Back-to-school is a huge marketing opportunity for many retail businesses who sell clothing, office supplies, and other products that are directed at students. However, there are ways even non-retail businesses can take advantage of the back-to-school buzz. With the buzz starting in August, this season can last up to two months, giving businesses all kinds of opportunities to offer something special and different to customers. Here are some ways to leverage back-to-school promotions in your small business.

  1. Target the Audience That Fits Best

    You may think about students when you think “back-to-school,” but this marketing opportunity isn’t just about the kids. In addition to young and college-age students, there are many other audiences that you can target with a back-to-school campaign—adult students, parents, teachers, childcare providers, and bus drivers, to name a few. Consider what audience fits your ideal clientele best and tailor your campaigns directly to them.

  2. Run a Social Back-to-School Contest

    Social promotions are a great fit for this season because they are quick to implement at a very low cost. Determine which social platform is the best fit for your campaign, then build a plan around it. Some ideas include asking your customers to post their favorite back-to-school picture on Facebook or Pinterest, or picking a custom hashtag and starting a retweet campaign on Twitter, asking your customers to finish this sentence: “I love back-to-school season because…”

  3. Offer Coupons and Specials

    Yes, coupons, discounts, and special offers still work! The key is finding a unique position that resonates with your audience and makes sense for your business. For example, a local restaurant could offer discounted kid’s meals or a coupon for mom and dad’s dinner out. A hair salon can provide $5 haircuts for kids, and a house cleaning service can provide a “kids are back at school” discount for any new cleanings scheduled in September. A buy-one-get-one (BOGO) offer can also be very powerful in the back-to-school context.

  4. Kick Off a Loyalty Program

    If you have the type of business that rewards repeat customers, consider using this season to launch a loyalty program that tracks purchases and offers a discount or freebie every 7 or 10 purchases. Essentially, this type of program rewards customers the more they purchase, so it can be used in different ways by different types of businesses.

In order to make a back-to-school campaign work for your business, make sure you create a campaign map and start early enough in the season to reach as much of your audience as possible. Remember that campaigns like this are not “one use-only.” You can reuse your back-to-school framework every year with a few new tactics or offers. This saves on both the financial cost and the time investment while allowing you to build on what worked year after year.

Alyssa is a digital strategist, content marketer, and small business consultant with more than 15 years of experience helping businesses reach and engage with their target audience. In 2011, she founded the Small Business Bonfire, an online community for small business owners that also includes a blog and weekly small business newsletter with actionable tips and advice.