Depending on the industry, every business has experienced some kind of seasonal shift in terms of leads and sales. Whether it is massive sales and website traffic at the beginning of the year or a complete lack of demand as the year comes to a close, seasonality shifts are normally defined by shifts in sales, leads, and user behavior that deviates from what is usually expected. B2Bs often experience seasonality during the holiday season as depleted business budgets from the year are widespread, while many B2Cs selling lifestyle goods that are trying to capture the interest of shoppers looking to find the perfect gift find that time to be their busiest. Swimwear brands consider much of the winter season to be “off-peak,” while a retailer selling ski-related products might look forward to snowfall so they can see a surge in sales.
Regardless of your industry, you’re likely to have some sort of seasonality. As a marketer, it can be discouraging to see your hard work and effort leading to results that aren’t exactly ideal as a result of this phenomenon. The good news is that if your off-season comes at the same time each year, it’s predictable and you can prepare for it. Here are several things you can do to spend that time efficiently, generate as many leads as you can, and help your business stay stronger than ever:
Focus On Branding
One of the things you can do to strengthen your brand’s online presence during the off-season, is to focus on your branding initiatives. How does the consumer view your company? What do they think of when they see your advertisements? From your branded keyword on search engines, to the recognition you instill with your users, crafting an experience that helps your company’s messaging resonate better with your audience is an excellent element to hone in on during a quiet time of year. Generally speaking, brands don’t have seasonality issues—their sales do. So don’t completely forget about your marketing efforts, just shift the focus from direct response initiatives to more holistic branding campaigns instead.
Concentrate on the emotional connection your company has with its users online. Engagement with your valued customers and potential customers shouldn’t suffer during this time–you should be at least as active as you are normally. Continue to craft unique content and pair it with a combination of public relations and social media efforts to make sure your brand is remaining as top of mind with users as possible—even if they aren’t purchasing something right now.
As an example of this, consider a company that sells razors. The winter may not be the best time for them in terms of generating sales because fewer men are shaving their beards than in the summer. However, this is the time to take advantage of raising their brand awareness to offset the hit that their products might take in terms of sales. As a result, they should produce content that isn’t focused on a hard sell, but instead is about the brand, the culture, and the entire purpose of their company.
A lot of brands purchase the plug-ins they need for their sites, buy tools they need to activate certain programs, and allocate resources to implement tracking systems such as Google Analytics. Unfortunately, those instruments are only effective when used and set up appropriately. With the extra time available to your team during a seasonal downturn, use it to ensure that everything is integrated correctly and working right.
Does your brand engage in email marketing? Email automation can be time-consuming to set up, but well worth it. Disseminating emails tailored to individual users and their needs has an incredibly high ROI. Depending on how complicated your conversion funnel is, the process can require anywhere from 2-20 email templates, all of which take time to code and design. Instead of working on paid advertising during a time of year where less of your audience is looking to buy, spend the time working on something like email automation, where you likely may not have all the time to do it in your busiest of times and can reap the benefits of your work later on during your business’ peak season.
A downturn in interest in your business due to seasonal issues can also be a good time to launch onsite elements or new pages on your site. Consider it in some ways almost a “soft launch.” Using the time where your site isn’t as heavily trafficked can serve as the testing ground for small errors or issues with functionality, while eliminating the headache of disrupting a large audience of active onsite users. Keep an eye out in Google Analytics for a high bounce rate on certain pages, or signals that some pages aren’t very user-friendly, and make the required changes before there is a massive uptick in traffic once your seasonality is over.
Test out these systems and leverage your less busy time of year as a way to iron out any kinks in your marketing efforts while you don’t have a major influx of users relying on your presence.
Similar to setting up the tools your organization needs in order to achieve business objectives, dedicating time during your seasonality to develop a cohesive strategy for internal processes is an incredibly efficient use of your time. Things like task trackers, brainstorms, meeting templates, content calendars, and optimized reporting formats often fall on the list of things you’d like to get done during the rest of the year, but don’t have time to accomplish – and your off-season is a great time to take care of these administrative tasks.
Equipping your team with the right processes and any documents, spreadsheets, or templates they need to do their job better should be initially integrated or reviewed during the off-season when stress levels aren’t very high. This way, employees can take their time understanding new processes, and try including them in their day-to-day responsibilities while they don’t have an excessive amount of tasks to complete. Focusing on this process of familiarization during quieter months helps ensure that once you’re out of your seasonal downturn processes are no longer a new system to your team members, and they can fully use new procedures without any hesitation or confusion.
Things to Avoid
While seasonality is a great time to start some new initiatives, or make some necessary tweaks to strategies, there are certain efforts that should be avoided during this period of time. This season isn’t your “standard” as far as the results that are generated, so any plans that you develop based on the outcomes of certain marketing approaches will simply be inaccurate and likely unsuccessful.
A good rule of thumb is to steer away from new advertising opportunities, whether they are AdWords campaigns or TV commercials. Allocating resources towards paid initiatives without much data to substantiate the expense can be risky. Often business owners think that amplifying their ad budgets during a slow time of year will give them an advantage and put them in front of more users, helping them to increase their sales during a normally slow time. However, truthfully, that rarely is the case. A lot of time, tripling an advertising budget during a time where the sales are consistently low will result in a waste of money when compared to doing the same initiative during more active seasons of the year.
Whether its Gmail sponsored ads or display select ads, trying out new initiatives during your seasonality isn’t an effective use of your resources. When the results come back are largely negative, and the efforts don’t produce any qualified leads or significant sales, many businesses may assume this isn’t the right tactic for their brand and completely remove it from their marketing strategy moving forward. In reality, these strategies could be a perfect fit for your brand while operating during the standard months when your audience is active and interested in making a purchase.
Conversion rate optimization strategies are another thing that isn’t the best to try out during an off month. In order to get the right data and results from any CRO plan, you need as many visitors as possible so you can make statistically significant decisions based on performance. The more active users on your site, the quicker you’ll get data as to what is working to improve conversions and what isn’t. If one variation is performing poorly, you’ll be running it for a long time before you are able to make the call to remove it—resulting in missed opportunities with the users that were on your site during the test. Wait until you have a normal amount of website visitors to start any CRO strategies so that you can make improvements as quickly as possible and get as much data as possible.
Leveraging Seasonality to your Benefit
While seasonality can present an obvious challenge for your sales, it can also present an array of opportunities to improve and prepare your business for the coming year through marketing. Utilize this time wisely, and make improvements to your marketing and branding efforts to make sure your company doesn’t get lost among the competition during the hustle of your industry’s peak season.Digital & Social Articles on Business 2 Community