Summer can be a slow time for many small businesses. It’s also a great opportunity to try out new marketing strategies by taking advantage of the weather and the general good mood to combine business with fun—for you and your customers.

Here are four creative ideas for picking things up during the slow, hot months.

Head Outside for a Sidewalk Sale

If you have a retail location in an area that gets lots of foot traffic, a sidewalk sale can be a great way to entice new customers. Set up some tables in front of your store with sale and discounted items, and position a staff member outside to keep an eye on things. You can take payments outside, or have customers head into the store—where they might find something else that interest them.

You can also collaborate with other local business owners to hold an outdoor event, such as a multi-store sidewalk sale or a “stroll and sample” event for restaurants and eateries.

Participate in Summer Fairs and Festivals

No matter where your small business is located, chances are you’ll find quite a few summer activities happening around you. Operating a booth at local community events, or even sponsoring a festival, carnival, or fair, can give you exposure to potential new customers in your area.

Look to local newspapers, flyers, homeowner associations, and your local Chamber of Commerce for information about upcoming summer festivals near you.

Have a Contest

A little healthy competition can go a long way. Every type of small business can run a contest—not only will it help you get to know your community better, but it will also generate great publicity for your business.

These basic tips can be applied to any type of contest you run:

  • Choose a prize that gives people an incentive to frequent your business
  • Market the contest with a blend of traditional channels and new media—a local contest, flyers, and newspaper ads can be just as effective as Facebook and Twitter
  • When the contest is over, post the results and the winner on your small business website or Facebook page

Treat Your Customers to a Day Out

A summer customers-only event is a great way to reward your customers for their loyalty, and to give prospects a reason to become customers. Consider arranging a fun day for your customers—take a winery tour, have a cookout at a local park, or go golfing or fishing. You can also do this for your vendors and partners to let them know they’re appreciated.

As a further benefit, customer entertainment expenses can be claimed as a tax deduction, as long as they have a clear business purpose. Check your state’s laws and guidelines for business deductions before claiming entertainment expenses on your taxes.