17 Ideas for Marketing a Seasonal Business in the Off-Season
Does your business rely on seasonal customers? Whether you own a surf school, a patio furniture store or an ice cream shop, you know how slow business can get during the off-season. Try these marketing ideas to keep customers engaged, and buying, all year long.
- Offer off-season specials. There’s a reason desert resorts slash prices when it’s super cold or hot. Reducing prices during the off-season is the easiest way to attract customers. Try holding a “flash sale” or one-day sale. Nothing sparks spending like a really limited time offer!
- Upsell and cross-sell existing customers. Reach out to existing customers to offer them special packages, products and services to get them ready for next season.
- Promote early payment specials. To keep cash coming in, try offering discounts for early payments for next season. For example, if you run a children’s summer camp that starts in June, you could offer a discount to parents who sign up pay in full by April 1.
- Hold a giveaway or contest. People might not be ready to buy surf lessons in January but they would still be open to winning them. Use a contest to collect email addresses and get permission to send emails to the entrants. You’ll build your list of leads for the busy season.
- Work on getting referrals. Contact satisfied customers and ask them to refer you to someone else who might want your service or product. You can offer a reward for referrals, such as a discount coupon or a gift card.
- Grow your online reviews. Ask past customers to review your business online. Make it easy by emailing them a link so all they have to do is click and type. Then be sure to pay attention to your reviews and deal with any negative ones.
- Hold an event for your loyal customers. Build goodwill by rewarding your seasonal customers with a fun event. It could be a preview of next season’s offerings, with the option to buy early at special prices, or just a party to thank them for their business.
- Market a different product or service. For example, a lawn care business could offer snow removal services in the winter. An ice cream store could add hot coffee drinks or hot chocolate to the menu.
- Target a new geographic market. If your seasonal business is weather-related, use the off-season to reach a new market with different weather. For example, if you sell patio furniture in Boston, you could ride out the slow season by expanding to Florida.
- Target a new demographic market. When the tourist season slows down, a bed and breakfast owner could promote their location as a site for business offsite meetings or church retreats.
- Switch from consumer to corporate. If you have a consumer-oriented business, try targeting corporate customers during your off-season. For instance, a food truck owner could look for corporate catering jobs or find trade shows and events where they can set up a food booth.
- Partner with local businesses. If your business is in a tourist area so everyone is in the same boat during the off-season, put your heads together. Work with other local business owners and the chamber of commerce to brainstorm ideas for marketing the town as a destination during the off-season.
- Focus on local customers. If you’re in a tourist town, hold a blowout sale for local residents to clear out last season’s merchandise. They’ll enjoy the savings without the in-season crowds.
- Educate your customers. What can you teach customers to help them make the most of your products or services? If you hold sailing classes during the warmer months, for example, you could offer boat maintenance classes during the winter.
- Find out what your customers want. Is there a product or service that your seasonal customers frequently ask for that you don’t offer? If not, conduct a customer survey and see what other products or services customers are interested in, then do some market research on the feasibility of adding them.
- Focus on low or no-cost marketing methods. Your sales will be slower and your budget smaller in the off-season, so concentrate on marketing channels that require more time than money, such as social media, public relations and email marketing.
- Use email to stay in touch with customers during your off-season. If you sell off-season products or services, customers won’t know about them unless you keep in contact. Even if you essentially shut down in the off-season, you don’t want to “go dark” until next season. Get customers’ permission to send them emails, then create a regular cadence of marketing emails, say, once a month, to promote off-season specials or build anticipation for next season.
- Use both social media and email marketing to provide useful content for customers and stay on their radar. What is your business really all about? A bed-and-breakfast is about providing a place for couples to connect. A summer camp is about creating lifetime memories. How can you help your customers achieve the same goals in the off-season? The summer camp could create content on how to keep the kids entertained on a rainy day or fun winter sports to try with your kids. The bed-and-breakfast could share tips for creative date night ideas.
- For public relations, know that it takes a lot of time to get on the media’s radar and develop relationships. Print media, in particular. Work several months ahead. If you want to get publicity for your tax preparation service in February or March, for example, you should start making connections with appropriate media now.
- Create your marketing plan for the coming season. You’ll have more downtime during the off-season. Use it to fine-tune your marketing plan for the next season and take care of marketing projects you don’t have time for when you’re busy, such as redesigning your business website or finding a freelancer to help with marketing.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She’s been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades.