Summer in Mid-Coast Maine means tourists and for many small businesses an almost automatic boost in sales. It may be tempting for some to feel like they can let their marketing slide and simply take advantage of warmer weather and naturally higher foot traffic. Keep in mind, this often effortless influx only lasts for 3 to 4 months, but successful marketing is a year round activity. Too many businesses owners and managers only promote when they have very little or no business at all and then they find it difficult to gain the momentum needed to carry them beyond the busy season.
You must also keep in mind that despite higher foot traffic, the competition during the summer season is tough; everybody is competing for the same tourists and their dollars. Your competition is not just the retailer next door, but it’s also the restaurants, and the convenience and grocery stores, and all other businesses in your town too. Today’s consumer has only so much money to spend on and everybody wants it.
Heat of the Moment
Businesses in a tourist area must find ways to market to anonymous crowds who are often only here for a short time. Thinking about how these tourists will find out about you and your business will provide you a focus for your summer marketing efforts. Word of mouth from other tourists and referrals from locals, searches on mobile devices, local chambers and events are all important sources. Sometimes they find you just by walking around town. Your summer marketing plan must include having a clean and festive storefront, accurate directory listings, and active social pages and websites to capture your share of the tourist wealth.
Along with warmer temperatures, summertime also brings opportunities for small businesses to get creative with their marketing. Even if your company doesn’t sell products or offer a menu that is specific to the season, chances are you can still work a summery theme into your campaign.
• Encourage customers to post a picture of themselves using one of your products while on vacation, or enjoying your signature dish
• Hold a contest, such as asking for submissions of the most patriotic photo around July 4
• Create a special sale with seasonal items and a summery title
• Touch base with your local customers via email or mail and encourage them to spread the word about your business
• Join with other local businesses on joint sales or advertising efforts. Ask for referrals!
• Be part of seasonal community and chamber events
• Use your social media channels to be flexible and respond quickly to changing events. Consider announcing a sale or create a rainy day special to encourage visitors during periods of low foot traffic
As you make your way through this busy season, here are a few simple strategies you can employ to keep generating new business into the slower seasons.
• Build up e-mail subscribers so you can market to them again and again. Email marketing is affordable, quick, and relatively easy any time of year.
• Make it easy to leave good reviews/testimonials and include them in your year round advertising plan.
• Build up Facebook and Twitter followers – a strong social media following keeps your business top of mind now and encourages word of mouth referrals and repeat business later in the year.
• Offer specials geared toward your local customer base. Consider a full price now, special offer for later in the year or special referral program.
• Include signage within your business that lets people know you are open in the off season and what they can expect (specials, events, etc).
Hot and then Cold
Your customers don’t vaporize when the summer sun sets. A well timed shared mailing in your market just as the season winds down will allow you to speak directly to your year round customers and provide them an incentive to keep stopping in during the off-season. It’s important to stay in contact with both locals and past customers throughout the entire year. Consider social media your virtual, year-round storefront for both groups — because even if your audience isn’t chillin’ outside your store or visiting your website, they are certainly perusing their social media feeds! You should be using this real estate to offer special discounts, gather (and publish) reviews and testimonials, share the new content you’re publishing, run contests and polls, and generate hype for the next season.
Don’t focus all of your efforts and budget on one category be it tourists or locals, or one season. Ramping up or ramping down based on your budget and seasons is fine, but an overall steady effort will prove beneficial in the long run.
The key to an effective marketing strategy is consistency and patience. If you are tempted to slash your marketing budget, be sure to think twice before doing so. Maintain your advertising strategy and you will increase your visibility. Consistent and effective marketing is the key to maintaining top-of-mind awareness with your target audience all year long.
No matter how busy you get this summer, your marketing and promotion must keep chugging along to keep your competitive edge.
Think you are too busy to market yourself this summer? Contact TMM. We Can Help.