It’s summertime in Rhode Island.  The time of year that we hit the beaches, eat our clam cakes and chowdah, drink our Del’s Lemonade and shop on Thames Street in Newport. It’s nice to have the opportunity to unwind this time of year and enjoy much of what makes Rhode Island one of the best places to live.  But what about the businesses that look at this time of year as their “busy season?”  As a business owner of any seasonal business, how do you maximize your business this year, while building towards an even better season next year? Here are my top 6 tips on ensuring summertime success:

  1. Focus on Relationships

Even with a short season, a seasonal business should value the relationship they build with each customer. While summer business is made up of two distinct groups—tourists and native Rhode Islanders—both of these groups have the potential to buy from us multiple times this season. If we market our business properly, they will come back in future seasons. While thinking about the short-term sale, we must make sure to focus on the long-term relationship and the value that brings to our business.


  1. Play Nice with Others

Seasonal businesses often have a similar audience that share similar interests. Look to partner with other businesses that offer a different product than you, but target the same customers. We often see restaurants partnering with hotels and theatres, and retail shops giving out beach passes. If you’re a jewelry store, what about partnering with a clothing store? Or if you offer bike rentals, why not partner with the kayak rental shop? The possibilities are endless.


  1. Giveaways and Promotions

The summer months offer a large number of festivals and outdoor activities. We have the Newport Folk Festival, The International Film Festival, The Summer Comedy Series and WaterFire, along with numerous outdoor concerts and movies. Drive people to your store by offering tickets to summertime events. Running a promotion that will give free tickets based on how much a customer spends will incentivize shopping at your location over a competitor’s and will also help to increase spending. You can also offer tickets in an online contest using email and social media to drive more visibility to your store and build brand awareness.


  1. Refresh Your Marketing Materials

Every customer that walks in your store should be able to leave with something promotional. The more memorable you are, the more likely people will come back, and even better yet, they will bring a friend.


  • Give away business cards that have your information on the front, and a special offer on the back. The offer could be good for a discount on their next purchase or a free gift.
  • Print postcards with a calendar of upcoming events. If your business has pre-set sales, print those out for people so they know when to come back. If your business doesn’t offer this type of promotion, print out postcards with area events and festivals listed. This is more likely to make the cut of items to be placed on the refrigerator next to all the kids’ drawings and family photos.
  • Give away summer-related promotional items that have your logo and website on them. Items like Frisbees, water bottles and t-shirts will get a lot of use and create great brand awareness for your company.
  1. Gather Customer Data
    Building a strong list of previous customers is a great way to stay top-of-mind year-round. At your register, try collecting email addresses on a signup form, or have your staff ask each customer for their email address at checkout. If you’re a restaurant, you can keep feedback forms at every table to capture customer data. You can also put signup forms on your website to collect email addresses.

Also, be sure to ask for customer feedback. It’s easier to collect this feedback while their experience is still fresh in their mind, rather than wait until time has passed. Collecting customer feedback is not only great to help you understand how your customers perceive their experience with you, but also to promote through social media, emails and on your website. Share those positive experiences every chance you get!

It’s ideal to gather all of this data when you have plenty of traffic, so while it may seem challenging to add this task to your list of peak season to-dos, your off-season and next season success depends on it.

  1. Stay Social

While at times social media is too heavily replied upon, it’s still a great way to stay connected to your audience. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+ can help you stay in front of your audience year-round. You should be using social media to offer special discounts, gather (and share) reviews and testimonials, run contests and polls, and generate a buzz for the current season and for next season. Try posting at least once each day on something that will excite your audience and keep them engaged.

So this summer while you’re enjoying your busy season, make sure to set aside time for marketing to your customers to ensure your seasonal success.


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Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

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