We live in interesting times. Crisis begets innovation, and we asked 9 marketing experts – 8 digital marketers and 1 intrepid business owner – to suggest what marketing tactics small businesses can use during the slow season.

Marketing Tactics for Small Businesses during the Slow Season: Experts Roundup

What the Experts are doing for their company

Our experts shared what tactics they employed for their companies during slow seasons.

Tapping on Old Customer Relationships for Referrals & Sales

Nick Loggie, of Adlibweb had a beautiful two step plan for slow seasons:

  1. Reach out to old customers, and
  2. Offer incentives for referrals.

Laconic but effective, tapping on the power of referrals.

Intrepid small business owner, Mark Wood, agreed. For his Pool Fencing company, On top of asking past customers for referrals, his small business also went with direct marketing tactics like going door-to-door with promotions.

Donald Chan, of IMPACT! Brand Communications, agreed. “We focus on retaining clients by providing the best service we can and going out of our way to help them. We believe the value of strong client relationships will show themselves during the low seasons.”

Co-Marketing via SEO, Creating a Facebook Group and Blogging

Andriy Zapisotskyi, of Mailtrap.io, worked on a pro-active guest posting/link exchanging partnership.

“We researched a number of companies we had plenty in common with, to establish a cooperative effort.

“Then, each company received a set of high-quality backlinks from guestposts that their own writers were crafting.

“We also agreed to recommend each other to our partner base. Cross-promotion in newsletter is something that worked for us too. We also provided additional value for new sign-ups, like extended trial or additional discount for our product.”

Scott Lengacher, of Lenga, turned to his partners and community marketing to solve the problem.

“During a slow time, I created a facebook group in my niche that has since grown to 26000+ members. The increase of traffic from Facebook groups helped offset the slow season.”
Jeilan Devanesan, of Venngage Inc created an experts round-up to accumulate knowledge and build SEO. “Putting together an expert round-up post isn’t too difficult if you’ve got a healthy network of industry professionals, or a tool like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) at your disposal. The Venngage team even put together a case study on Local SEO to make it easy.

Discounting & Internal Training

Andre Oentoro, of Breadnbeyond, a video explainer company, shared how he offered small businesses respite during their slow months:

“We typically cut some prices for our products by offering a cash-back [to customers] during slow months. These lower prices effectively entice clients

“We also use the low sales period to focus on improving processes in our system, that were usually neglected during the busy seasons. We spend a considerable amount of time figuring out the roadblocks and how we can grow as a team.”

Artem Minaev from FirstSiteGuide adds that among the most effective strategies is creating bundled discounts on packages that include a few products that complement each other, as well as adding scarcity via a time limit.

“A good example from e-commerce is any collection of products that are frequently purchased together. However, when using this approach, it’s best if the offer is valid only for a specified timeframe — the shorter, the better. An expiration date that’s coming soon adds urgency to a bundled offer that helps close the sale.”

Featured Expert!!

In Slow Season, Strengthen Relationships with Existing Customers

By Donald Chan, IMPACT! Brand Communications

During the slow season, small businesses should focus on strengthening relationships with existing customers. After all, if a user has bought from you before, there’s a good chance they’ll buy from you again.

Look into offering loyalty discounts or offers to your best customers. Make them feel appreciated. Then, encourage them to refer their friends and family, or to share their happy experiences on review sites or social media.

It’s much easier to sell to an existing customer than to acquire a new one. After all, existing customers have tried out your product and services and – if you’ve left a fairly good impression – should be more than happy to buy from you again. Therefore, in a slow season, it makes sense to strengthen relationships with existing customers.

There’s different ways of reaching out to them – ranging from emails to SMS to phone calls. Business owners can consider offering special promotions for loyal or returning customers, whether this is a discount, free upgrade or an exclusivity offer.

Go to the Basics: Social media, local advertising, networking

By Nick Loggie, Grupo Adlibweb SL

Just go back to the basics:

  • Use your social media to reach out to followers – obviously this means that your social media needs to be well prepared beforehand. Use clever Ads. As an example, if you are a private language school use Hangouts to reach students.
  • Local advertising is important. We forget about it in these days of global reach. Local community pages can be a great way of getting to your audience. Making sure your Local SEO initiatives are up to scratch will back these types of local advertising campaigns.
  • Networking will help you – makes sure you have a great network in place. Extend it by making sure you are in the right venue with clear objectives in mind. You can use loyalty schemes to increase sales.

Offering Payments & Discounts was also a consideration. Joyce Qian of ContactPigeon had the most thought-out response. Her and small business owner Mark Wood recommended offers that did not include discounts.

Featured Expert!!

Give Incentives (Not Discounts!) for Slow Season visits

By Joyce Qian, ContactPigeon

On slow seasons a retailer can focus on running marketing tactics based on 2 pillars:
a. improving in-store customer experience
b. giving incentives (through discount(s) etc)

I personally advise my clients to focus on boosting the customer experience within the physical store, since giving away more discounts is a really bad decision (profit-wise), especially when Black Friday and Holiday seasons have already put great pressure on smaller retailers. Thus, it is not a wise path to take.

