How to Manage the Online Marketing of Your Seasonal Business

Whether your business is only open during specific seasons and closed to the public the rest of the year or if you operate year-round, but experience peak and slow seasons, you will need to manage your business’ online marketing uniquely. In this post we’ll take a look at how to market your seasonal business all year.

Plan Ahead

Planning for a seasonal business doesn’t mean all of your efforts should be spent in your peak season. Being prepared in the slow times or off-season is prudent and will keep your head above water when your busiest sales season arrives. Take tax season, for example. This may not be the joyful event that everyone gladly marks on their calendars, but it is necessary.

Tax season is usually from January through April, making this a peak time for those offering financial services and tax preparation. So when should planning occur? It would be best to begin planning ahead in the summer and early fall. Marketing to new customers and establishing a relationship well before tax season will pay off greatly when the peak season rolls around by exposing your business to these customers and creating brand awareness for when they need your products or services.

Promote in the Off-Season

How can you promote your brand in the off-season to attract early buyers? Consider offering early discounts and promotions that incentivize shoppers to buy early. Let’s use the tax preparation company we were discussing as an example again. During slow periods you may offer customers free consultations or discounted rates for those who are looking to get a head start at putting their taxes in order. Email and social media marketing can be a great avenue for these promotions as they can reach a large portion of your buyers / fans and can be targeted to a specific audience.

Get in front of your established and potential customers all year, especially during off-seasons, to keep your brand and services offered top-of-mind. Offering personal deals in real-time will keep your business top-of-mind during the slow times when your customers aren’t necessarily thinking about your product or service. And remember, the internet connects your business with people worldwide, so what might be the off-season for you may, in fact, be the peak season for customers in other parts of the world.

Use Social Media to Keep Your Brand Top-of-Mind

Social media isn’t seasonal and using it as a part of your marketing strategy shouldn’t be either. Daily posts and updates will keep fans and followers connected and engaged with your brand. Using social media in the off-season can also be used to drive traffic to your site, which means you need to keep your content fresh and relevant!

Use Testimonials and Positive Reviews Year-Round

61% of shoppers read product reviews before making a purchase. This means you have to be ready to put your best virtual foot forward all year! Showcase positive reviews and testimonials you’ve received from pleased customers and display them on your website, landing pages, and social channels.

Develop a Seasonal Keyword Strategy

SEO matters all year for your business. In order to rank higher in search results, it’s important for you to focus on keywords that will increase traffic to your website during different times of the year. Choosing the right words to attract the right audience will ensure your brand is seen by as many people as possible.

Keyword research tools can help you decide which words are the most relevant for each season. Successful seasonal SEO will require you to research specific keywords, create campaigns, optimize ads for those keywords, and monitor your campaign’s performance. Keep up on current trends and remember that maintaining a year-round keyword strategy will require year-round work on your part.

Develop Content Year-Round

In line with your keyword strategy is the importance of developing content throughout the year. When your potential customers aren’t ready to buy they’re combing the internet looking for information that answers their questions. Your content needs to be updated, relevant, and offer valuable information to those shoppers. For a seasonal business, this means creating content throughout the year so things don’t seem stale. Think about a shopper visiting your blog and seeing that you haven’t posted anything in months. This is most certainly a turnoff for buyers and a great reason for you to maintain a content calendar.

A content calendar allows you to actively plan and consistently schedule content throughout the year. It also gives you a top-down look at your efforts to better optimize them with the seasons, holidays, and special events in mind. Think about the commonly asked questions or industry trends and utilize those to create information that your consumers will find value in.

Pay Attention to Your Competition

Do you know what your competition is up to? Are they creating excellent content and engaging their audience on social media throughout the year? Keep your eyes on the market and on your competition. Doing so allows you to stay abreast on industry trends and will give you inspiration and ideas regarding how to — or how not to — market your business during these slow times.

Target the Right Audience Using Segmentation

Segmentation targets subsets of your audience that are most likely to convert. These can be based on demographics, geographic location, lifestyle, and behavior. With a seasonal business, it’s vital that you understand who your target audience is so during peak and slow times you always have their attention.

Understanding your audience and segmenting your message correctly also requires you to understand where certain consumers are in their buyer’s journey. Some may simply be looking for more information where others have a lot of the information they need and are closer to making to decision and/or speaking to someone at your business. The goal is to be present at all times, and delivering relevant messages to your segmented audiences will help to increase the effectiveness of your marketing and ROI because these groups are already more qualified to respond to your advertising.

Digital marketing for seasonal businesses requires work! Business may slow down or come to a complete halt in the off-season, but your work isn’t done. Plan ahead of your peak and slow seasons, promote early, utilize the power of social media, develop a solid year-round keyword strategy, keep your eye on the competition, and know who your buyers are and when they buy. If you can work these tips into your seasonal marketing strategy you’ll be more better prepared to capture customers in Houston when things slow down.

Top Online Trends to Be Aware of in 2016

The digital marketing landscape is constantly evolving and will likely see the emergence and change of a number of different tactics. In this post we’ll explore six  online trend’s that are predicted to make an impact in 2016, and offer insights for you to consider in order to stay ahead of the competition. Let’s take a look!

