throughout the year, affected by everything from the economy, the weather, trends, and politics and everything in between.
The first place to start is to recognize when the strong seasons occur naturally for your business. This can allow you, for example, to plan for such natural booms and allocate marketing strategies and resources in a way that redirects some resources from those stronger seasons toward the “weaker” seasons.
As Gail Goodman of entrepreneur.com put it: “Whether your business serves up homemade ice cream or plows homeowners’ driveways, you want to keep the memory of positive experiences alive in your customers’ minds all year long. That’s why your marketing communications can’t take a vacation.”
Your marketing during lulling seasons can start simply, with an update to your brand or website and an overall analysis of your social media, emailing, and other customer engagement and marketing strategies. Are there ways you can optimize those efforts, make them more efficient for example? You can also take advantage of any strong season by pushing customer engagement and feedback. These seasonal shifts are where incentivizing returning business and feedback is key; you’re building brand loyalty at a time when more people are coming to your store or engaging with your company already. Get them hooked on your brand, keep it in their mind with digital receipts and social media engagement and they won’t be able to just forget about you when things typically die down for you.
If your products or some of your products is exceptionally appropriate for one season over another, you can offer discounts when products go out of season or plan to cycle through products according to seasonal demands, like most retailers do.
Off-season time is also when you can particularly look at partnering with other local businesses who may be experiencing the same seasonal lull, or who, conversely, may be in their own on-season time. The shop I work for, for example, collaborates with other neighborhood businesses for events that blend the two companies as far as product and customer base. If your shop hits a lull during the summer for example, but the bar down the block is always booming, look into providing for an event with them, whether you sell foodstuffs or décor products, or even if you just have your space to offer. This gets your brand in the minds of that business’ owners and its employees, who can all recommend you, and it also opens up your brand to new potential customers as well as giving your loyal customers a chance for further engagement with a beloved brand (yours).
You can take advantage of the “throwback” mentality on social media and the ever-present nostalgia we human beings cling to, and post content reminiscing about the boom season or looking forward to it. Simple customer engagement like “Who misses _____?” with a picture of a seasonal product can open up the opportunity for communication flow and keep your brand fresh in your customers’ minds. Some of them will be sure to stop in just because your post got them thinking about your brand and wanting whatever you have available.
You can also utilize more direct strategies. In addition to loyalty rewards, you can set up a receipt or email/texting system that notices when a customer hasn’t shopped in a while. It can also offer them an incentive for returning, or inform them about products or services that are available to them now – even if they prefer products/services in a different season.
And, of course, you should always be on top of your game when it comes to preempting seasonal changes, whether that were offering discounts for items that are about to go out of season or getting your customers excited for items that are about to come back into season.
Remember to take advantage of the on-season and not to take it for granted. Build your customer base then, utilizing loyalty and engagement to get people hooked as I mentioned before, as well as using that engagement to learn about customer’s’ specific desires or needs in order to better serve them year-round.
You can also take advantage of the Internet by keeping your online content relevant and up-to-date. Fewer people venture out more than necessary during the winter; but, if you have a solid online store, you may not have to suffer from this downturn in physical customers. You can also boost traffic to your social media and website by blogging regularly, whether it be about your business specifically, or about topics relevant to your business and your customers’ interests. A packaging company that markets to small businesses that sell food or coffee products, for example, can blog about packaging as well as giving business advice, writing informatively about coffee history and trends, et cetera. Your blog and website are marketing tools for your business, but the more universal aspects there are, the more likely you’ll draw in customers who may not have been directly looking for your brand, product or services, but who upon stumbling onto your site for a specific blog post find that they need/want/desire whatever it is you’re offering.
The key is to plan, listen, engage, get them hooked, incentivize their engagement across all platforms, think outside the box when business isn’t just happening on its own, and take full advantage of all of the business you get. Don’t resign yourself to just being a seasonal brand because that is one step away from leaving yourself to failure.
What are some creative ideas your company has come up with to offset seasonal declines in business? Comment below!