At a time when many of us are thinking about holidays and time off work, it can be easy to forget that not everyone takes time off at the same time – indeed not everyone takes time off! The world of business carries on right through July and August – albeit sometimes at a slightly more sedentary pace! Taken together, July and August represent 16% of the year. If this time is written off as ‘nothing happens in the summer’, opportunities can be missed. In fact, if you extend this philosophy to include the other key holiday periods of Christmas and Easter, you can find yourself writing off up to a quarter of the year! Not good for business. Business goes on throughout the year – but it is important to get time off if you need it! So how do you ‘square the circle’ of making sure you stay ‘open for business’ through the summer even if you take time off?
Staying open for business - In a word:planning!
Here are my top tips for having a stress-free summer break:
1. Make sure your customers know you’re away!
The out of office auto-reply email is pretty ubiquitous these days, and also (in my opinion) pretty useless! Does it really help a customer who wants to get in touch to receive an email by return telling her that you will be away from the office for 2 weeks?! At best this may cause mild frustration. At worst it may mean your customer looks elsewhere. If you can let your regular customers know, in good time, that you are going to be away then any urgent issues can be dealt with before you go. Obviously if you speak to clients regularly, you can tell them but, as a backup, something I have done for several years is to add a few words (giving dates of my absence) to a special e-mail signature that I switch on for a couple of weeks before I go away. This way, every email I send is letting people know when I won’t be around. If possible, when you are actually away, you should brief a colleague on any outstanding issues and give their contact details in your ‘Out of office’ message. Clearly this isn’t easy if you work by yourself but maybe it is OK (if it is possible) to be available for clients while you are away. I look at it like this: If there really is a major problem, I’d rather know about it and do what I could while on holiday Better a minor inconvenience that I can deal with than carry on in blissful ignorance only to find major turmoil when I get back to work. Often merely acknowledging a client’s contact while you are away, and explaining that you will deal with it on your return can turn what might be a minor frustration for them into a real demonstration of good customer service!
2. Plan your marketing ahead – make time for yourself
A key to keeping your business moving is to keep up with your marketing communication. With all the web-tools that are available today, this can be easier than you might think. If you have an email newsletter content calendar you should know well ahead of time what content and articles you plan to publish when. By getting organised you can write articles and prepare e-newsletters days, or even weeks ahead and then use online scheduling to publish/send your messages – even if you are asleep on eth other side of the world! This said, you need to be ready to respond. If your marketing regularly gets a lot of engagement, you may need to take a few minutes out of your holiday day to respond. As a general rule, automated responses might seem like a good idea but normally come over as stale – I would avoid them. This is particularly true with social media, particularly Twitter & Facebook. There are many tools where you can set up future tweets and posts. If you do choose to use them, be careful. However, as I talk about below, give yourself a break!
3. Time to be more light hearted
Summer can also be used as an opportunity to do something a bit different. It’s the perfect time to push lighter topics. For example:
- Anecdotal/light-hearted news articles
- Videos & Cartoons
The lighter content will give readers a break from the usual, corporate stuff. Again, if you plan ahead, you can keep your audience engage while you are doing your thing in the sun.
4. Give yourself a break!
Planning for the summer is important. However, accept that you may not have enough resources to do your usual “full” content marketing. Formally acknowledging summer is a good thing to do. For example, at BSA, we slow down our content marketing throughout August. This is often much better than worrying that you’re not publishing enough content. Consider how you can go about firstly planning for summer and then how to roll our your plans throughout summer. Plan your content in advance. For all those heavy pieces of content, try to create some alternatives for people to read. It will give your company a different dimension when it comes to content marketing.
5. Do Something!
If all else fails, try to do something to keep your marketing and business ticking along over the summer. There is nothing worse than getting to 1 September having lost all momentum and needing to really work to get the business machine back up and running. If you can keep your marketing ticking along you will hit September safe in the knowledge that you have maintained a great marketing platform to springboard your business into the Autumn.