Written by: Melissa R. MacCaull, Director of Marketing, Union Savings Bank
In the midst of the busiest months for your seasonal business, making large-scale changes to your promotional materials and small business marketing strategy probably take a back seat to customer service or keeping up with inventory. When your business’ off season rolls around, you’re ready to pause, catch your breath, and get ready to do it all over again. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential for small business owners so go ahead and take some time to relax and restore your energy. But before your slower months quietly slip by, make sure you show your business some love in the off season with these small business marketing updates.
Update your seasonal small business website
Your small business website is an important asset, even if you don’t rely on it for e-commerce sales or booking appointments. Your website helps prospects discover your seasonal business, tells customers where to find you and how to reach you, and gives you a canvas for painting your small business story.
When your seasonal small business is at its most hectic, updating the look and feel of your website is probably not your top priority. This is understandable, because as long as it’s working, your small business website is serving its purpose. But season after season, your website is going to start showing its age, in both look and function.
Updating your website when online traffic is at its highest could stress out the most veteran small business marketer. Your off season could be the perfect time to make large-scale changes to your small business website. Depending on how significant the changes will be, you may need to get the planning process started before your slow season rolls around but by the time it does, you’ll be ready to test and launch with minimal impact on your customers.
If you are already sending out customer surveys, you may want to consider adding a few questions about your website user experience while your busy season is still in full swing. This will give you valuable insight into how your site is performing when it’s under heavy duress. If your customers notice significant delays loading pages or have trouble navigating your site, you will want to address those updates first.
Organize your small business marketing list
Getting around to organizing your small business marketing list may seem like a minor task compared to overhauling your website. But when you think about how and where you use your small business marketing data, you can begin to see how a streamlined system could help your business grow.
For example, removing outdated email addresses and adding current ones can help you increase open rates and click-throughs. While you’re at it, take a look at tools like MailChimp or Constant Contact to take your email design and delivery to the next level. Many of these kinds of tools also enable you to segment lists to create more targeted campaigns and personalized experiences for your customers and prospects.
Once you have cleaned up your email list, you may want to consider using this data to create Custom Audiences on Facebook or Matched Audiences on LinkedIn. Briefly, these tools use the data to discover consumers similar to your own customers who, presumably, will be more interested in your business. You can also target based on web visits, helping draw visitors back to your site who may have abandoned their orders or browsed without contacting you.
Keeping an updated contact list is key for staying top of mind, even in the off season.
Spruce up your marketing materials
Can you remember the last time you and your small business employees updated your business cards? How about your brochures and other printed materials? Giving your marketing materials a new look in the off season can help you reinvigorate your team once business starts revving up again.
Focus on getting the planning and design stages underway during your slower months so you can give them your time and attention. This can also be a good time to review (or create) your brand style guide to ensure that any materials featuring your logo, wordmark and brand colors are consistent.
If your small business employees are required to wear branded apparel, take stock of what items need to be updated so they can get a fresh start when your busy season ramps up. Make sure designs and colors are consistent and your logo is used according to your brand style guide. When you and your employees are wearing company attire, you are walking billboards for your seasonal business. With this in mind and if your small business budget allows, you may consider ordering apparel that your employees can wear outside of the workplace and even in the off season. This exposure to your seasonal small business can help generate interest all year round.
Get ahead of digital content
In your busiest months, you may feel the dreaded push and pull of wanting to share high-quality digital content without having the time or resources to produce it. When your slower season rolls around, create an arsenal of “evergreen” content – blog articles, social media posts and other digital content – that can be shared at virtually any time. You may also find a content calendar to be helpful. You can build a simple content calendar in a spreadsheet with the dates you plan to post on social media or your blog, the channel you’ll be sharing on, the theme of your posts and the content itself.
Reserve a spot in your calendar for ideas that you can quickly jot down when you think of them, even on your busiest days. For example, when twenty different customers ask you the same question about your seasonal business’ products or services, the content of their questions could make for a great Q&A style blog post or even a quick Facebook video.
Speaking of questions from customers, how do you currently handle inquiries shared on your social media pages or your website? Do you feel bogged down by these questions when they come flooding in at once? As you grind through your busy season, take note of the most common questions your customers ask and create a list of FAQs and canned responses. You may have cringed at the word “canned,” but having a quick response ready in your back pocket is a good customer experience strategy. You can personalize your replies when the time comes by using the customer’s name or addressing their concern directly. But if an urgent question is dropped in your inbox and you’re at a loss for words, that prospect or customer may decide to take their business elsewhere.
If your website is still decked out with scanned polaroids of you, your employees and your products, you may want to consider scheduling a photo shoot in the off season. You don’t need to bust your budget with a celebrity-level photographer, but you should try to hire a semi-professional whose work will best represent your seasonal small business. As a seasonal business, you may need to skip the photos of your business’ exterior (snow-covered streets don’t really scream summer ice cream shop), but the off season could be the time to showcase your business interior or create a video walk-through.
Being ready to hit the ground running with fresh, engaging digital content can take a huge weight off your shoulders when your busy season starts up again.
Make a small business marketing plan now
You may be in the eye of the storm in terms of your seasonal small business, but your busy season is the best time to plan out your off-season marketing strategy. Before you wrap up the last big wave of orders or appointments, make sure you have a schedule and to-do list lined up to help you make the most of your business’ slower months. Come the next busy season, you’ll reap the rewards of an off season well spent.
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