Making the most of seasonal peaks

Every year we witness the hype surrounding Christmas, from the annual countdown, to the John Lewis advert, to Marks and Spencer’s mouthwatering food treats, and Primark’s selection of Christmas jumpers.

Now as we head into Spring we’re seeing our supermarkets’ shelves stacked high with Easter chocolates and daffodils. And there’s a very good reason for this. Seasonal peaks can offer brands a great chance to grow awareness and sales, especially if you’re a retailer.

As a start up, though, it can be a challenge to find the cash to invest in the necessary extra stock ahead of and during seasonal periods. It’s always riskier for new business owners than those who have been selling for big seasonal holidays for years. But, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any opportunities, and having a smaller budget to spend on advertising and marketing shouldn’t stop you from making the most of seasonal peaks either.

So, with Easter just around the corner, here are some top tips to help you get off to a cracking start:

1. Plan ahead

Day in, day out, consumers are bombarded with new products and deals. A host of research over the last five years suggests that we see over 1,000 marketing messages every day. But as a start up, planning as much as possible can give you a real advantage – meaning you can put together a well thought-out and organised strategy for how you’re going to make the most of a seasonal peak.

The best thing about using cyclical events to drive sales is that there are plenty of opportunities throughout the year including Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, Summer and Halloween. There are loads of different national awareness days too that are becoming more popular, which brands are jumping on the back of. Use quirky calendar events such as Pizza Day (9th February) or International Surfing Day (21st June) to offer deals or host competitions online.

Plan out your calendar for the year ahead and be selective – pick out the calendar moments that suit your business best. If you’re a florist events like Mother’s Day will be a much better investment than Halloween so think about your tactics.

Next work out when you’d need to pre-order stock by and work to manage your cash flow to accommodate for an increase in costs ahead of festivities. Think carefully about how many more products you’ll sell or revenue you’d expect to make – an easy mistake is to be overly optimistic and be left with all your excess cash tied up in stock. It’s a delicate balance so use your previous sales performances and forecasts to measure your ambitions.

2. Stay savvy

When preparing a tie-in with seasonal peaks, it’s useful to be savvy about what products and services you want to promote. Many businesses will choose their best-selling items to push, or launch a new range to tie in. For Mother’s Day you could tie products together to offer a Mother’s Day treat deal. Look back at your sales figures and see which approach would work best for you.

Valentines_Candy

The next thing to think about is pricing structure. Introducing offers can sometimes be a great way to drive sales as Brits love a bargain. For example, Decorator’s Notebook introduced an online discount during Fairtrade Fortnight.

However, this has to be offset with a potential loss in revenue. If your business has a relatively small profit margin it might be worth offering deals and offers towards the end of the seasonal peak, rather than from the start or focus on promotion. See how flexible you can be with pricing, as this can be a great opportunity to drive customer interest.

3. Socialise

There’s not much point planning activity along with popular holidays if no one knows you’re doing it. Using social media channels is a fantastic and accessible way to reach a wider audience. You can use it as a helpful platform to launch natural or sponsored advertising activity as well.

Make sure you shout out what you’re up to for the holidays. Posting about Mother’s Day will get you and your business more attention. Post any pictures you can and always include a link to your business website to drive traffic across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s important to also remember that your website gives a customer their first impression of your business – so make sure it looks professional and welcoming.

Preparing your social media posts in advance gives you more time to be creative and get your key messages across. Using puns or coming up with a witty play on words is likely to encourage more interaction. Unleash your creativity.

A good tactic on the morning of an occasion such as Mother’s Day is to go online and see which hashtags and phrases are trending. Make a note of them and begin to include these in your material, which will enlarge your audience reach.

4. Reach out

You might have customers online but they’re also out in the streets too. If you own a shop, it’s important to make sure consumers passing by know that you have tailored products linked to celebrations. Designing some new signage can be an easy way to do this – try and get creative with your window displays. Take inspiration from Easter-themed window displays, such as those in Harrods in London which attract hundreds of shoppers.

Christmas display

Another good idea is to try and get in touch with your local newspaper or radio station. Either have a go at writing your own press release (we’ve got a free guide here) or just give them a call. Let them know what you’ve got planned for the season and see if they’d be interested in interviewing you or filming from your business. Be proactive about hunting out opportunities to promote your start up.

5. Review and refresh

Running a start up is all about adapting. After each seasonal peak, look at your sales figures and think about what you could improve. See which products were the most popular and which failed to make the cut. Ask yourself if there’s anything you could improve on next time to reach more customers.

Fortunately, there are many opportunities throughout the year to tap into rising consumer demand, so if you’re ready – you have plenty of chances to get your strategy right and make the most of them.

Written by David English, CMO of The Start Up Loans Company

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