1. Video Ads Will Dominate

While video advertising is necessarily new, this method of advertising will definitely be gaining popularity 2016. Search engine results pages (SERPs), like Google, will soon begin to include video advertisements, which will validate and reinforce this marketing trend. Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, already offer thumbnail videos as users scroll through their newsfeeds.

Consumers also rely heavily on videos to view peer reviews prior to making purchases and for product and service explanations. In fact, 96% of shoppers find videos helpful when shopping online and 1 in 4 shoppers use YouTube while in-store, to search for videos related to a product they desire. Video will soon dominate the internet, with industry experts predicting that it will represent 79% of all traffic by 2018 — globally!

2.  Mobile Use Will Overtake Desktop Use

Mobile use officially dominated desktop use for Google searches in 2015. More people are relying on mobile devices for emails, interacting with websites, and consuming content. For 2015, internet usage on mobile devices accounted for 51% of time spent each day with digital media. More Google searches also occur on mobile devices than desktops in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan.

The importance of this trend is clearly illustrated by Google’s latest algorithm update which actively penalizes websites that aren’t optimized for mobile with a lower search ranking. For businesses, the rule of thumb should be to think mobile first when creating content and developing advertising. This means testing your creative on a number of different screen sizes and utilizing responsive design on your website and landing pages. Don’t get left behind! Check if your site is mobile-friendly today.

3.  Digital Assistants Will Change SEO

2016 will see a rise in the use of digital assistants for internet searches. With the advent of digital assistants, such as Siri and Cortana, the SEO landscape is responding to accommodate more conversational search language. Consumers are now able to use sentences that resemble everyday language when using digital assistants for search queries. And, with tightly-packed schedules and increasing mobility, people prefer the convenience of being able to speak directly to a device with simple commands and questions. Consider including the following into your SEO strategy and PPC campaign:

  • Make use of conversational search terms. Use long-tail keywords, colloquial phrases, and long form questions. Your site is more likely to show in search results when your content matches the conversational queries of consumers when using digital assistants.
  • Stop focusing on basic information. Digital assistants thrive on retrieving basic information for consumers and don’t need your site to provide that. Focus on complex, niche content for successful SEO.
  • Incorporate more videos and photos. Digital assistants can’t do this on their own like they do with basic information. They need your site’s visual content to satisfy search queries. Adding more visual content will help optimize your site to accommodate the rise in digital assistant searches.

4.  The Rise of Social Media Platforms

Social media cannot be denied as a tool for marketers. Marketing campaigns aim to connect with and bring value to consumers in real-time. You won’t see Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn disappear anytime soon but the new year will see the increasing popularity of Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, and Periscope as advertising platforms. Snapchat — the increasingly popular photos and video sharing app — is proving to be an excellent source for quick advertising in real-time. This is becoming clear by the growth of their brand-focused Discover feed where companies like Buzzfeed, Daily Mail, and National Geographic maintain channels of content that expire and are refreshed every 24 hours.

5.  Content Remains King

Consumers are savvy, well-informed, and continue to crave information, therefore, your content should provide useful information that educates and encourages consumers to purchase from you. Recent data shows that 81% of consumers review products online and 61% read reviews before making a purchase.

Customers utilize social media, YouTube videos, peer reviews, and other content to make informed decisions. Continue to focus on developing content that answers commonly asked questions and addresses specific needs for potential customers. Be the answer your customers are seeking! This will ultimately help position you as a leader in your industry.

6.  Further Adoption of Marketing Automation

Automation tools allows marketers to trigger specific tasks based on actions that users have taken. This ensures more effective delivery of quality content that targets specific audiences and increases the ability to nurture leads. The automation process helps shorten the sales cycle and increases leads, sales, and cost savings. Let’s look at some automation trends you’re likely to see in 2016:

  • Mobile: With increased reliance on mobile devices, marketing automation will be used to send push-notifications and in-app messaging to reach consumers.
  • Personalization: Personalized messages, such as a contact’s name in the subject line of an email, get more responses and click rates. Automated marketing will become more personalized by using consumers’ search histories and items left in a virtual cart before checkout.
  • Lead Nurturing Programs: Using a series of emails and content to move customers from cold to warm leads will become the norm for marketers.
  • Choosing Your Own Path: The convergence of personalization with nurturing programs allows contacts to have a personalized path of content. Each contact  may receive similar content in the beginning of their journey but then, based on their response, they are put into different content categories to optimize the chances of becoming a customer.
  • Utilization of Experts: Agencies can manage multiple clients at once, therefore, more and more businesses will be relying on the help of experts to manage their marketing automation.

As the New Year approaches, consider how you can get a leg up on the competition by embracing these marketing trends. Be visible! Invest in your online presence and offer valuable and diverse content on multiple platforms to engage prospects and keep them thinking about your brand.

