Although we’re still in July, you know that as a small business, you need to be one step ahead of the seasons when it comes to branding and marketing. Therefore, for small businesses who decorate seasonally, or change up their design elements with seasons and holidays, it’s time to start looking to fall.

You already know that to get a head start on the holidays, you need to start thinking ahead, way ahead. If you’re thinking of the main holiday season in quarter four, we’re already well into the third quarter of this year. If you’re struggling to get started, here are some helpful tips.

What is seasonal marketing?

Per Forbes, seasonal marketing “refers to marketing that revolves around special holidays.” Although Forbes cites Christmas and Black Friday, other holidays and special events can come into play. For example, Irish pubs would employ seasonal marketing before St. Patrick’s Day, banks and credit unions would employ seasonal branding at Tax Time, and as we covered in our last blog, doctors and dentists may employ seasonal marketing for back-to-school appointments.

While seasonal marketing doesn’t just refer to holiday marketing, for most businesses, the upcoming holidays are when seasonal branding comes into play. And since this unique type of branding can also refer to the changing of the seasons, fall is just around the corner. From clothing retailers to motorsports dealerships, marketing based on actual seasons is a tried-and-true strategy to inform customers about changing products.

That said, here’s our tips on how to make the most of seasonal branding and use it to bring in more customers.

Start early

When it comes to seasonal marketing, calendars are your best friend. Forbes recommends releasing your holiday branding at least two weeks before a holiday promotion. In order to do that, you need to plan your visuals and content at least a month before the big release. Sure, an eblast or a social media post can be put together in much less time, but going into the planning, audience-tracking, and execution adds up in terms of time. Thus, starting your campaign early is a must – doubly so when you consider that the campaign has to start before the holiday promotion.

Have you done other seasonal campaigns in the past?

If so, examine the numbers. Were there campaigns that were popular? If so, repeat them. If there were not-so-great attempts, look at the numbers – open rates and click rates for eblasts, likes, comment, and shares for social media, increase in positive reviews, higher SEO scores, etc. Dive deep and see if your campaigns need to be more targeted, started earlier, posted on a different day or time, and more.

If they were successful, make them a yearly tradition. A great example of a yearly successful holiday campaign is Starbuck’s red cup designs. People wait for months to see what this year’s design will be. Similarly, their seasonal pumpkin spice latte is a hit year after year.

Focus on your customer’s intangibles

In recent years, businesses have actually decided to do something that seems counterintuitive: close on Thanksgiving and/or Black Friday. These days are often the biggest sales days of the year, and in fact, Black Friday got its name for being the day where many small businesses go from being financially “in the red” to “in the black.” However, by remaining closed on these days, businesses communicate their values to their customers: we value the spirit of family and togetherness that the holidays are really all about.

Customers respond positively to these values-based decisions. When outdoor retailer REI announced they were closing for Black Friday, encouraging customers to take the time to go out in nature and reconnect, it actually boosted their online presence and got people talking about them. This strategy might not work for your business, but when you communicate your why and share how your values overlap with your audience, you’ll gain and keep more customers and watch your bottom-line grow.

And remember: the “why” of your holiday promotion shouldn’t be limited to written commentary. Visuals can say a lot more than writing when it comes to communicating who you are and what you’re about.

Stay on brand (easier than you think)

To effectively communicate your holiday values and seasonal messages and promotions, your visuals still need to match your overall brand experience. It’s still you talking, not the holiday! But wait, you say, how can I make my brand match the holiday?

Say you’re a bakery getting ready to roll out some fall treats, but your color palette is more sugar – pastels – and less spice, so autumnal colors don’t jibe with your brand coloring. Play around with it! Peachy oranges and creamy yellows can look fall festive in the right contexts. And don’t discount shapes like leaves or even your products themselves. Who doesn’t love an image of a gooey cinnamon roll on a crisp, autumn day, or an apple pie? Similarly, if you’re a sophisticated, luxurious spa, bright reds and greens could make your Christmas promotions look like an eyesore. However, gold and silver with some muted emeralds and sages could do the trick to promote you as an oasis away from the hustle and bustle.

Get creative

And as always, use visuals to get creative. If you’re located downtown, see if your Chamber of Commerce or City Council has fall, holiday, or other seasonal decorating contests you can participate in. To attract people to downtown businesses, many small towns have set up storefront decorating contests. If not, organize one if you have time, and get your community involved.

Storefront or no storefront, customers are moving online to make purchases and sign up for services more than ever. Therefore, your online visuals also need to match the holiday spirit during your seasonal branding or marketing campaign. Ensure your physical seasonal campaign matches your digital one. Place digital copies of your marketing materials in your website’s banner, on your social media, and elsewhere online.

Have a seasonal campaign coming up, but you’re falling behind and don’t have time to organize? Conversely, do you need tweaks to your visuals to match the holiday and stay on brand? Get in touch today!