The back-to-school marketing opportunity

Think back to your elementary, middle and high school years. What do you remember most about the start of school?

For me, I can recall the smell of waxy crayons, of white glue or paste that had a slightly doughy scent to it, the crispness of new notebooks, a snazzy new backpack and so on.

And with all the sensory "newness" I also recall feeling a sense of what was possible.

The beginning of the new school year was laden with potential - the potential to make new friends, deepen existing friendships, attend field trips to places I'd never been to, or to places I liked such as museums, the zoo or a garden. The start of each new school year felt like a reboot or sometimes an upgrade as I felt when I switched from a particular grade school to high school where suddenly I felt so much freedom.

What can small business owners learn from the new school year? From a communications and marketing standpoint, there is a lot to learn.

1. Back-to-school time creates an artificial new year for everyone.

Most people feel a sense of newness as schools open and children return to the classrooms. Businesses can invite people to try something new, buy something new and connect as a way of harmonizing with the general public's feeling that life is starting up again after summer lulls.

2. The back-to-school vibe is an arbitrary starting point for many people.

Businesses can suggest people start new too. This can take the form of buying new things, starting a new course of study, workout, or routine or pretty much any multistep activity. Even the divorce attorneys I work with a note that many people initiate divorce proceedings after children return to school. This is not surprising, but it points to the wholesale behavior of customers and their readiness to engage with businesses at this time.

3. People are sometimes more anxious when things are new.

Business owners should consider that people might be in an emotionally heightened state and will appreciate attempts at superior service if they are in a client-facing service industry such as health care, law, fitness or other industry where people seek care or service or where people equate quality with expense.

4. People have greater receptivity to connect.

At this time of year, people's calendars shift, and exploratory meetings are easier to obtain, coffee dates for networking or strategic planning with peer professionals all become a lot easier to schedule. Business owners should take advantage of this readiness and use it for business development purposes.

5. Consumers want to be successful; they want to book services; they want to complete tasks from their to-do lists and feel their adult homework is getting done.

Now is a great time to loop back to people for whom you might have provided an estimate, a sample or a product idea and follow up to determine if you can close the deal and earn a sale, a customer or simply make more money thanks to legwork you did a while earlier.

We were all children. The back-to-school time is one when businesses can piggyback on the feeling of the newness of a new school year and echo it in marketing and communications strategies.

• Rebecca Hoffman is the founder and principal of Good Egg Concepts, a strategic communication and brand marketing consulting practice serving clients around Chicagoland and nationally.

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