Ah, summer. The mind drifts to barbecues, swimming pools, fireworks and vacations. Unless you're putting your marketing energy towards creating lucrative seasonal content, that is. Seasonal content marketing means creating content months in advance of the season you're trying to capitalize on. So instead of barbecues, you're thinking of bobsleds, mistletoe instead of fireworks and snowballs instead of baseballs. Such is the curse of managing seasonality with marketing.
The upside to having to think three to six (or more) months in advance is that when there is a spike in holiday or seasonal traffic, your company will be ready. This article can help your company start capitalizing on seasonal traffic, so you can manage seasonality to the fullest.
The Basics of Seasonal Marketing
The concept of seasonal marketing is simple. You create marketing plans and materials ahead of a season or event with intent for it to peak in popularity during the event.
Let's take Thanksgiving, for example. If you wanted to capitalize on interest and web traffic around the holiday, you'd plan out your marketing promotions somewhere around six to 12 months in advance, depending on which channels you'd want to utilize.
Seasonal marketing isn't only for major holidays, either. My website has a product that is always our best-seller when a major hockey playoffs come around in the summer.
A wonderful thing about seasonal traffic is that it's usually very predictable. You know the window of time that the keyword will be popular, so you can work backwards with a calendar to plan your marketing efforts. You can use tools like Google Trends or SEM Rush to help gauge the timeframe of a particular keyword's popularity.
How to Manage Seasonality
Seasonal marketing takes extra planning and execution. Timing is everything when you're trying to manage seasonality.
Here are the steps I use to manage our seasonal marketing campaigns.
1. Pick the season or event and match your product and content.
Seasonal marketing is interesting because humans are seasonal creatures. We don't really think about buying patio chairs in January. But when spring comes around, we start to think about spending time outside and whether or not we should replace the chairs on our patio.
Whether we are aware of it or not, seasons dictate many of our purchasing decisions. And if viewed correctly, there are probably many opportunities to capitalize on within your own business for generating seasonal traffic that may have gone unnoticed. A little thinking outside of the box can give the most common products a boost in seasonality.
Take this example of how you can use content to manage seasonality:
Let's say that your company sells pocket knives. People tend to camp in the warmer months, so you could start creating marketing materials around the camping theme in the summer. You might create a blog post called “5 Best Pocket Knives for Camping" and generate traffic through search engines and Pinterest.
Once you start viewing your products through a lens of seasonal marketing, you can start to see new possibilities for promotion. I'd recommend using a service like BuzzSumo or EpicBeat to see the most popular promotions of last year for your given keyword or theme. Pick apart what was unique about the promotion and think about how you could incorporate that into your efforts.
2. Determine what channels you'll use for promotion.
Each potential marketing channel has unique limitations to take into consideration with regards to managing seasonality.
Some channels can provide instant returns, while others can take months or even years to bear fruit. Also, some channels might be better suited for different types of seasonal content.
What follows are some very loose breakdowns of the different channels, with approximate lead times for seasonal promotion.
It is especially difficult to time when a piece of content will rank highly in a search engine, if ever. Search engines like Google and Bing can provide a potential massive boost in traffic, but they do so on their own schedule.
I've seen pieces of content start to rank within the top 20 results within a couple of months of publishing. But it can take much longer to secure one of the top results. It depends on the strength of your domain, quality of content, SEO efforts and many, many other factors that search engines use to rank content.
Follower-Based Social Networks
Social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are immediate, and can fade quickly unless they gain serious traction. I recommend promoting on these networks close to the event.
Purchasing ads on these networks can help to ensure that your content doesn't get buried soon after it's posted.
Discovery-Based Social Networks
Discovery-based networks like Pinterest can take a bit longer to gain traction, and are often ranked based on keywords.
I've found that discovery-based social networks can provide you consistent traffic every year if you've created great content that people find interesting and that is relevant to the platform.
I'd start promoting at least a couple months ahead of the event to allow the content time to work itself into the system.
Email is great, and offers more of an immediate result—especially if used with some added urgency in the copy.
You can start promoting the day of the event and capitalize on the immediate traffic. Ads can be straightforward and can help your message get seen.
If you're trying to manage seasonality, ads can be a great shortcut to ensure that your efforts won't be wasted.
3. Set up a calendar.
Now that you've picked the season and social networks, you can work backwards with a calendar.
Let's look at an example of how this might work for a promoting a product around a major sporting event on specific channels. In this example we've created a blog post that includes our product within the body.
We know that the event comes around every year towards the end of January or early February. I'd recommend having your content on Pinterest by October or November.
In my experience, visually appealing blog posts work really well on Pinterest, so make sure to use lots of rich media within the post. Also make sure to take time to craft a visually engaging pin to promote it.
Email is immediate, so you could start sending emails a week before, even the day of the event.
If you wanted to create an email series, you could start sending much earlier than the event, but you shouldn't have to worry about large lead times.
You can promote the same link multiple times on Twitter, and I would recommend doing so. Because the platform is mostly immediate, you could send a tweet linking to the content multiple times in the week leading up to the event.
This is just an example of how a simple promotion calendar might look—your promotion calendar might look very differently. Just keep in mind the lead times for each type of social network.
Seasonal promotion takes lots of work and advance planning. But, as you manage seasonality, you could potentially put a lot more customers in front of your products—if you can time it properly.
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