Fall Is Coming: A Seasonal Marketing Strategy for Small Business Owners

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fall Is Coming: A Seasonal Marketing Strategy for Small Business Owners
Shannon Willoby, business2community.com

Fall gives us cooler weather, pumpkin-spice lattes, and perhaps the greatest gift of them all: the holiday shopping season.

From local festivals to online-shopping events dedicated to supporting small-business owners, now is your time to shine. (And rake in the revenue like fall leaves.)

But if you want to see an increase in sales, you’re going to need a plan. Use the ideas below to create a targeted seasonal strategy for your small business.

Identify Your Main Targets

Fall might be filled with bountiful opportunities for marketing campaigns — but unlike Pokémon, the goal is not to catch ‘em all.

Depending on what you sell and your target market, you might want to set your sights on some of the following major — and minor — dates.

  • Halloween (10/31) — 29.9% of consumers keep their eyes open for good Halloween deals beginning in September, says National Retail Federation.
  • Black Friday (10/23/18) — While chains tend to dominate Black Friday, small businesses can stand out with early-bird deals that start a week before the big day.
  • Small Business Saturday (10/24/18) — With consumers spending $12.9 billion in 2017, American Express has created a boon for small-business owners. But the key to increasing sales on this day is ensuring shoppers know you’re a small business. Highlight this fact everywhere, from the window of your storefront to social-media graphics.
  • Cyber Monday (10/26/18) — Shoppers are looking for exceptional deals on this day, as well as an outstanding mobile experience. Ad Week reports that out of the $6.59 billion spent on Cyber Monday in 2017, $2 billion of that was via mobile.
  • Free Shipping Day (12/14/18) — While there’s an argument to be made for offering free shipping as a part of your seasonal strategy as a whole, you can also take part in Free Shipping Day regardless. Use the hashtag #freeshippingday and promote this deal heavily through all your normal avenues.
  • Holiday Shopping (Ongoing) — According to a RetailMeNot survey, 45% of U.S. consumers said they plan to start shopping before November 1. 24% of the survey respondents said they planned to start shopping before October, and 12% started shopping in the summer.

Decide on Your Deals

How will your small business attract shoppers this fall? By making them an offer they can’t refuse!

In fact, MarketingLand reports that 9/10 consumers say that free shipping is the number-one incentive to purchase from a retailer.

What does this tell you? That shipping needs to be at the forefront of your seasonal strategy.

Whether you offer free shipping intermittently or throughout, it can help e-commerce business owners get more sales throughout fall and winter. You may also want to consider a guaranteed delivery promotion in December to appeal to last-minute shoppers.

And while big-box stores can offer rock-bottom pricing on products with 50% off sales, small business owners most likely won’t have the luxury. Get your business noticed with limited-time offers of free gift wrapping or a small gift with purchase instead.

Add a Bit of Seasonal Flavor

No matter how you personally feel about pumpkin spice — it’s a popular, well, everything for fall. Which means you might want to think about incorporating it (or another fall theme) into your product line.

Whether it’s a pumpkin-scented candle or a face mask made with pumpkin, it can be a smart marketing move to match your product to the season.

Keep in mind that creating something specifically for fall isn’t the only option — you can also just switch up how you market your products.

For example:

  • If you sell apparel, hold a sale on sweaters to celebrate the return of ‘sweater weather.’    Offer 31% off the week leading up to Halloween using a themed discount code.
  • Hold a Small Business Saturday promotion where customers who buy from you on this day and post their purchase on social media (and use the dedicated hashtag) will get $5 off their next purchase.
  • If you make homemade pet treats, bundle up best-selling flavors and call the gift package ‘Santa’s Good Boy.’

Have a Local Presence

From farmers markets to holiday-shopping events, festivals of all kinds will be going on throughout fall.

And since building a local presence can increase your exposure and sales, getting a booth at a festival (or two) in your city could be beneficial to your business.

Here’s how:

  • Set up Google Alerts with ‘daily’ frequency so you don’t miss any announcements
  • Check with your local association (if you’re a member)
  • Follow local event and business websites on social media so you can easily keep track of happenings in your city

Once you’ve got a few festival prospects, do research on past attendees to ensure they’re in your target market and compare booth pricing. If your budget is low, post in forums for the event or on the Facebook event page so you can see if anyone would be interesting in sharing space with you.

If your business is service based, consider partnering with a product-based business owner selling at a festival through a raffle. The prize could be a free service from you or a service up to X amount. (In exchange for their email address.)

Bulk Up Your Email-Subscriber List

Email marketing (when done right) is a money-making tactic for businesses of all sizes. In fact, The National Client Email Report states that for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $38.

But you’re going to need subscribers if you want to see that kind of ROI.

From gift guides to sale announcements, a strong subscriber list will see you through the end of the holiday shopping season and hopefully account for a significant number of transactions.

Follow these steps to get more subscribers quickly:

  • Research the best-performing pages on your website/blog — look for the ones with the highest traffic and longest time on site.
  • Design email-collecting popups, scroll boxes, or welcome mats for each of your top pages using Sumo’s List Builder — it’s free (as long as you can handle their logo being on your popups).
  • Click-triggers (a hyperlink within the content of a blog post or in site content) can also perform well if you can offer a content upgrade in exchange for an email address (like an ebook or how-to guide).

Make Engaging Graphics

Graphics are an important part of any seasonal strategy. and you’ll probably end up needing quite a few, from Facebook covers and Pinterest graphics to photo collages (for gift guides) and blog banners.

And if you don’t have the funds to hire a pro, that means you’re going to have to get graphical yourself. Luckily, there are a couple affordable sites that let anyone make a variety of graphics that look professional enough to share.

  • Canva is a free option that will work well for most business owners looking to create a variety of graphics from professional templates. If you need more features/options, like the ability to upload custom font, check out their ‘Canva for Business’ option that is $12.95 per month, per team member.
  • PicMonkey is $7.99 per month (and a good choice if you need to do a lot of quick resizing/file-size reduction) and allows you to create graphics from templates.

If stock images are what you’re after, try these sites:

  • Unsplash — The best free site out there (in my opinion) for gorgeous shots that never look ‘stock.’ Crediting the photographer is appreciated, but not required. Selection is limited, but when it works, it’s an awesome option!
  • Stocksy — You’ll find artistic, beautifully shot images at Stocksy (starting at $15) that rival anything you’d find over at Getty or another stock site. However, if you use a lot of images, a plan at Getty would be more affordable than buying individually on Stocksy.

Determine Your Social Budget

Whether your money’s on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest ads, (or even Google Display ads), setting a budget now will help you stay on track for the rest of the year.

Monitor ads closely and don’t be afraid to switch up content, images, and targeting often to find your sweet spot. And know that what works once may not work again — so testing will be your best friend when it comes to paid advertising.

P.S. 75% of marketers say Facebook is still their most important social platform, so don’t count it just yet!

Get Organized, Get Sales

Once you’ve made the big decisions, like the dates you’re targeting, what your discounts will be, names of your seasonal promotions, and even your budget — you can make graphics ahead of time for easy use later.

This includes graphics for email, Facebook covers for various holidays, and product-image collages that you can pull from a folder quickly when needed.

You might also want to set up a Google Calendar that details when you’ll want to start ads, get campaigns going, and swap out social images to help you stay organized all season long.

With a seasonal marketing strategy all mapped out (and a pumpkin-spice latte in your hand), this just might be the most profitable fall of them all!