When your business is thriving, it’s a wonderful feeling. Not only are sales up, but you’re also busier than a mosquito at a nudist colony. Sure, a little downtime and relaxation are great, but, when your business is in an off season, that downtime can feel like decades.
Getting your business back on track towards a healthy diet of sales, web traffic, and steady customer flow during a slow season can be difficult, but not impossible.
It requires some creative thinking, perception and a little perseverance. Investigating ways that will help you utilize these three qualities to make the most out of a slow season is vital to any business’ success.
Perception: Find The Source Of Your Slow
Slow periods are something that every company experiences, even if they aren’t a seasonal business. The source of a slow down can often be easy to anticipate, like a post-holiday lull.
This is especially true for businesses that are seasonal, like a winter coat retailer or an outdoor event company.
However, there are times when business slows unexpectedly and not because of a holiday or change in weather. These unexpected changes are the dangerous ones because it can be challenging to find the source. Without knowing why business has slowed, it’s much harder to figure out how to remedy the issue(s).
To begin sniffing out the source of your slow business, your first stop should be social media. Not only do you want to comb through your own social media presence and see if there are any negative sentiments that may provide a clue, you also want to look at the social media pages of your competitors.
If competing businesses have also slowed, then you can more safely presume that your downturn is felt across the industry. On the other hand, if competitors are flourishing, then it is a strong sign that there’s something specific to your company that’s causing the slow, like heightened competition.
By investigating the social media pages of your competitors, you may be able to better identify why their business is booming when yours is puttering.
Once you’ve discovered the root cause of your business slow, you’re better equipped to tackle the challenge of boosting your business back in the right direction.
Creative Thinking: Take Your Business To Where The Season Is
One of the beautiful things about the Digital Age is that businesses aren’t confined to customers in their immediate area. If your business offers seasonal products or services, then you need to focus your efforts on where the season is.
For example, Big Feet Pajama Company, based in Washington, had low summer sales (as is expected of a company selling ultra-warm pajamas), but they began to turn it around when they created a Google AdWords campaign that targeted Australians.
When Big Feet Pajama Company’s local customers were enjoying summer, their newfound Australian customers were in their colder months. This new venture resulted in 70% of all of their orders in the spring to summer months, which allowed their business to cure their summer slow.
This tactic is great for companies that have the ability to make sales online, but reaching out to distant places can be impossible for a service-based business, like a landscaping company. The off-season remedy for these companies is to stop treating your business as seasonal.
While your clients may not require traditional services, you can find tasks that you can perform in cold weather. Using the same example, a lot of landscapers turn to snow plowing or cleaning up yard debris leftover from fall during the winter.
Often, the cause of your business slowing is because customers assume that you’re no longer in operation. So, formulate some products or services you can offer and promote them across appropriate channels to get the buzz out!
Creative Thinking: Stimulate Buzz And Build Excitement For Your On-Peak
Even though your business has slowed down, you shouldn’t allow this dip in sales to discourage you from engaging with your customers all year long.
In other words, don’t go dormant because its your off-season or a known period of low sales. When business starts to pick up again, you don’t want to have to waste any time reminding customers that you still exist!
This is especially true for very seasonal businesses because they rely on a booming on-season to generate the majority of their yearly sales.
There’s a number of tactics that you can employ to help keep that buzz simmering during your slow down:
Events: Creating or participating in local events can help keep your business in the front of customers minds, even when it isn’t the right time for them to shop and make a purchase.
Social Media Campaigns: You can also engage and remind customers of your business through social media channels. Creating a clever off-season hashtag or contest is a great way to build buzz when your business isn’t building revenue.
For example, a bathing suit and swimwear apparel company could encourage customers to post pictures in their favorite bathing suit with a snowy background. Remember, social media users expect consistency, so aim to post at least two to three times a week, even in your off season, to maximize your ability to drive web traffic.
Discounts: Perhaps the most popular off-season marketing tactic is to discount items and create sales that encourage people to buy off-season in order to save money. You can elevate this strategy by putting a creative spin on it (think outside the “Christmas in July” box).
Perseverance: Get A Head Start On Your Busy Months
Again, when your business is busy, so are you; there’s never enough time to get everything done that you want. When business starts to slow, it’s all too easy to get bogged down in the downtime and simply checkout until it picks up again.
Instead, you should maximize your not-so-busy schedule by filling it with those tasks that have been collecting cobwebs on your to-do-list all year prior.
A lot of companies use off-peak months to catch up on maintenance, cleaning, accounting and other tasks. It’s also a great time to begin creating digital content, preparing marketing materials, and formulating campaigns for the next spike in business.
When you consider that 42% of marketers feel they fail to reach their marketing goals, utilizing this time to prep and reorganize your strategies can be invaluable towards landing your business in the other 58%.
SEO is a major marketing priority for 61% of companies. Yet, in a 2017 study conducted by Higher Visibility, over half of the small-to-medium sized businesses surveyed had only a basic understanding of search optimization.
Businesses understand the importance of SEO and other tactics, but a lot of small businesses struggle to find the time to learn about it or how to leverage tools like Google AdWords or data analytics software. Without the heavy flow of customers and sales, you can turn your off-peak into an opportunity to bring your business into the Digital Age.
Perseverance: Anticipate The End Of Your Lull
One of the underappreciated strategies for surviving a business’ downtime is knowing when that lull is going to end. Anticipating the end of your slow will allow you to make the most out of your downtime and thereby maximize your ability to capitalize on the eventual upswing.
The test is accurately measuring when you’ll reach the end of that tunnel. For a lot of businesses’ off seasons, this can be achieved through simple tracking of month-to-month sales, website traffic changes, and keyword changes. By using data from past years, you can comfortably anticipate your slowest and busiest months.
Detecting the beginning or end of an unexpected lull requires you to be constantly vigilant. This means paying close attention to every channel that your company operates on and looking for any discrepancies that could be the hint of a bigger change in pace.
Slow periods don’t occur simply from too few sales, but rather the timing of those sales. Many of these businesses struggle because they don’t correctly perceive and prepare for their slows in cash flow.
Nor do they capitalize on the opportunities that an off-season provides, which makes it much harder to persevere until business hits an upturn.
To ensure the long-term health of your business, it’s important to know how to handle these downturns and find creative ways to stay busy, stimulate growth, and continue working towards your company goals.