How to Ace Back-to-School Season

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It's the most wonderful time of the year, at least for parents. For retailers, it's the second most wonderful time of the year: back-to-school season.

The back-to-school season is not just about packing up to start classes again, it's also the retail industry's second biggest shopping window of the year, behind the December holidays -- a great time to focus your marketing efforts.

Everyone is buying for school -- from parents of young kids to adult students. Even those who have nothing to do with back-to-school find themselves filling their shopping carts during this time of year.

It's a marketer's dream.

So how can entrepreneurs and small-business owners capitalize on this frenzy, even if their business isn't tied to a back-to-school promotional window? Easy, as long as you delve into the emotions around the season and leverage them to your advantage.

Here are three strategies to help you get started:

1. A time of change. With every new school year and semester break comes the excitement of change. We can't help it because it's been built into us as kids and we do the same with the next generation. It comes with the change of seasons and with fall fashion. It's unavoidable and unmistakable.

Capitalize on this "out with the old, in with the new" mentality and close that account that's been indecisive. Push a little harder on that project to get it done so that you can start something new. Talk about how you will facilitate change because the environment is ripe for it right now. You'll fit in perfectly with your customer's mindset.

2. Buyer's market. Everyone is in the mood to buy right now with all pop-culture and marketing messaging reinforcing it. Now is the time to run a promotion, drop a coupon or otherwise incentivize your customers to take action. They're in the mood for it. Even if your business has nothing at all to do with school, the buying mentality is at a seasonal high, so it's time to close the sale. An extra incentive, which is what they'll expect, will push it over the edge.

3. One for you, one for me. This is a relatively recent phenomenon that has been credited with saving the last few retail holiday seasons. It's the anti-gift-giving movement that gets people to buy for themselves when they are buying for others. It goes like this: "I'll buy you a blue sweater for your birthday, and I'll buy a red one for me to wear tonight!" This activity scores instantaneous incremental sales and is a behavior that you can tap into this back-to-school season. While your customers are thinking about what they need to do for their kids, offer them something that they can do for themselves. They just may take you up on the offer.

Tapping into the emotional mindset of any customer at any time of the year will produce a return on your investment. Taking action at a critical time like back-to-school will produce a grade-A return like you've never seen before.

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