Autumn is notorious for getting families out of the house to enjoy traditional fall-festivities; especially in foliage-laden areas like New England. Maybe it's because school always starts in September, but it just seems like fall is the time when everyone has a plan in place.
If you're like most traditional Americans, your fall to-do list might look something like this: Pick apples, pick pumpkins, go on hayrides, drink apple cider, go to a pumpkin festival, carve a pumpkin, decorate the house, go to a haunted house, find your way out of a cornmaze... the list continues until Halloween approaches on October 31st.
As a small business, these activities give you unlimited opportunities to take advantage of the season and have a little fun at the same time.
Store: Offer tickets with a purchase.
Look for your local ghost tour, haunted house or corn maze and buy a limited amount of tickets. Now you can offer a special to anyone who makes a purchase over $XX dollars and they'll get a pair of tickets. Customers will want to spend more in order to get the most bang for their buck, and you can probably buy the tickets for your promotion at a bulk discounted price.
Restaurant or Bakery: Seasonal recipes.
The easiest one of the bunch is the ability for restaurants to come out with seasonal specialties. Pumpkin soup, apple cider beef stew, pumpkin chili... you get the idea.
While people are in the mood to warm their cores, be sure to provide them with a modern-nostalgic cross of seasonal treats.
This goes the same for any bakery. There are now parties that require pumpkin pies, carrot cakes, pumpkin seeds and cookies, and there's always a shortage of time in the lives of those who need to make them. That's where you come in.
The North Hadley Sugar Shack in North Hadley, Massachusetts offers pumpkin spice donuts this time of year.
LaSalle Bakery in Providence, Rhode Island has a special Harvest Bread for this time of the year that's made with cranberries, raisins, walnuts and "awesomeness."
Hotel: Ghost hunting & murder mysteries.
Not every hotel is lucky/unlucky enough to have a ghost tale that brings in curious guests during the Halloween season, but there's always room for a murder mystery dinner. The Doveberry Inn in West Dover, Vermont offers all-inclusive Murder Mystery weekends where guests get character packets, dessert and breakfasts, accommodations for two nights and a special candlelight four-course Murder Mystery dinner.
Every hotel can’t be lucky enough to be the Lizzy Borden Bed & Breakfast with a theme baked into its very existence, but it can’t be terribly hard to think of your own themes, right? For those hotels who have ghostly rumors around them, you've hopefully already considered putting together ghost-hunting weekend packages for the month of October. The Stanley Hotel, amidst the Rocky Mountains in Estes Park and famous for being the inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining” has a built-in marketing plan on their hands. Naturally, they host Ghost and History tours, Ghost Story nights and Ghost Hunts.
Bars: Host costume parties.
Halloween parties can get rowdy, so be prepared, but an event like this has the ability to hit your maximum occupancy limit with little effort.
If you want to do something extra special, you can team up with other bars to host a pub crawl like they're doing in the Boston area. The Crawl-O-Ween, hosted by Barcrawls.com, is a three-day pub crawl that hits some fine Boston bars, including the Goodbar and Howl At The Moon. The event is "designed to ensure a spook-tacular evening."
Any small business: Start loving pumpkins.
During the Halloween season, there is no such thing as having too many pumpkins. If you deal in design, you can sell pre-carved pumpkins. If you deal with produce, you can always sell regular pumpkins, gourds, arrangements, etc.
Easy enough, right? Either way, make sure to have the accessories on hand like tea light candles, battery-operated candles, pumpkin knives and all of that fun stuff.
A few other good ones? Nail salons can offer custom pumpkin-decorated nails. Spas can put together a spooky-themed spa day, or perhaps just a pumpkin peel. Coffee shops can introduce pumpkin-flavored coffee, lattes or even hot chocolate, like Polcari's and Wired Puppy offer in Boston. Anyone can offer Halloween incentives.
Succotash in Providence invites their customers in for beer and pumpkin carving. What a great draw for the college and kidless crowd who still enjoy the nostalgia of pumpkin carving? I know I do!
Do you have any Halloween marketing ideas to share? Show them off in the comments!
This post was originally published in 2011 and gets updated every year! Happy Halloween!