Back-to-School Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

As summer winds down, it’s time to ramp up for another season that can be crucial for your business: the beginning of the school year. It’s an important opportunity in itself, and it also kicks off fall, which leads into the critical holiday shopping season. So if you make the right moves attracting and impressing shoppers now, you could be ensuring strong business for months to come. Here are some ideas to make the back-to-school season a success:

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Offer special deals and discounts on key items.

The back-to-school shopping season is a competitive one, so students (and parents) are going to be looking for the best prices for the items on their lists. If your business sells clothing or gear for school, make your store stand out with a sale on essentials. If you operate a coffee shop, cafe or bakery, you can still get in on this busy time by offering special deals for parents and students in the morning (like a free pastry with each coffee drink) or after school for a pre-dinner snack. If you operate a tutoring or other education-focused service, you’ll want to time your deal for just after the beginning of the school year, once students and parents have a sense of what types of support they may need.

Get involved with local schools.

Small, local businesses are part of the community, so you should capitalize on your home team advantage. There are many ways to do this, including throwing fundraising parties for high school sports teams or music programs, hosting shopping nights that benefit schools and donating items for raffles.

Reach out to shoppers through social media.

You can run the greatest deals in town, but it won’t matter unless your audience hears about them. Shoppers are increasingly relying on social media to get the most up-to-date information about sales, events and special store hours, so it makes sense to focus your messaging efforts on outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Offer your followers an in-person discount when they mention a special code that you post on social media, or when they tag their friends in comments on your posts or repost them on their accounts. When you incentivize shoppers to follow you on social media, they’re more likely to pay attention to your posts — now and in the future.

Reward shoppers with gift cards.

Back to school is an expensive time for students and parents, so thank them by offering gift cards when they spend more than a set amount (say $100) during a specific window of time. Collect their information in the process and then, when you have new merchandise and sales, or when the holidays are approaching, you can email them with a reason to visit you again.

Team up with other area businesses.

There’s strength in numbers. So why not get together with other small stores, coffee shops, restaurants and student services in your area for a back-to-school promotion or event? For example, you could join forces (and resources) with nearby businesses to throw a weekend block party with food, live music and lots of great deals. Collaborating with other neighbourhood businesses also means great cross-promotion opportunities through email marketing and social media.