It’s that time of year again— time to get the kids ready for back-to-school. And while you’re buying new school supplies and clothes for the kids, why not think about some new ideas for your small business as well? One smart idea that many small business owners implement this time of year is to market their business with the back-to-school season in mind. With so many families focusing on school, it makes a lot of sense.


Don't think that your business has to sell services or products to families to cash in on the back-to-school fever. Really, any business can tap into this moment in time. For instance, an accounting firm can put a back-to-school spin on some promotions, such as: “Is your small business’ math not up to speed? Don’t worry, you don’t need a tutor; instead contact the Jones Accounting Firm and get A’s on your next financials.”


The key to marketing your business for back-to-school is twofold: First, you need to have the right angle. Second, you need to have the right vehicle. Let’s look at both.


The Right Angle: There’s no shortage of competition out there when it comes to back-to-school promotions.  Here’s why: marketers focus on where people put their attention, and right now, for families, returning to school is getting that attention. So, it’s important to be smart with your marketing efforts so that you don’t get lost in the shuffle.


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I once had a master marketer tell me that the key to marketing in a crowded field is “waves and dips.” He explained that while it is smart to catch a wave like back-to-school because it is where the eyeballs are, the key to standing out is the dip. That is, you need to position yourself in a spot where the rest of the wave marketers are not.


What constitutes a dip? Really it is anything that you can do that sets your business apart from everyone else. The accounting firm above did that by tapping into the fall mindset. Whereas most back-to-school promotions are for clothing and office supply stores, Jones Accounting promoted a business that is not normally associated with back-to-school promotions. That is a classic “dip” promotion.


Your dip could be:


  • A loss leader sale of an item that is not normally found on sale.
  • An ad campaign that is really different. My dad once brought an elephant to his carpet store in September. While it did attract a lot of kids and parents looking for rides, Dad was not prepared for, shall we say, “Cleanup on aisle 3.” So be careful.


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The bottom line is you need to be different enough so that you stand out among all the surfers trying to catch the same wave.


The Right Vehicle: One of the great things about marketing today is that there are so many ways to get the word out: Pay-per-click, traditional ads, blogs, Twitter, etc.


While I am a big proponent of all of these new forms of media because they work and generally are very affordable, in this case, I would suggest that the tried is also true. Where are the parents? What do they read, watch and listen to? Wherever your audience is, that is where you need to be.


Some options:


  • Facebook: When targeted properly, Facebook ads can be very effective and affordable. Be sure to choose the categories of who will see your ads carefully so that you don't waste a lot of money.
  • Radio: Parents spend a lot of time in the car, schlepping the kids to and fro. Finding the right station, and advertising there, can be a goldmine.
  • TV: While it can be very expensive, it can also be very effective when done properly. If you plan on using television in your marketing, allocate the right resources so that it pays off.


Fall is a great time to get back into the swing of things. Just be sure to follow these ABCs so that you don’t flunk the marketing exam.


Have you used a special marketing idea to clear through the clutter? Please share them with us below.


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.