The Highs & Lows of Seasonal Marketing
By B. S.
The quickest way for any Pattaya business owner to go out of business is to do nothing with respect to building his or her business by way of marketing. Whether your business is service related or not, the mind set of ‘business as usual’ or ‘build it and they will come’ is no substitute for sound marketing strategies. I used the plural form of the word “Strategy”, because a shrewd and successful business owner will have no less than two separate marketing plans – one that is specifically designed for the high season, and a second that has been carefully crafted for the low season.
Even during a bad year, a resort town such as Pattaya, which was built on the back of tourist dollars, is usually able to attract relatively large crowds during the high season, on holidays and whenever the numerous street ‘festivals’ take place. But during the off season and in between festivals or holidays, many of Pattaya’s businesses are confronted with economic challenges that are difficult to overcome. In order to attract midweek, between the holidays, and off season visitors every business needs to stand out from their competition, offer good value for money, and be extremely innovative in respect to an overall marketing campaign.
Many local business owners take the high season for granted. They sit back and wait for whatever nationality happens to be arriving in droves during that particular year. Hoping to generate a year’s business in just a few months, they’ve likely upped their prices, created a new menu or sign in what they hope is the correct language of their expected visitors, and then they ignore every other aspect of marketing. That’s precisely what you should do if you want to go out of business. Knowing the seasonal trends in regard to who is coming and who is not is indeed a valuable marketing tool, but it’s only one of many. Just as a carpenter wouldn’t arrive at a job site with only a hammer in his toolbox, an astute business owner should never rely on the single tool of catering to just one nationality, no matter how many of them may be arriving!
In the months that lead up to the high season a business should stay on top of whatever the current trends may be. This can be done by keeping an eye on the cost of air travel to and from Thailand from various locations across the globe. Watching the value of the Thai baht against other world currencies, and keeping abreast of the world’s economy with an eye towards which nation’s economies are doing well is also helpful. Another valuable source of information is the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) as it’s the government agency that keeps a close watch on the number of foreign arrivals into the ‘Kingdom’, and from which country they hail. Once you know who’s already here and who’s likely to arrive, then you can tailor your marketing strategy to suit.
A wise business owner will prepare for the mass arrival of for example Chinese, Koreans, or Indians by creating a carefully translated new menu and signs in that country’s language. The menus will include a few traditional meals and snacks that are hopefully familiar to them. By researching the customs and expectations of any nation and teaching a few simple phrases in their native language to your staff, you will go a long way to ensure that your business stands out from all the others. Always remember however, that you will also have guests of other nationalities, so don’t go overboard catering to just one.
Whether your high season customers turn out to be locals, expatriates, first time visitors or seasoned travelers beware of raising your prices during the high season. Fleecing your patrons and hoping they don’t realize it until it’s too late will guarantee that they do not return. In terms of marketing, you want your new customers to remember you when the next season rolls around … but not because you swindled them! Locals and expats who have a better idea of what things cost will also be alienated and will pass on the fact that you are a ‘price gouger’ to their friends. I doubt that’s the sort of buzz any business wants.
Also, remember to adapt your prices to fit the local’s budget, and try to maintain those prices throughout the year. If things get tough, remember that half a loaf is better than no loaf. Therefore, try to avoid making the mistake of raising prices when business is slow. Lower them if you need to because most agree that some profit is better than no profit. The locals and expats will take notice of the reduction in rates and your lackluster sales will improve in no time.
The high season is when you should work the hardest to attract loyal customers who will return year in and year out. Do everything within your power to ensure that your high season guest or customer has a positive experience whilst at your business. That means the place should be clean and well organized and maintained by a friendly and cheerful staff. Pay attention to all of the little details. This is what makes a good business great. For example, if you operate a restaurant, and you or your staff overhears a customer saying “I really love this tom kha gai,” hurry back to the kitchen and bring back an additional small portion ‘on the house’. A customer will never forget that small kindness and you’ll have a customer for life. Stay in touch via email all year round. When customers arrive at your business offer them a small discount in exchange for their email address, and for their permission to send them updates about your shop, restaurant or hotel throughout the year. If you keep the content of your updates interesting and informative your business will always remain lodged in the back of their mind.
It is also imperative that you include the locals and expats who have the ability to spend money in your business daily, weekly and monthly at the forefront of any marketing strategy. An effective marketing plan that caters to locals and seasonal tourists will help develop a revenue stream that’s capable of carrying your business through the entire year. Locals and expats who live in resort areas often resent being forgotten or ignored when tourists descend on ‘their town’ during the high season. If you take care of the locals during high season, the odds are that they will then take care of you during the low season.
If sales are flagging in the off season, remind locals that low season is just as exciting as the high season. Most will find the personal attention during this time of smaller crowds refreshing. Show them that their business is appreciated and that you want them to come back by offering off season discounts, such as buy one get one free, children eat free, early bird specials, family or senior citizen discounts, or an awards program, e.g. on your tenth visit a free dessert, drink or whatever. These and other similar marketing strategies are a sure way to create customer loyalty amongst both locals and expats and will also encourage them to tell their friends about the positive things your business is doing.
Grow Your Data Base
Using the web is an excellent way to market your products and services through both the low and high seasons. If you don’t already have a website, then create one. However, when doing so make sure that your website is simple to use and that it can be easily navigated as most internet browsers lack the patience to deal with a complicated or slow website. Now that practically everyone has an iPhone or a smart phone, your website needs to be ‘mobile friendly’. Market research shows that coupons and special offers sent to social media platforms, as well as to tablets and mobile phones have been highly effective. Even though the online coupon links work well with computer geeks, it’s prudent to have some old school paper coupons or leaflets to hand out to the elderly and those who are more technologically challenged.
Ensure that your website has plenty of CTAs, which is an acronym for ‘calls to action’. These will allow your customers to remain in touch all year long when they subscribe to your email list or post information to your blog. No matter what the season, be sure to offer web users and loyal customers something they can redeem when they next visit.If possible take photos and videos of exciting or interesting events that took place in or near your place of business, such as street festivals, the water festival of Songkran or the wonderment of Loi Krathong. Add these videos, photos and background stories to your email updates, website, blog and to your social media platforms. It’s also a good idea to encourage customers to submit holiday pictures or videos that they have taken in or around your business. The more interesting and varied your website’s content is, will typically be reflected in you high and low season monthly sales.