Fall isn’t just about cooler weather, NFL games, and pumpkin spice lattes. It’s also a fantastic marketing opportunity in disguise for small business owners. Think of this season as a time to pull off two very important tasks—attracting new customers and making your existing ones feel special during the run-up to the holiday season.
With autumn right around the corner, what better time to get a jump on fall marketing ideas? We’ve got you covered, whether you’re a brick-and-mortar storefront or a digital business that lives online. We’re all looking for ways to authentically connect with our customer base (and have a little fun while doing it). Leverage the crisp fall months to grow your business with these 10 seasonal marketing strategies.
The best marketing efforts are ones that are tailored to your unique business and clientele. No two businesses are alike, but these fall marketing ideas are great for sparking your creativity and getting your inspiration flowing. It’s all about infusing fall-themed ideas into the marketing strategies you’re already leaning on to meet your specific business goals.
In case you haven’t already embraced it, content marketing is an essential part of an effective overarching marketing plan. The idea is to create helpful, original blog posts and/or videos that appeal to your key demographic and help make their lives a little easier. Building trust through engaging, useful content can be a powerful tool for cultivating brand loyalty.
The question then becomes: How can you put a fall twist on your small business’s content marketing strategy? Think in terms of your unique brand identity. Is your tone playful and conversational? If you run a pastry shop, a fun post about DIY fall desserts, for example, could get a lot of traction. Meanwhile, a small accounting firm might focus on September tax deadlines. No matter what, position your business as an authority the reader can trust.
Fall marketing ideas are designed to engage your audience. If you have a physical space, hosting a fall-themed event (in accordance with CDC guidelines, of course) could be an effective way for customers to get to know your business. For example, a fall-themed raffle that donates a portion of the proceeds to a local charity or food bank ties nicely into Thanksgiving.
Your social media channels are also ideal platforms for hosting fall contests and giveaways. One creative hack for gaining new followers is to prompt folks to follow your account or tag a friend in order to participate. From there, you can structure the promotion itself in any number of ways—from a fall-inspired Instagram photo contest to an interactive Facebook Live event. Just be sure to publicly call out the winner.
Storefronts have a big opportunity to have fun with this season. Adorning your business’s exterior with festive decorations like haystacks and pumpkins is like an open invitation to the community. If local rules allow, consider a sidewalk chalkboard easel and enlist an artistic employee to style it with decorative messages and art—these are nice little touches that help humanize your brand. The same can be said for small businesses that welcome trick-or-treaters.
Those with an online presence can update their website with fall features and news updates. Take it a step further by creating fall editions of popular branded merchandise. You can elevate things like T-shirts, accessories, and coffee mugs that already bear your logo by giving them a fall twist and selling them online.
We’ve all seen marketers who’ve had success putting the scarcity principle to work in their favor. The idea, popularized by sales and marketing expert Dr. Robert Cialdini, suggests that consumers are more likely to be attracted to items that are only available in limited quantities.
We saw this in action when Starbucks released the limited-time Unicorn Frappuccino in 2017. It was a runaway hit that sold out quickly across the U.S. Take a close look at your products and services and ask yourself where you might add some unique fall offerings. Introducing seasonal fall products that are exclusive to this time of year could very well drive consumer interest if marketed appropriately.
Sending things by mail is something of a lost art these days, which is probably why people get a kick out of receiving something in their mailbox. To add value to your direct mail campaign, include a coupon that’s only valid for a limited time. Alternatively, you could simply highlight a fall-themed sale your business is running. A 2018 RetailMeNot survey found that 67% of consumers have made unplanned purchases simply because they found a discount.
The U.S. Small Business Administration suggests targeting existing customers with direct mail first to get the ball rolling. Don’t forget to give the design some fall flair.
It pays to keep your social media channels engaging and up to date. Close to 90% of consumers say they’ll purchase products from a brand they follow on social media, according to a recent Sprout Social survey.
Keep the fall season in mind when building your social media strategy. A series of fall-inspired Instagram stories, for example, could pique interest and drive people to your small business. Even if you don’t have specific fall products to promote, creating entertaining content here can help build brand awareness and attract new followers who turn into future customers. Remember—effective marketing requires playing the long game.
Social responsibility certainly shouldn’t be a marketing gimmick. Ideally, it’s something that’s already woven into your business’s core values. (If not, it’s never too late to integrate it.) With that being said, more and more consumers are expecting brands to be socially responsible.
The fall season of giving is a particularly great time to engage your community and do some good. Ideas could include hosting a raffle and donating a portion of the proceeds to a nonprofit, or offering discounts to customers who bring in canned goods to be donated to a local food pantry. Think about your community needs and how your business can be of service.
When it comes to fall marketing ideas, your company’s loyalty program might be a hidden opportunity. Whether your program is based on punch cards, a mobile app, or scannable membership cards, you could offer additional incentives for signing up during the fall season. The same goes for giving existing members the chance to earn more rewards right now.
For example, those who shop during a special fall promotion could unlock additional points or other discount opportunities, depending on how your loyalty program is structured. The goal is to build brand devotion and give customers another reason to patronize your business.
Piggybacking on another small business’s fall marketing efforts could serve you both well. The business you team up with can be within the same space or in another industry altogether. What matters most is coordinating your messaging and sharing resources. This can ultimately help introduce your brand to new customers.
Some cross-promotion opportunities may include bundling your fall products or services together, exchanging autumn-inspired guest blog posts, or promoting one another on social media. Co-hosting a fall event or charity fundraiser together could be another effective way to get in front of a new audience. Consider splitting the cost of an ad to promote the partnership.
The end of summer kicks off the back-to-school season. Whether kids are going back in-person or embracing distance learning, most families are stocking up on school supplies and freshening up their wardrobes and accessories.
Usher in the season with some marketing initiatives that are geared toward local schools. Sponsoring a sports team, putting ads in the high school paper, or setting up a booth at a local university campus are natural ways to capitalize on the back-to-school energy.
When it comes down to it, the fall months are a great time to breathe some new life into your marketing plan. Even without small business holidays to capitalize on, you still have room to get creative with your fall marketing ideas, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box. The end game is to attract new customers and retain your current base by sharing in the fall fun.
In addition to putting a fall spin on tried-and-true marketing strategies, this time of year is ideal for giving back to the community and participating in giveaways and contests. Think of it as just another way for consumers to get to know your brand. Just be sure to always lead with authenticity so that your efforts don’t feel like a seasonal gimmick.
Marianne Hayes is a small business owner and longtime freelance writer who’s been covering personal finance for nearly a decade. She specializes in small business news, budgeting, saving, and wealth management. Marianne has written for Forbes, CNBC, LendingTree, Experian, Mint, LearnVest, The Daily Beast, HuffPost, and more. When she isn’t writing about small business and finance, she’s teaching creative writing workshops and curling up with a good book. She lives in Florida with her husband, three daughters, and miniature dachshund.