As the seasons change, so does the demand for many products and services. You likely have experienced firsthand how sales can been affected by the changing seasons. If your business is in a resort market, it might feel like particular seasons are your bread and butter, but we’re here to tell you that with a little planning every season can be great for business!
The travel period between peak and off peak seasons, also known as the shoulder season, often attracts a different clientele that your business will need to cater to. While some businesses in resort markets may choose to sit on their hands during this period, marketing your business during the shoulder season is tremendously important.
Knowing how to market your business in the off season requires a different set of strategies and tactics than peak season. But rest assured if you employ some of the following tips, shoulder season can still be a profitable time of year for your business, while providing opportunities to boost your peak seasons with off season marketing.
1. Utilize Email Marketing
The peak season is the time to grow your customer database, which you can then use during shoulder season to stay in touch with these customers. This will keep your business at the top of consumers minds when they start planning their next trip, as early as a year or more out.
Email marketing can be a great way to engage with customers, highlight promotions, and generate business during the shoulder season. According to one former head of email marketing at AirBnb, for example, email is very powerful for “imagine yourself here” kinds of communications. No matter what kind of business you’re in, providing potential customers with inspirational images can effectively plant a seed in their minds about the experiences you offer--from retail and dining, to hotels and adventure.
A few other things to consider about using email:
- Try sending out emails during different times of the day and the week to determine which is best for your audience. People might be more likely to view content related to travel on nights and weekends.
- Create social media communities around areas of interest (Facebook Groups, for example), and send out invitations via email. This gets people engaged during shoulder season without being a “hard sell”.
- Use previous data points with each email campaign if you can. If they purchased something from your business even a year or two ago, remind them about the positive experience they had.
- Alert people to unique content you may be creating to get customers engaged and remind them about your business. This can be new blogs, videos, or reviews showcasing not just your business but the overall locale.
By leverage your email marketing, you’ll encourage bookings or sales in advance to make sure that your peak season is that much more successful.
2. Showcase Testimonials and Reviews
Regardless of the season, as a business owner you should always be focused on asking for and collecting reviews. With the growth of social media and review sites, consumer reviews are being utilized by other shoppers and are valuable marketing tools for any business--but especially those in resort markets.
During the shoulder season, pull together some positive reviews and testimonials to highlight certain aspects of your business to publicize throughout the year. You can then repurpose these reviews in some of the following ways:
- Inbound Marketing - This includes making sure your testimonials are visible in most of the traditional inbound channels such as: Blogs, Case Studies, Tradeshow Materials, Brochures, Direct Mail and Email Signatures.
- Email Nurturing - Whether or not you have an email automation solution, you should be sending out nurture emails throughout the year in some form or another. Even if a certain nurture email is not focused on testimonials, include snippets of these testimonials throughout your nurture emails to showcase these positive reviews.
- Direct Sales - The whole point of sales is to overcome objections, and arming your sales team with testimonials is a great way to overcome them. If people think your location is too far from their hotel, for example, arm your sales team with a testimonial from someone saying that the travel time is totally worth it.
3. Highlight Shoulder Season Activities
Another strategy to engage potential customers is to create different types of content about shoulder season activities, services, or products that your business offers. One great way to highlight these shoulder season attractions is by having a business blog. If you don’t have a blog on your website, which is simply a place to share content and post articles, it might be a good time to consider starting one. Blogs can be a great way to engage potential customers with interesting and engaging content throughout the year.
Here are a few great examples from resort markets around the country:
- Stio Outdoor Clothing - While Jackson Hole, Wyoming is mostly a seasonal ski destination, the Stio brand’s blog has engaging year-round content about outdoor adventuring.
- Hilton Head Health - Hilton Head, South Carolina is a beach city with corresponding peak and shoulder seasons. Hilton Head Health, a fitness resort, uses their blog to provide their target audience with useful fitness tips and recipes for eating well year round.
- Sunset Watersports - Located on the resort island of Key West, Florida, Sunset provides family watersports adventures and equipment rentals. But take a look at how they publish content year-round, about topics like kids activities in Key West, unique Key West souvenirs and local event coverage (speed boat racing etc.).
Also, we suggest you develop content tied into promotions that add a seasonal twist. Here are a few examples of ways you could do this:
- Seasonal Drink Specials - If you run a restaurant, drink specials are great because you can adjust the flavors to the seasons and attract more local regulars (not to mention the great margins on mixed drinks). You could also post content on your blog highlighting these seasonal drinks and recipes.
- Marketing Shoulder Season During Peak Season - Don’t wait until shoulder season hits to start marketing your promotions to locals. If you run a kayaking company, for example, start developing content about how much fun local families are having kayaking during the off-season, when there’s not so many tourists.
- Off-Season Special Occasions - The more you know about your local customers the better, so try and collect information about people’s birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. Retail shops can offer email birthday coupons or discounts, for instance, to get people back in the door during shoulder season.
Creating this type of content provides potential customers with information about what they can do in your area during the off-season, and that they can enjoy whatever you offer just as much (if not more) as when the crowds are around. This can be especially effective when marketing to locals who might avoid busy areas due to crowds.
4. Use Social Media
Social media is especially useful during the shoulder season as a way to keep your audience engaged and in-the-know about your business. There are always interesting posts, articles, and content that you can share on your social channels to remind your customers, and potential customers, that you are a great option for when they are in town.
Here are some social media strategies to consider.
- Set up your social media platforms so that sharing of photos is allowed and encouraged outside of your network.
- Regularly share unique content of people experiencing your business. These can be candid shots you take year-round, but also encourage customers to share their own photos and find them yourself with keyword searches.
- Capture videos of your customer’s experiences and share them on social media. Make them the star of their own experience.
- Monitor the discussions and comments on your social media platforms, and gear any unique content or contests around those topics.
5. Target Locals
While you likely notice a dip in business during the shoulder season, don’t forget that it’s always a great time to target locals. The local community is always buzzing, even during off-season, so if applicable, your marketing should have some focus in that direction. Use local media outlets and social media to target locals so you can continue to generate business and revenue even if it’s not the peak season for visitors. For example, local retail stores might consider partnering up with a local restaurant to cross-promote their businesses during shoulder season. Even if there are no tourists, there’s still a ton of foot traffic, and you just need to put yourself in the right position to capitalize on that.
6. Discounts and Promotions
While it’s great for your business to be in high demand during peak travel seasons, discounts and promotions can keep the ball rolling with locals and fewer visitors during the shoulder season. Offer promotions, highlight special events, and discount items during this time to drum up extra business and a little bit of excitement within the community. You can even start offering pre-season or early bird online discounts online for the peak season during this time.
Even though the shoulder season may seem like a down time for your market, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be maintaining your marketing presence and growing your business. By marketing your business during the shoulder season with the tips we’ve mentioned here, you’ll be in a better position to succeed year-round.