Summertime has arrived (even if the calendar says it starts June 20) and with the warmer temperatures comes time off and vacation plans for many of us. It can also be an active time for small business owners, and summer activity can lead to different marketing approaches.
Here are a few ideas for summertime planning and promotions for small businesses.
Community events can be a great way to increase exposure and get to know potential customers. In a story for the Small Business Administration, Rieva Lesonsky writes that small business owners should look for opportunities at street fairs, festivals, fun runs and outdoor concerts.
“Contact your chamber of commerce and your city’s parks and recreation department to find out what events are planned for the upcoming few months,” she advises. “Decide which events are likely to attract your target customers, whether that’s health-minded seniors, parents with toddlers in tow or millennial music fans.”
How to get involved? Lesonsky offers these ways to participate:
- “Sponsor the event in return for your name on flyers, programs or banners at the event.”
- “Host a booth at the event and give out free samples or sell your product. (Be sure to collect contact information with a signup sheet or fishbowl to collect business cards).”
- “Donate product to the event (a health food store could donate healthy snacks for refreshments at a fun run, for example).”
Reach out to current clients
The holiday season is often the time that businesses reach out to dedicated clients to thank them for their business. But summertime can bring opportunities to show this kind of appreciation. A story by QuickBooks details some ways to do it, including golf outings, taking clients to a baseball game, or putting on wider-ranging events.
“To show appreciation for a large group of customers, host a barbecue,” the story states. “Or share your expertise by holding a free class. For instance, if you run an arts and crafts store, hold a workshop to show families creative craft ideas for kids during the summer. Your gestures will demonstrate that you’re thinking of customers this summer — and will be there for them when the season ends, too.”
There seems to be a fun “national day” of something several times a week, like the recent National Doughnut Day, which earned a lot of buzz on social media. As Rohit Arora writes for Inc.com, these days, along with holidays and the warmer weather, can be a way to create promotional opportunities.
“The Fourth of July presents a wide range of opportunities, including American-themed promotions,” Arora says. “Restaurants and other food retail businesses can take advantage of National Ice Cream Day on July 17 and National Waffle Day on August 24. Bars and nightclubs can plan for occasions such as National Pina Colada Day (July 10), National Daiquiri Day (July 19), and National Tequila Day (July 24).”
Collaborate with business neighbors
When the weather is pleasant, it could be smart for nearby businesses to work together to present an outdoor event. Lesonsky writes that areas “with lots of foot traffic” can be a prime location for this kind of activity. She suggests having a sidewalk sale, in which the participating businesses offer special deals outside of the store. Other ideas from Lesonsky include:
- “Hosting a ‘stroll and savor’ event where local eateries sell small samples of their menu items outside on the sidewalk.”
- “Hosting a music night where local musicians play inside restaurants or shops and ‘busk’ out on the sidewalk to attract passersby.”
- “There are many other ideas, from closing off the street to cars and hosting an arts fair or classic car show, that can bring foot traffic into your shopping area. Brainstorm with other business owners to generate the best strategies for your area, and work with your city to be sure you get all the appropriate permits.”
Use promotional items and giveaways
There’s no doubt that people naturally love free stuff. Though promotional items may not seem terribly significant, they can turn into walking billboards of sorts with such items as koozies and T-shirts. In a story for grasshopper.com, Michelle Nickolaisen recommends summer-related swag, like flip-flops or sunglasses. And she calls product giveaways “a tried and true marketing technique.”
“Even if your product doesn’t necessarily make sense to give away in the summer, you can still capitalize on a giveaway with a little creativity,” she writes. “Take advantage of the fact that your potential customers and clients are vacationing by giving away leisure items like books or, if you want to get fancy, a Kindle or iPad, that people will use on their vacation.”
Examine marketing materials
Seasonal items and swag can gain attention, but don’t leave out the traditional methods of spreading the word about a business. Rhonda Abrams writes for USA Today that summertime can be a good time to “freshen up and modernize” marketing items. Business cards are a good start.
“When was the last time you took a hard look at your business cards?” she writes. “Brochures? Do you still have a fax number but not your social media handles printed on your material? You can get a new look at reasonable prices from a few online print companies, such as Vistaprint, PsPrint, Moo.”
Focus on social media
For many people, vacations aren’t complete until photos and stories are shared on social media. This can present creative opportunities for businesses, according to Claire Prendergast in a story for Entrepreneur. Consider interacting with customers who share “tidbits about adventure travel” on Facebook, YouTube and other social networks, she says.
“Think about hosting a social media contest, inviting customers to share exciting stories or intriguing photographs around a summer theme, and offer a grand prize to the best entry,” she writes. “You’ll get people talking about your business in the process, while also collecting contact information from contest participants. Be sure to identify prospective customers who you can reach out to at a later time.”
Look ahead to the fall
The fall brings different marketing opportunities, including back-to-school, the end of vacation season, the return of football and cooler temperatures. Abrams advises carving out some time in the summer to plot out ways to get ready.
“Summer won’t last forever, and you want to be ready to land some big customers as soon as people are back at their desks,” she says. “The summer months are a great time to do some strategic planning. Clarify and narrow your target market and figure out the best ways to reach prospects. Come up with a marketing budget and marketing vehicles so you’re ready to go.”