So far we’ve seen good results by:

  1.  Communicating that we are a safe place to be (helped with: increased store visits, boosted revenue): At events like Coronavirus you have to try to reduce consumer’s fear. So we added Antiseptic gels to several spots of our stores and spread the word about it (newsletters, print labels, social media marketing)
  2.  Giving away 20% discount coupons on next order.(helped with: increased store visits, boosted revenue with 0 discount & helps in customer retention as well)
  3. Doubling the loyalty points for a week. (helped with: increased store visits, boosted revenue)
  4. Running in-store contests. (helped with: increased store visits, boosted customer loyalty)
  5. Run in-store sample testing and showcase events, in collaboration with suppliers.

In general, slow seasons tend to happen. More than 50% of our clients are retailers, so I’ve spotted the following tactics and hacks that retailers try:

– In-store contests
– Store-exclusive promotions
– Impressive installations (or desks)
– Contact suppliers to run instore co-promotions (sample testing etc)
– Double loyalty points
– Create an eye-catching show window (eg. print stickers)

Offer Post-Payment Plans

By Mark Wood, National Pool Fences

Sales are definitely affected during adverse economic situations such as the current pandemic. What we offer to attract potential customers is to offer post-pay plans to entice them to avail of our service and pay for it at an agreed time since their priorities are on necessities and may be less on home improvement.

Still, Nothing Brings Customers like Discounts

By Andre Oentoro, Breadnbeyond

Nothing brings in customers quickly like a good old-fashioned discount in such a slow season. Cutting some prices on products that currently don’t have high demand via social media and word of mouth might spur customers to purchase it and use it for later. And if they like the product, they’ll stick around and come back during a busier season. That’s how you put your name back on the map.

Digital marketing & SEO remained a popular theme with experts.

Local SEO Brings People in During the Slow Season

By Jeilan Devanesan, Venngage Inc

An active, local SEO strategy helps to support small, local businesses when they experience slow periods. They’ll continue showing up in searches from the people most likely to visit their establishment.

In fact, a case study by Digital Ducats founder, Christian Carere, found that round-up posts featuring well-designed infographics are a great way to secure local backlinks and boost your local SEO standings.

Here’s what you do: Choose a trending/popular topic relevant to your audience, reach out to local experts on that topic (graphic design trends, fashion trends, food trends, tech trends, etc.), get their insights to create your article with, then design an infographic that summarizes their insights in a visually-enticing list, put it together, and then publish it.

Then share it with your experts, send over the link to the post or the embed code for your infographic and ask them to share if they’d like, include it in their content, include it in upcoming content, etc. The likelihood of people linking back to your infographic that you’ve mentioned them in is high. You can also then promote your blog post and infographic to other local publications for additional links since it’s a great resource you’ve put together.

Local SEO: Optimize your Google My Business

By Scott Lengacher, Lenga

Use the slower time to focus on optimizing your SEO and online presence. Focus on optimizing your Google My Business profile. You can learn a lot of pro tips by reading this article – https://whitespark.ca/blog/whitesparks-guide-to-optimizing-google-my-business/.
After your profile is optimized, I recommend posting to your account at least once a week. This will maximize your exposure during the slow season.

In this section, our experts suggest how you can best invest the time during slow seasons.

Take the Time to Pursue Co-Marketing

By Andriy Zapisotskyi, Mailtrap.io

Co-marketing is all about promoting each others’ brands via various marketing efforts. Pick several companies that you don’t directly compete with but what you all do is somewhat related. A holiday apartments booking site could partner with a local tour agency and a global chain of restaurants. An email sending platform could partner with a loyalty program provider (such as CandyBar) or with a big player on an SEO market.

Once you establish a cooperation, think what you could do together. Guest posting on each other’s blogs is often a good idea. Promoting each other via newsletters or social media would likely benefit both businesses. Sharing opportunities to get an extra exposure on events or on offline marketing materials is not something many would say no to. The more businesses have in common, the more opportunities for cooperation there will be.

Use Text Message Marketing to make Personalised Offers

By Henry Cazalet, The SMS Works Ltd

The humble SMS remains one of the most effective communication tools available to marketers. According to Mobile Squared, 90% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes.
Open rates for SMS are around 98% compared to just 19% for email.

SMS cuts through all the other marketing noise in a way that no other channel does. When was the last time you ignored a text?

SMS can be particularly effective when used in combination with other marketing activities. For example, sending a follow-up text to an email can deliver a huge improvement on response rates.

Carpet and flooring experts Tapis, found that they increased open rates to their email campaign by 53%, simply by sending a text follow up to advise customers that special offers had just landed in their mail box.

So while SMS may feel clunky and outdated, when used sparingly and with care, it can give your marketing a real boost when things are slow.

P.S. You may also like CandyBar’s Ultimate Guide to Text Message Marketing or explore CandyBar’s Promo Messages feature.

Experiment on how to refine your marketing campaigns

By Arne Stamer, My Package Tracking

The slow season is the best time to experiment and test how to get the most out of your marketing campaigns.

Now that you have less traffic and fewer customers, you can use those test users to see how to revamp your campaigns.

Start by establishing a baseline. This will help you figure out what’s working and what’s not. Then, focus on what’s not working, and how you can fix it. Perhaps you left a few ideas on the backburner. Perhaps you have a pending project to tackle them, like setting up a new chatbot or segmenting your audience a different way.

Get your team together to figure out what you’ll be refining to make the next busy season more productive than the last one.

That’s it for our first experts roundup of 2020. Let us know your thoughts!

Darren Foong

Posted by Darren Foong

Darren works on Growth at Candybar. He spends too much time reading fiction, performing improv, and doing things that don't scale. One day he hopes to be quite interesting.