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Whether August is a busy or quiet time, it can be the ideal time to grow your small business. With no major holidays to worry about, you are free to focus on one last push for your summer marketing efforts and getting ready for fall.

If your business can benefit from end-of-the-season promotions, here are some ideas that are easy and affordable to implement – whether you’re looking to bring customers in over the next few weeks or planning a strong start in September.

1 – Throw a Party

Celebrate the last days of summer by hosting a special event to say thank you to your customers and build goodwill in your community. It could be as simple as a one-day open house or as elaborate as a weeklong vacation-themed celebration that includes daily deals, giveaways, and prize drawings.

Consider a cookout at a local park, complete with food, family-friendly activities, and incentives for guests to frequent your business. Partner with a favorite restaurant or wine bar and share marketing efforts to maximize your budget and generate greater exposure for your products or services.

Another way to leverage relationships with local businesses is to throw a block party. You can use the event as an opportunity to offer deals on summer inventory or give customers a sneak peek of new fall merchandise. Invite nearby retailers and service providers to join the fun, and include food vendors who can sell snacks and drinks to help attract people – even those who didn’t plan on shopping.

Include participating businesses in all of your marketing collateral and encourage everyone to work together to promote the event. This will help you reach a wider audience and attract prospective customers who did not previously know about your business.

2 – Target Vacationers

If your business is located in a vacation hot spot, give visitors an incentive to stop in or use your services. You might offer special pricing to shoppers who show an out-of-state ID, or a short-term frequency discount if customers return multiple times in a single week. Loop in local customers by offering a discounted service or free gift if they introduce someone from out of town to your business.

Spread the word by asking local hotels and restaurants to display or distribute your marketing flyers or postcards. Be sure to post any special promotions on your website and social media channels, since those who are planning to be in the area are likely to be searching online for places to go and things to do.

3 – Run a Contest

From baseball and backyard games to hotdog eating contests, there is a competitive nature to many summertime activities that you can capitalize on by running a contest of your own. Spend time brainstorming with your team to create a contest that ties directly to your products or services, and award prizes that have value and allow you to connect personally with customers.

For example, you might devise a game to promote an in-store special or a new seasonal service. You could use Facebook to run a virtual new product giveaway. Regardless of what it is, make sure your contest is fun and enjoyable while providing a compelling reason for new and existing customers to participate. As an added incentive, you can give everyone who participates a discount on their next purchase or visit.

4 – Get in on the Back-to-School Action

Even if your small business is not exactly student or school-related, you can still cash in on the popularity of “back-to-school” season. Rather than trying to compete with big national chains by offering deals on school supplies or backpacks, challenge your staff to be creative about positioning your products or services as both unique and helpful for kids and/or parents. Easy-to-execute ideas can range from a healthcare provider promoting healthy lunch choices to a restaurant creating an apple-themed menu. Once kids are back in school, focus your efforts on products or services that parents can take advantage of now that they have more time for themselves.

Consider reaching out to customers who might have been busy over the summer and offer them a returning client special. This is a great way to show your appreciation to existing customers and incentivize those who have not been active for some time. This also might be a great time to launch a customer loyalty initiative, such as a frequency program, points program, or cash back or rebate program. Because these programs give customers an incentive to purchase from you again and again, they offer opportunities to up-sell or cross-sell. In addition, loyalty programs have been shown to increase brand awareness and generate a positive return on investment.

5 – Look Towards Labor Day

Whether you need to sell off the last of your summer inventory or take advantage of late-season tourists, Labor Day weekend is your last big chance to run an end-of-summer promotion for your small business. Kick off your marketing campaign toward the end of August so you have ample time to make people aware of what you are offering.

In addition to running specials on products and services, consider taking part in the local sidewalk sale or becoming a sponsor for a Labor Day concert or fun run. Or show your social media savvy by running a themed photo contest on Instagram with special prizes for the best shots. Not only will this create a positive impression in people’s minds as the summer draws to a close, but it will help keep your small business top of mind as the seasons change.

For many small business owners, narrowing down the options is their greatest challenge when it comes to last-minute marketing. A good rule of thumb is to focus on ideas that compliment your sales objectives – and offer the biggest bang for your marketing dollars.

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