Summer can be a daunting time for many businesses as it can trigger the beginning of the slow period, fueled by lifestyles focused on family holidays and keeping children occupied during the summer break. But this doesn’t have to be the case!
In this post, we explore my top ten tips on how you can leverage seasonality to mitigate the ‘summertime slump’ and turn a traditional company slow time into an exciting business avenue for new customer capture.
Tip 1: Turn Insight Into Action
How many great ideas does your business have that fail to progress into experimentation?
Innovation and approach refinement can support creative outcomes and new customer acquisition. Failure to prioritize staff thinking and practical challenges to the status quo leads to stagnation of approach and a mindset that settles for expected end results, rather than challenging and overcoming them.
If you company mindset is ‘summer is always a slow period for us’ then, as you predict, it will most likely continue to be the case. An alternative approach is to identify this barrier to generating new customers early in the financial year, and include within your company culture the requirement to challenge performance declines, whether driven by internal or external influences. Staff need to have the self-motivated drive towards removing barriers to success and thinking outside of the restraints of their role, position, and level of experience – anyone can have a great idea.
The most important aspect of this tip is action. Acting now! A vast majority of great ideas never progress beyond ideation stages, and that must change if your business is going to revert a traditional slow period into something more successful.
Staff can be provided with incentives to submit ideas, or incentives to act on them – I would suggest the latter.
Here’s an example of acting now based on incentives:
- A local business has operated for 10 years and only ever received a handful of Google Reviews – all negative.
- The company has a fantastic product offering, lots of happy customers but the staff are certain that ‘people will only leave reviews when they are unhappy’.
- The telesales staff decide that they are fed up with people mentioning these negative reviews and decide to start an experiment.
- They decide they need to focus on getting 5-star reviews.
- The Marketing Director is doubtful but in the spirit of goodwill decides for every 5-star review rating the staff initiating the positive review will be rewarded with a £20 gift voucher
- In 3 weeks the company has 40 new reviews, 15 of which are 5 star ratings and the remainder are all positive
- These reviews are now improving local SEO rankings and telesales staff are getting new leads directly from people seeing the positive reviews
Tip 2: Try Something New
Experimentation starts with a hypothesis: ‘Adding SEO to our marketing mix will generate 30% more new customers’. The next stage is to put together a strategy to prove (and challenge the hypothesis). The strategy needs to have clear, and ideally metric based set of goals, so that you can see what success or failure looks like. Those goals need some core tactics in place, to clearly demonstrate how you intend to progress the experiment, and to identify what resources and skill-sets are required to run and project manage the experiment.
Tip 3: Seasonal Writing, Promotion, & Engagement
This is one of the biggest oversights people make with the summer slow period. Many types of user personas have the chance to write, share, comment, and engage with more content during the summer periods than many other seasonal changes throughout the year.
Part of this availability is because of the growth of mobile communication and information access, and partnering this is the increased levels of waiting (or enforced downtime). Waiting at airports, waiting for family to get ready for the beach, waiting for the cab to arrive to take you to your destination (you get the idea).
There are many seasonal writing opportunities that can deliver yearly and repeatable value to your business. By expanding the scope of the persona and seasonal content you create, your business will be able to attract new customers throughout the information seeking and buying process.
This value based, seasonal focus, can expand brand awareness, help people you want to become associated with your brand, and bring in new business to redress traditional slower periods like the summertime.
Tip 4: Add to the Marketing Mix
There are lots of digital marketing channels that can drive new customers to your business regardless of the season.
For visibility and traffic gains (including traffic from new potential customers) PPC and SEO can be foundation channels. If you are looking for brand reach and engagement with new audiences, social media should not be overlooked. All of these channels need content to provide momentum for them.
Don’t restrict your marketing approaches to what you have already tried. There are always new and exciting opportunities to add something new to your marketing approach.
Coming back to tip two, ‘trying something new’, compare and contrast marketing channels, set challenges for your staff and provide unique audience insights from what you learn. Here is an example of this in action from a company I work with, Textlocal (In this case, comparing SMS text marketing and social media)
Tip 5: Get to Know Your Customers
If you have highly seasonal times of the year, you can use quieter moments to re-engage with your existing customer base, encourage referral business and excite your customers about working with you and the opportunities in the months to follow.
Customer up-sells and retention can be equally important as new customer acquisition.
Getting to know your customers can have many desired outcomes (one of which, simply getting to understand their wants and needs more effectively) and the way in which you take this forward for your business can be varied. As a practical example of this, at Vertical Leap (the company I work for) we love to run customer days.
Source: Vertical Leap, ‘Vertical Leap customer day’
Tip 6: Add to Your Current Offering
Product and service innovation can re-position your business for any season. When considering a challenge like ‘how to get more customers in quiet periods of the year’, a solution can often be found within your own product and service provision.
