In Your Peak Season? Inside Seasonal Marketing 2018

 
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Oh, hey October! (que nervous laugh) You came fast.

Here in Asheville, the crowds are swelling with an influx of tourists who are here to enjoy autumn in the mountains. Our busiest days are approaching as we will soon be in “peak leaf season,” when the fall colors are at their most brilliant. Our home city is a place with thriving tourism, hospitality, and food & bev industries, which means our commerce patterns largely dependent on seasonal changes. It’s safe to say that we know a thing or two about “peak seasons” in business and how your marketing strategies during these times can dramatically affect your success.

Let’s dive into each phase of seasonal marketing, including; the intense “type A” planning times, fun creative times, and the outright crazy times that exist in the world of digital marketing for businesses that rely heavily on the peak seasons to drive yearly revenue.

Q1: January - March: Ready or Not, Peak Seasons are Coming!

The number one question asked this time of year is, “how much money do we have in the budget for marketing this year?” This season is fondly known to most CMOs, Marketing Directors and small business owners as the planning phase of the year. This time requires strategic planning and goal setting for the upcoming year.

Ambitious brands create the most memorable and creative campaigns. At Mountain Laurel Digital, we encourage our clients to pursue their marketing dreams within the framework of research and analysis. Our team works with our tourism and food & bev clients by using existing data from previous years to inform the direction of their creative marketing goals. Don’t underestimate the power of planning! Analyzing prior success and failures will help you to see better returns on your current and future efforts. When businesses don’t engage in research, ignore data and skip planning, they tend to miss the mark on their goals.

Q2: April - June: Create Your Peak Season

Now that everyone is on the same page about how much money your marketing team should spend this year, it’s time to get on top of your shit. Spring business typically starts to ramp up in early April, once Christmas is long gone and everyone is back into their normal routines. Folks tend to anticipate warmer weather and make plans for summer. This can be a tough quarter to keep the momentum going, which is why it’s an important time for marketing teams to stay focused and productive. In the tourism industry, especially in the Asheville market, business is extremely weather dependent, so spring is all about “teaser” and “FOMO” (fear of missing out) marketing strategies. In this quarter, focus on people’s emotions and their need for adventure after the stressful holiday season, in addition to healthy routines in getting back to work or school.

Second quarter is all about keeping attention on your brand by integrating your story into national and local movements, partnering with nonprofits, and being present in your audience’s daily routines.

We caution against getting too cozy and riding off the coat-tails of the holiday season’s success or spending too much time and energy on planning for busier quarters. The month of May especially can be a highlight of your year if you stay focused. Don’t miss out on your audience’s need for engagement during transitional seasons. This is the time to take advantage of the “normal life” topics during these mundane times of the year, like back to school, spring themes, and upcoming graduations. Stay relevant and reliable, but still elevated and not annoyingly predictable.

Q3: July - September: Summer Slow Down

Yup, it’s that time, the time of year marketing professionals awkwardly wonder, “how are we doing… and why?”

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Marketing teams may be susceptible to a stressful round of “the blame game” this time of year. Don’t fall into this trap. Before jumping to conclusions, consider seasonal data. Is your business typically slower in this season? If so, feelings of anxiety are natural. Think of the summer as a time to restore and review.  Analyze the past six months’ ROI, compare your company’s performance to industry benchmarks, and use that information to identify strengths and failures, while making plans to improve. There are a multitude of factors that go into a campaign’s ability to succeed, which is why first quarter planning is so pivotal to understanding and achieving your company’s short and long-term objectives.

Because we understand the rhythms of the seasons, our team is strategic in our reporting and analysis. We measure the success of our seasonally-driven industry clients on a yearly basis, rather than on a quarterly basis, so as to account for the peak seasons and predictable slower periods. It’s critical to account for the industry, market, and even current events during each quarter’s performance review, before developing changes in your marketing strategy direction.  

Q4: October - December: Peak Season aka “Wake Up You’re Already Behind”  

So, here we are in the fourth quarter: peak season. For the average American consumer, this quarter’s subconscious mantra is, “Let’s all spend more money than last year!”

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Although we’re only seeing a few leaves changing colors right now, it’s time to develop your holiday marketing plan now. Don’t start too late in the season. Our team is currently in full force, building campaigns for our clients, including holiday sales, new product promotions, holiday season destinations, etc. This is the season when marketing dollars are put to the test!

Much of the craziness of the fourth quarter stems from having the busiest season also being the shortest. When Thanksgiving hits, your planned efforts are basically over for the year. The lead up, however, is exciting and intense; it’s a time when marketers flex their creative muscles to connect with consumers in new and memorable ways. The pay off is in converting curious consumers into brand loyalists who proudly spend their money with you.

If you have any questions about the nuances of seasonally-driven marketing, or you’re looking for a marketing partner to help your team through the crazy times of Q4, feel free to reach out. We know some things that might actually take some pressure off and make the whirlwind of peak season fun!


 
Casey Nifong