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Seasonal Marketing Strategies

  |  May 14, 2014   |  Comments

Summertime brings real and predictable changes in our human experience, which is reflected in the online environment and the online behavior of your audience. Have you looked at your digital marketing plans with your shades on yet?

In North America we're rounding into the season of family vacations, three-day weekends, summer Fridays, and a completely different consumer mindset dominated by outdoor fun, time off from work, summer blockbusters, backyard BBQs, frozen fruity drinks, and flip-flops. Most people, and therefore most audience groups, exhibit behavioral differences in the summer that marketers can plan and respond to with some thought. Even if you are not in a seasonal business, your consumers are reacting to the season in predictable ways that you can leverage.

Almost every marketer adjusts budget, messaging, and approach for the Q4 holiday period and wouldn't think about doing otherwise. Q4 holiday marketing speaks directly to what is a common consumer priority for this specific time period, making the message relevant and more likely to resonate. Q4 also drives budgeting adjustments as noise and rates increase. The changes in summer activities and habits can be instructional to marketers as well, though they may be a bit more subtle and specific to targeted populations.

Unless it is directly relevant to you, the summer opportunity is not so much about connecting to Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day as holidays or back to school as a shopping season but in tapping into the changes in behaviors and shifts in consumer priorities and schedules. While the opportunities may not be as universal, for many marketers this presents a powerful opportunity if the appropriate adjustments to messaging and approach are made.

Seasonal products and businesses, of course, leverage their day in the sun. For summer seasonal businesses or those in the travel and entertainment or related categories, this is their critical selling season. Some begin long before the weather warms; sometimes far ahead for longer lead time or more considered seasonal purchases. For the most part, truly seasonal marketers are all over this already but the bigger opportunity may be with non-seasonal product or service marketers who take a new look at their planning and messaging to track and respond to changes in their audiences' online habits during this time frame.

Different patterns of on and offline behaviors call out for a change in marketing plans and tactics. Consumers respond differently when their priorities, schedules, and activities shift, which in turn will logically impact the kinds of messaging and promotions that drive consumer response. If you have year-over-year data to consult, look for patterns in site traffic or campaign responsiveness by channel and approach. Look for evidence of competitive changes.

In general, during the summer holiday periods people read more, socialize more, are outdoors more, eat out more, work less, and travel more. Tune into the dominant seasonal and leisure behaviors in your relevant audiences and think through how those behavioral changes impact your digital points of connection. How is your audience demo changing their searching, viewing, and surfing habits? How can you adjust for that shift?

Test new or different kinds of approaches, optimizations, programs, flighting, and messaging to take advantage of the different schedules and priorities. Watch your summer site traffic and campaign performance for dips in Friday afternoon response. Maybe you could shift that budget to use it more productively earlier in the week.

Getting a spike in bounces or out of office responses to your emails? It might be time to do some general list maintenance but it might also be time to adjust your cadence for the summer. People are out and though they may remain tethered to the office even while on vacation, they may be selectively checking in; probably from a mobile device.

There will be lots of local searches for restaurants, activities, and destinations, both by residents and by visitors. Many of those searches will take place on mobile devices. People will also be looking for reviews and recommendations from their social media networks. According to the US Travel Association, "Trip planning sources have shifted over the last several years, with social media and mobile devices being used more often."

Some seasonal businesses will drive up search cost in competitive (but not critical) keywords you might want to avoid. Have you adjusted your budget? Looked for alternative keyword opportunities? Noisy media holidays like July 4 might be a good time to save some display budget if you don't have something relevant and compelling to say.

Your audience might be researching flights, checking movie times, renting cars, browsing e-book selections, downloading movies, listening to podcasts or music, snapping and sharing photos - all day-to-day activities accelerated during the summer months and presenting possible new digital connections with additional ad inventory and new placements. Hello audio ads and social media ads.

The sunshine brings real and predictable changes in our human experience, which is reflected in the online environment and the online behavior of your audience. These changes offer opportunities that require consideration and response from marketers.

Have you looked at your digital marketing plans with your shades on yet?

Image via Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robin Neifield

Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.

Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.

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