It may only seem five minutes ago that most of the country was deep in snow, but wouldn’t you know it, summer is just around the corner.
And whether your small business serves the millions of vacationers that hit the nation’s parks, beaches and other vacation spots during the summer months, or you find that most of your customers head out of town for the duration – here are some tips (some of them tax deductible) to help keep your business booming all summer long.
1. Take Part in Summer Festivals and Fairs
Sponsoring or participating in local festivals, carnivals and fairs is not only great for your brand, but it can help introduce new and potential customers to your products and services.
Start by identifying events that are the right fit for your business and have a track record of success – local newspapers, community flyers, city or homeowner association Web sites, as well as your local Chamber of Commerce can help point you to upcoming events in your community.
For more tips on how to make the most of hosting and sponsoring events take a look at this excellent quick read – Marketing Your Business with Events from small business expert, Rieva Lesonsky.
2. Take Your Customers Out!
It’s normal in the corporate world for executives to head out on a Friday afternoon for a round of golf with their customers – why not treat your best customers just as royally? Whether you host a grill out at a local park, have a day at a winery, or charter a boat for an afternoon of fishing – your customers will surely appreciate the gesture.
And remember, you can claim customer entertainment expenses (including meals) as a tax deduction (as long as there is a clear business purpose for them) and substantial business discussions are held before, during or after the entertainment. The tax deduction is generally limited to 50% of the expenses incurred.
If you take customers to a show or sporting event (to promote business) you can deduct the cost of the ticket as an entertainment expense. If you buy them the ticket as a gift but don’t accompany them, the cost is deductible as an entertainment expense (50% limit) or as a gift (subject to the $25 maximum), whichever is more advantageous. (Read more about business tax deductions from Business.gov).
And don’t forget your business partners and vendors – you want to keep them happy too, so schedule some quality time with them.
3. Take your Business on the Road
Go where the vacationers are! If you operate a food business, have you thought about taking a concession stand on the road? Whether you position it at fairs and festivals, sports events or even certain roadside locations (within the law) a concession stand can extend your customer reach, supplement your core revenues and increase your brand reach.
These two articles can help you understand how to start-up a concession business: How to Start a Food Concession Business: An Entrepreneur’s Checklist – Part 1 (for some fundamentals about getting started) and Part 2 (which delves into licenses, permits, location, health and safety, and marketing practices).
4. Run a Contest
Summer is fun after all and literally any business can run a contest, which also makes for great publicity.
Brainstorm with your employees and gather up some ideas – and always try and tie the “prize” to something that incents people to frequent your business.
Restaurants could run food eating contests or host cook-offs. Landscaping companies could launch a “Worst yard in the neighborhood contest – submit your yard and win a free landscaping makeover”. Pet stores, grooming salons or veterinary hospitals could host pet shows with prizes for “Best in Show”!
Whatever you do, be sure to market it correctly (and pay attention to truth in advertising laws). Use a blend of traditional (email marketing, newspaper ads, flyers) and new media (Facebook, Twitter, blogging) to get the word out, and follow-through with the results of your contest by posting pictures of the winner to Facebook or your Web site.
5. Dress up Your Website
Last but not least, why not dress up your Website for the season. Many businesses do this for the winter holidays, but adding a summer graphic here and there can keep your Web presence seasonal and relevant.
What summer marketing tactics have worked for your small business? We’d love to know!
- Socially Responsible Marketing in Your Community
- Running a Seasonal Business – Thriving and Surviving Year-Round
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