Part of this is tied towards understanding your customer base wants and needs (tip 5), and of course trying something new (tip 2), as well as turning insight into action (tip 1).
An important aspect of business offering innovation is fueling decision-making based on data.
While gut feel can be a useful initiator for investigation, data needs to drive your decision-making and provide a solid justification framework for product/service research and development (especially if this R&D comes at a great cost to the business).
Tip 7: Reuse, Re-Purpose, & Recycle Content
There are a couple of predominant ways in which you can continue to get all year value from your content, and position it according to the season to generate new business and new customers for every season.
Firstly, you can target each season with in-depth content and have items in your marketing calendar specifically targeting the seasonal opportunities and needs. This can be created from scratch each year, based on the latest industry and audience trends and needs, as well as the latest data sets available to you.
By doing this you know that the content created is relevant, fresh, and unique to your business. You are servicing user-driven needs and likely able to provide new customer gains tied to leveraging the new content opportunities pertinent to the season of the year.
Secondly, you can refresh what you already have.
This ‘refresh’ can come into force through many approaches. It can be a case of adding new content types – for example, adding a slide show to a blog post and promoting this externally, or creating an infographic summaries report or white paper findings to appeal to a more visually driven target audience. The key here is that you are leveraging the existing content you have created for the season, and applying a tiered approach to increasing the new customer acquisition value that you derive from it.
Tip 8: React Quickly
The summertime is not always sunny (especially in the UK) and every season is prone to unexpected eventualities. Knowing this in advance means that you can put contingency plans in place to maximize the season, even for the unexpected.
Supermarkets have been experts in this for many years – a great example that I like to use for this is ‘Walmart and Pop-Tarts‘ based on the hurricane seasons in the US and using data-led insights effectively:
The experts mined the data and found that the stores would indeed need certain products — and not just the usual flashlights. “We didn’t know in the past that strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales, like seven times their normal sales rate, ahead of a hurricane,” Ms. Dillman said in a recent interview. “And the pre-hurricane top-selling item was beer.”
As a UK example: Let’s say you are a venue hired to run summer parties, and your customer requirements will be outside events and venues. A two-week downpour could become an opportunity that your business captures and maximizes for increased customer gains this summertime.
Consider the bottom of funnel new customer gains during that two-week unexpected rain where people need ‘wet summer venues’, ‘indoor parties’ and more. The business that accounts for the unexpected in the summer, will benefit from it.
Tip 9: Jump on Board With Seasonal Events
Event jacking and news jacking are great ways to get your brand in front of entirely new audiences. When you decide to buy a fizzy drink, one of the reasons that you think about Coca-Cola is because they are everywhere – your business can appear outside of its niche effectively, too, — by using seasonal events.
Blog posts can be a good tactic to deploy to support this as they are by nature less business focused and encourage more personality within writing. If you have football enthusiasts in your company, get them to blog about the Champions League, cricket lovers can write about upcoming Headingley games, and those interested in tennis can cover the French Open.
The more creative you get with associating your business in a logical way to broader visibility topics, the better the reach and likely, the more new customers you will get from this approach.
If your business has a physical address, this can be a fantastic starting point for leveraging seasonal and location events for business wins all year round.
Tip 10: Increase Your Promotion Activities
It doesn’t matter what marketing and promotional activities your business relies on, when the phones are ringing less frequently, you have to increase what you are doing (providing it is profitable to do so). Most businesses will not reduce the level of costs and expenditure during quieter seasons, so the need to maintain a healthy level of revenue is paramount for long-term success.
Increasing activity does not always need to be at an increased cost. For paid advertising is may be a case of expanding your reach with low-cost content re-marketing, or spreading your budget into new paid avenues like paid LinkedIn or paid Facebook advertising.
If you have a large database of customers, it can be useful to increase the frequency of engagement with those contacts during quieter periods (incentives will work well regardless of the time of the year).
If you industry is less active during seasonal periods of the year like the summer, you can take advantage of this by standing out from the crowd, building up your activity, and ultimately generating more new business, even if the size of the pie is smaller, by increasing your share of it.
Follow these tips, and you will be well on your way to beating the summer slump.
Tell me what successes you have had overcoming seasonality in your industry, and keep me updated on how you get on.
Featured Image: Sunny studio/Shutterstock.com
In-post Photo #1: Picsmedia/Shutterstock.com
In-post Photo #2: Jirsak/Shutterstock.com
In-post Photo #3: Infographic by Textlocal. Used with permission.
In-post Photo #4: Image by Vertical Leap. Used with permission.
In-post Photo #5: www.BillionPhotos.com/Shutterstock.com
Screenshot by Lee Wilson. Taken April 2016.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!