 

Why Marketing Matters Every Month of the Year (Even in January!) ​

It’s January. The once beloved Christmas trees are now abandoned on the curb, retail stores are no longer playing Jingle Bells, and gyms are packed with resolution setters. And for many small business owners, January means putting a break on advertising. After all, you spent a fortune getting your name out there during the holidays, and now you need to scale back, right? Wrong!

Marketing year round is essential to the livelihood of your business. And yes, that means in January, too. In this post we’re going to highlight why marketing matters every month of the year and why, in particular, advertising in January is important to set your business up for a successful 2016.

Why Marketing Matters Every Month of the Year

While many businesses, especially small ones, tend to cut or completely eliminate their marketing budgets in January, doing so can actually cost your company money. That is because there is nothing more important than remaining top-of-mind for your clientele.

When looking to make a purchase, consumers go through a buyer’s journey. This journey is an important framework by which to base your marketing strategy. To sum it up, a consumer goes through three core stages in this journey — awareness, consideration and decision. We say “core stages” because this journey has drastically evolved over time, especially in recent years. It’s important to understand that not all of your customers are in the same stage of their buying journey and as such, having a consistent and frequent marketing plan allows you to reach every consumer in the market for your product or service.

Maybe you’ve heard that 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to sales? What that means is they’re becoming acquainted with, and considering your company, long before they reach for their credit card. Going dark in January means you could be missing interested customers. It’s essential to consistently distribute your message to develop brand awareness so that next time someone is in the market for your product or service, they have already been familiarized with your brand.

Even if your business is seasonal, there is value in continuously promoting. Take, for example, popular winter and outdoor retailer The North Face who, for the first time ever, beefed up their year-round marketing with a big spring push. The campaign, that emerged in April called “I Train For,” is a departure for the retail giant that used to only run big pushes during the fall and winter seasons. This shift came when the brand realized that customers use The North Face products year-round.

President Todd Spaletto shared that this new campaign “… set the table for us to make an unprecedented spring investment.” Their choice to extend marketing efforts beyond the fourth quarter has put them on track to reach their current revenue goal of $3.3 billion by 2017, up from $2.3 billion in 2014. Consumers have a strong connection to The North Face brand and “it’s important to maintain that connection with consumers year-round” said Mr. Spaletto.

Keeping a seasonal business profitable throughout the year is a challenge. While these types of businesses can be great, as they offer highly coveted services or products during a few busy months, the difficult flipside to that is the off-season. Seasonal business owners face a unique challenge of squeezing out as much profit as possible during a few short months, and it can often feel like a desperate race to outlast the dormant months ahead.

Some companies shut down their business entirely during the slow season, but others stay open to try and turn a small profit where they can. With marketing, and remaining top-of-mind, you can keep your doors open — and even turn a profit — during the offseason; here’s how:

  • Minimize expenses
  • Stay in touch with your customers
  • Keep marketing through all of your channels
  • Offer initiatives for off-season purchasing
  • Team up with other businesses
  • Switch up your product line
  • Plan ahead

Why Marketing Your Business in January Is Especially Important?

For business owners, January is a month that can offer great advertising deals. Since marketers are not hyper-focused on advertising after such a strong push during the holidays, many media outlets offer exceptional promotions and heavily reduced pricing for those that not only run in January, but book advertising for future months.

Another, albeit unique, aspect to consider for 2016 is the political campaign. With election day slowly creeping up on Americans, political campaigns will be buying ad space across all media. In fact, an NPR article cited that political ad spending will top $4.4 billion this year, up from $3.8 billion in 2012. These campaigns have huge budgets and will push smaller advertisers out of the way. Think about about your marketing early to ensure you’ll get the best rate possible and be prepared to be flexible with your run times.

Another reason marketing your business in January is crucial is because frequency is king. Keeping your advertising consistent and frequent will keep the momentum going strong from the holiday season and allow you to remain relevant into the new year. In marketing, one of the concepts that many business owners (yes, even seasoned veterans) lose sight of is frequency of their message. In other words, how many times your core audience needs to be exposed to your message before it triggers a response.

All too often, small business owners will try something once, expect instant results, and then draw the conclusion after a couple of weeks that it was or was not effective. This is comparable to a diet when someone gets discouraged with the results after one or two weeks, drawing the conclusion that the weight loss program doesn’t work for them. Building your brand awareness and a strong reputation is a journey, not a one-time test; it takes an investment and patience to reap the benefits. But most importantly, it takes frequency, even in January.

Yes, your message needs to be compelling and timely, but ultimately advertising and marketing work gradually over time. Frequently, business owners do big marketing pushes during their busy season when in reality, they need to create multiple touch points — exposure you can only accumulate with frequency. In fact, a widely accepted statistic is that it takes 6-8 touches to generate a viable sales lead. So keep your message consistent and your advertising frequent, and you won’t have any issues generating new leads.

A Marketing Minute

There are six simple words that are the kiss of death for small businesses: “Out of sight, out of mind!” We know you’ve heard of it, but it doesn’t just apply to those unanswered emails and texts, in today’s world these six words are the end all be all for business. It’s so important to create top-of-mind awareness with your marketing efforts, and to do so, you need to allot funds to your marketing budget for every month of the year. Yes, even in January!