It happens without fail: as the seasons change, so do restaurant menus. We experience this firsthand when we go out to eat, but we also see evidence of this with TV commercials that some of the big chain restaurants release. And now, thanks to social media, smaller players—those favorite restaurants of yours that have a social media presence on places like Facebook—are also taking advantage of the marketing boost that comes from promoting seasonal menu changes.
Here’s why seasonal menus are effective (and how you can leverage the magic in your own business).
1. Seasonal menus capitalize on the “Look, something new and shiny!” concept. If you keep talking about the same old boring services and products, in the same way, day after day, year after year, well, you know that’s not necessarily going to light a fire under your prospects and customers. But by launching something “new” every quarter or so, you give people a reason to give your business a second look.
How to use this concept in your business. Some businesses will be able to easily incorporate this strategy into their marketing mix. For example, any sort of salon or spa typically offers a menu of services already (waxing, pedicures, manicures, and so forth). Consider creating seasonal offerings or packages that you launch as the weather changes. They’re the same services you always offer, just packaged and promoted differently. So, for example, in June, you might launch a “Beach Body” package. In the winter, you might offer a “Summer Skin…Even in Winter” package.
Even other businesses that don’t typically have “menus” can use the strategy. An accountant can provide a “Q4 Insights” webinar. A handyman could offer fall, winter, spring, and summer “check lists” connected to special seasonal “spruce up” offers. An acupuncturist could offer a three-treatment “Winter Immune Boost” package at a discount during the month of December. You get the idea. Get creative in how you look at your existing services and products and see how you can re-package them into something new.
2. Seasonal menus foster a sense of “limited time” urgency. Customers look forward to Dunkin Donuts pumpkin flavors in the fall, Panera’s summer strawberry salads, and McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes around Saint Paddy’s Day. The customers know there’s a small window to enjoy these treats, and, as a result, they make an effort to buy because of the “limited time” factor.
How to use this concept in your business: The “limited time” offer is not an original concept, of course. One of the reasons it’s so effective in the food and beverage industry is because 1) we’re talking tangible items and 2) people subconsciously relate all sorts of emotions to these foods and drinks.
For example, the pumpkin coffee connects people to Thanksgiving. Strawberry salads remind people of the wonderful lazy days of summer. What service or product can you connect to positive feelings? You don’t need to only offer the product or service at a certain time of year necessarily. What you need to do is channel emotion into the product/service and provide a limited time “special.” If the special is a hit, you can do it every year (and, thus, your customers can start to look forward to it, in the same way McDonald’s customers look forward to March and their green, minty shakes).
So, for example, a fitness facility or personal trainer might offer a once-a-year promotion called something like “April’s Awesome Abs ‘n Arms Bonanza” It could be six sessions that focus on arms and abs for a great price. An IT firm could create “seasonal maintenance” packages, including a “PC Vacation Package: Send your PC on vacation for a weekend during the month of August. Drop it off on a Friday, pick it up on Monday, and you’ll get it back rested and eager to work for you.” (Yes, we recommend having fun when brainstorming ideas!)
3. Seasonal menus invite curiosity. This is especially important for wooing prospects. You might never have considered eating at <fill in the blank> restaurant until something about the new seasonal menu has garnered your attention, so you decide to check it. That’s the power of curiosity at work.
How to use this concept in your business: If you come up with a great “seasonal menu” package idea for your business, don’t simply promote it to your current customer base. This would be the time to do some additional advertising, whether it’s through a direct mail program or online advertising in places like Facebook (which is cost-effective). Another tip: encourage your current customers and fans who are partaking in the new offering to share it with everyone they know. Remind people often: every time you do a post about your seasonal offering, ask fans to like, share, re-tweet, re-post. You want to build the curiosity buzz outside of your existing fan base.
4. Seasonal menus provide a legitimate reason for reaching out to your customers. The flip side to #3 is this: you certainly don’t want to overlook your current customers.
How to use this concept in your business: Having a new offering is always a good reason to reach out to customers throughout all the different ways you communicate with them: email newsletters, direct mail, social media, even a sales call.
5. Seasonal menus inspire you and your whole team to get excited again. Just think of all the fun that restaurant chefs and the wait staff have in taste testing the different menu options. Suddenly, everyone is re-engaged because of the new and exciting things to offer.
How to use this concept in your business: Take the time to brainstorm new and creative ways to promote seasonal offerings. This should be something you do at least twice a year. Ask for everyone’s input, from receptionists on up. Make it even more fun for your staff by creating a contest: whoever comes up with the most unique or innovative seasonal offering wins a prize (make it good). By making it fun and involving everyone in the process, suddenly everyone is energized and re-committed to the business and to marketing it. That’s a good thing.
Do you use the strategy of seasonal menus in your business? Share your experiences in the comments – we want to hear them.