Summer Promotion Ideas for Small Businesses

Make the Most of Summer with These Fun Promotion Ideas

Unless you sell swimwear or ice cream, your small business may see a drop in sales over the summer.

Consumer spending on things besides travel tends to slack off during the hottest months, but you can encourage your current customers to come shop with you and attract new customers, too. Use some of these promotion ideas and best practices to rev up your business this summer.

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1. Discount Punch Cards

Summer punch cards aren’t just for kids’ reading clubs. Punch cards can bring more traffic into your store all season long by giving customers a discount when they buy upfront.

These programs are a natural fit for yoga, fitness, and dance studios, and you can almost certainly create a punch promo for your business: a pre-pay discount on an iced coffee each week all summer long, car washes, dog washes, eyebrow waxing, or anything your customers will want more than once during the summer.

 

2. Giveaways

People love free stuff, even when it’s hot outside. Summer is the perfect time to give away small items like skincare product samples, fashion jewelry, stickers, and food.

Promote your giveaways on social media and make it clear what the terms are: good while supplies last, today only, free item with purchase, or however you want to structure your deal.

 

3. One-Day Sales and Deals of the Day

Between summer holidays you can create your own sales events. One option is to offer a one-day-only discount on your most-popular or highest-margin items. Department store chain Macy’s does this several times a year.

Another option is to offer a discount on one item each day (like Amazon’s Deal of the Day offers) to keep customers checking your social media and dropping in for buys.

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4. Work with the Weather

Keep an eye on the forecast and plan ahead, and you can have hot-day and rainy-day flash deals ready to go when the temperature gets above, say, 95 degrees or the skies open up.

You can also offer afternoon “happy hour” deals to boost traffic during the hottest part of the day, like Sonic does with its half-price drink deals.  

 

5. Partner with Local Nonprofits

Try connecting with nonprofit groups nearby to host a fun event for a good cause. Got a dog-friendly patio or courtyard? Talk to a local animal shelter or rescue group about hosting an adoption event. Have indoor space for a show? Host a live music or dance performance.

You don’t need a big budget to do this if there’s a performing arts school in your area with a student troupe – they may be delighted to have a chance to practice their performance skills, and their friends and family will show up to cheer them on. If you have enough lead time, you can send a press release to local media and invite them to cover your event.

 

6. Offer Classes

Craft stores like Michael’s have long known that on-site classes can boost store traffic and demand for their products.

Virtually any business can offer a free class on something related to what they do: cookie decorating, drawing, pet grooming, nail art, wine knowledge, caring for houseplants, maintaining lawnmowers, and so on.

Besides promoting your classes via email and social media, write a press release so community websites and papers can include your event in their calendars.

 

7. Pop Up in New Spots

Summer is special-event time in most cities, so go where your customers will be. Look now for vending opportunities at festivals and shows, and start scoping out retail locations where you could rent space for a pop-up shop.

Learn more about running your first pop-up shop here.

 

8. Make the Most of the Summer Holidays

American shoppers expect sales ahead of Father’s Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day, so go all out.

Gifts, party supplies, beachwear, and things to help beat the heat are all popular sellers around these holidays. And if you sell anything at all related to back to school or back to college, start promoting those items before the end of July—Deloitte found that people who do their back to school shopping before August spend more than those who wait.

Think now about deals you might offer on clothes, school supplies, and tech. You can also combine back to school with a special event to have a last-party-before-school  event and sale.

 

Best Practices for Your Summer Promotions

Know the ground rules. Each state has laws about giveaways you’ll need to follow. You’ll also want to know the maximum capacity for your shop if you’re doing an in-store event so you don’t have your event interrupted by the fire marshal.

Set your terms. Flash deals and one-day sales can be a little tricky if you don’t spell out the terms of your promos. I know business owners who’ve been contacted by customers demanding a partial refund of something they’d bought weeks before because that same item was now part of a flash sale. Spell out clearly that flash sale deals are valid only on items purchased that day to avoid headaches.

Make your punch cards pop. Include your shop’s logo, contact information, and social media details on your punch cards, and include the deal’s terms.

Write your promo copy ahead of time. On the day of your flash sale or special event, you want to be selling, not writing. Have your social media posts ready to go beforehand.

Collect customer data. If you’re offering a free class or hosting an event, ask people to register ahead of time or on site. This allows you to plan ahead and it gives you new email addresses you can roll into your email marketing program.

Track promotion performance. Look at which promotions generated the most revenue and new customer contact info and which were the easiest to run. Next summer you can focus on the types of promos that delivered the best return on your time and effort this year.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.