Summer officially ended last week, but consumers have been able to find pumpkin spice flavor anything just about anywhere as early as mid-August. Contrary to what you might think, fall presents numerous opportunities for marketing your small business. Many people return home from vacation, kids go back to school, individuals desire a fresh start at this time of year, and some even start to prepare for the holidays. The following marketing ideas will help your small business experience everything this season has to offer.
No. 1: Introduce an Instagram photo contest. First off, you’ll need to create a hashtag that is specific to your business (and maybe even the season and year). Then, you will want to encourage your business’ Instagram followers to post pictures of themselves partaking in their favorite fall activities like apple picking, flag football, apple cider-making, or jumping into a pile of leaves, etc. using your brand’s designated hashtag. On a specific date, your team can choose a winner, re-gram the winner’s photo on your business’ Instagram account, and offer them a free gift. This will increase engagement with your Instagram audience, while also allowing your small business to spread brand awareness--a win-win!
No. 2: Host a “can-do” event. Start off by contacting one of your local food pantries to obtain a list of items they specifically need. Then, offer customers or clients a special discount when they bring in the needed canned or other non-perishable food items. You can promote this discount via email, social media, and physical flyers. Not only will this help your customers save a buck, but also help those truly in need.
No. 3: Put your brand on reusable shopping bags. Whether temporarily or permanently, your small business can ditch paper/plastic bags and start selling reusable bags that show off your business’ name and logo. Not only does this increase your brand’s exposure, it positions your small business as environmentally conscious. To promote your business (and new reusable bags) even further, consider offering a discount to customers when they bring the reusable bag into your place of business.
No. 4: Sponsor a local sports team. Finding a way that best fits with your business, supporting young athletes is a great way for your business to get involved with the community. Depending on what your brand offers in terms of products and services, it might make sense to directly partner with a local youth soccer team, or offer discounts to soccer players and their parents to make your place of business a go-to destination before or after games.
No. 5: Create special promotions for local blogs. Identify the most popular blogs (or publications) in your business’ area for community news or your industry in particular and advertise your products/services to the readers. Not only do these local advertisements cost less, they’ll give your business a better opportunity to reach your surrounding audience.
No. 6: Participate in local events. Scour your local calendars for any upcoming, seasonal events (e.g., fall fair, Oktoberfest, etc.) and find out how you can get involved. Purchasing a booth or even sponsoring a local event can get your business name out to local residents as well as any out-of-town visitors.
No. 7: Throw an IRL party for your social media followers. Depending on whichever social media platform(s) your business is most active on, consider inviting all your Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram followers to a shopping party with special promotions and giveaways.
No. 8: Offer a pre-holiday discount or freebie. With the holidays coming up, most people start looking for deals and steals. Fall is the best time to launch special sales, discounts, and promotions for the customers/clients who have a budget for the winter celebrations. You can promote these offerings via signage, social media, and email marketing.
No. 9: Contribute to a local charity or non-profit organization. Choose one of your favorite local charities, reach out to them, and offer your place of business as the location for the next fundraiser event. Sharing your space will drive foot traffic to your place of business and also demonstrate commitment to a cause within your community.
No. 10: Celebrate new holidays or awarenesses. In autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving are the obvious holidays that get all the attention and hype. In an effort to mix things up and stand out, your small business should try celebrating social media-friendly holidays such as “Sweater Weather Saturday” or “Pumpkin Spice Appreciation Day.” This will help your brand stand out from huge corporations, as well as your small business’ competition.
No. 11: Launch a deal-of-the-week email marketing campaign. As mentioned before, many fall shoppers are focused on spending to save for the upcoming holidays. October is the perfect month to start offering weekly deals, promotions, and discounts. Also, if your small business doesn’t already have a rewards program, autumn might be the perfect time to set one up. This will encourage loyal customers to return to your business for that free item or special discount.
No. 12: Join forces with other local business to put on an autumn-themed event. Reach out to nearby small businesses (even competitors) in an effort to pool resources and audiences for a fall-themed weekend event with food, entertainment, games, and promotions. All participating businesses will expand their brand exposure through the combined effort. What better way to stick in consumers’ minds than with a successful celebration?
No. 13: Offer your expertise. Think of the questions your brand can answer and the problems your small business can solve for its audience(s). These topics can remain general or lend themselves to the fall season such as home maintenance, office organization, wardrobe ideas, time management, etc. Then choose one day in which your staff and/or outside consultants will offer their knowledge in-house. You can also position your small business as an expert by maintaining a blog on your business’ website, or sharing tips and misconceptions in a press release.
No. 14: Host a “Treat Yo’self” party for your best customers. Closer to Halloween, identify your most loyal customers and send them an invite via email to a special event with complimentary chair massages, manicures, and/or makeovers. Be sure to also serve beverages and appetizers. This will make your brand advocates feel special, only affirming why they return to your business time and time again.
No. 15: Create a promotion for customers to spend now and save later. In order to get customers excited about returning to your business for their holiday shopping, consider giving them a designated discount off a post-Thanksgiving purchase when they choose to spend a certain amount before this major fall holiday. This works similar to a $10 off your next purchase promotion, except the promotion only applies during the holiday shopping season, creating a subtle sense of urgency.
No. 16: Get your business featured in local media. The holidays tend to be the most popular time for the spirit of giving, but it’s never too early to start giving back to your community. This giving back can be delivered in the form of volunteering, donations, charity drives, and even helpful content. No matter what and how your business decides to give back, you will want to share this effort and spread awareness. During the fall, you ought to consider reaching out to local TV news channels, radio stations, publications, and even podcasts to pitch seasonal stories that relate to your business. Your brand might even want to hire a third-party PR agency to help your business with this process, as you and your staff continue to handle daily operations.
No. 17: Hire interns. With school back in session, autumn is the perfect time to hire local high school, college, or design students to help your small business with its content such as photography, graphic design, and social media. Not only will this give your brand a fresh perspective and look, it might also widen your business’ reach to a younger audience.
No. 18: Donate items or services to local auctions and raffles. Generally, autumn is a time for fundraising. Reach out to local schools and nonprofit organizations to donate your business’ products or services to their upcoming fundraisers. This will raise awareness for your brand and also introduce your small business to potential new customers.
No. 19: Throw a swap party. Through a Facebook invite, ask your social media followers and email subscribers to bring in a good-as-new item for a clothing or home goods swap and shop party. Host the party at your place of business and donate any unclaimed items to a local charity. If you want to expand the scope of this event, consider opening it to the public, creating flyers, and announcing it in a press release.
No. 20: Offer gift cards as promotional items. Another pre-holiday marketing tactic is to offer free gift cards for purchases over a certain amount. For example, for purchases over $100, your small business could offer a $15 gift card. No matter what your business’ fall marketing strategy look likes, be sure to get a head start on giving back to your loyal customers and local communities.
Blog by Melissa McElhose, the NALA staff writer