Seasonal Businesses: Staying Afloat During the Slow Season
Many businesses are seasonal—landscaping, water parks, bed and breakfasts, ski lodges, etc. Most small businesses have slow periods no matter what industry they’re in. Sales can be high and the workload overwhelming during certain times of the year and low and slow during others. How can you make the money last throughout your slow season? What can you do during this time? This is the time to be proactive and resourceful. Here are some tips on how to keep your business going when “the going” slows to a crawl.
One of the best things to do during a slow period is to reevaluate your marketing plan. Is there a new market you could target that you haven’t reached out to yet? Look at your competitors and see what they’re up to and if there are areas where you need to get up to speed. Think about your company’s identity—is it still true to what you’re really about or does it need updating?
Sometimes a new slogan, updated logo, and different business cards can really help put your business in a fresh perspective for customers. Take this time to increase your social media presence. Maybe you have a Facebook page, but nothing on Twitter or LinkedIn. These accounts are free and more awareness can only help, so go ahead and branch out. It is still possible to network in the off season—go to community events to advertise or join associations that can offer you advice and resources you might not have otherwise. Another thing you can do is cold call to new customers and offer free promotions or discounts for signing up for your services early.
You can even take a vacation that mixes business and pleasure: take most of the time to relax and recharge, but maybe two days out of a week to market yourself—hand out business cards, set up future business lunches, introduce yourself where appropriate.
Of course you probably realized it’s a good idea to save money for off or slow seasons, but do so consistently during the busiest time of the year. Save a little each week and it may be easier to hold on to this money if you put it in a savings rather than your everyday checking account—plus those accounts earn interest, padding your savings even more. You should consider having a product or service you can sell year round—a flower shop might offer Christmas trees and synthetic plants for winter or a bed and breakfast might host holiday dinners for business people in the area. Sell gift cards to be used later in the year. You could offer classes to teach young professionals how to do what you do or as a last resort, take up a seasonal job to supplement income. You can invest in stock, open a small business line of credit, and prepare your taxes to ensure you’ll receive your refund while it’s still winter. It’s also best to look over all equipment and make repairs as well as bring in new supplies you ran out of.
Renovation, if possible, would be great to do in a slow season, but if nothing else, clean. Organize, get rid of unnecessary junk, and make your building spotless. When your workspace is restored, create or update your online business listing and build or revamp your website. You can start a Groupon account to increase sales from loyal customers and write a newsletter to send to those customers, both about what has happened the last year and about what’s new to come. If you haven’t done so yet, analyze online traffic with Google Adwords. Finally, make goals for your business and outline how to reach them. If you do the best you can to do all of these things in your business off season, chances are you will be fine.
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