Have a business with a clear peak season and slow season?
You might dread the slow season, constantly wondering if you are going to be able to withstand this period of lower sales.
A financial cushion can help you get through the slow season, though.
And with some time freed up, you can take actions to position your business for greater long-term success.
Here are 10 things to do during slow season for your small business:
1. Build Your Online Presence
Building an online presence is one of the most cost-effective ways to acquire and retain your dream customers.
If you don’t already have a website, it’s a worthwhile investment for your small business. Not only can a website generate leads for your small business, but it also acts as a super-charged “business card” to share with leads acquired through other channels. You can create the website yourself or hire a freelancer/agency to do it for you – the latter option may cost a few thousand dollars (but the cost varies significantly depending on the provider).
In addition to a website, you can build an online community for your small business. A forum or Facebook group where you engage with your customers and your customers engage with each other is a good way to position your small business as an authority in your niche – and more importantly, provide value to your audience.
2. Work on Your Content Marketing
Having an online presence is a good step in the right direction, but it’s important to produce top-notch content for your website, social media profiles, and your YouTube channel (if you have one).
This content should help your audience solve problems they are experiencing, directly or indirectly related to your product/service.
For example, an e-commerce shop specializing in dog food might want to write an article listing “ways to train your dog” – and (subtly) promote their treats as something to be used for positive reinforcement. A good part (maybe most) of the article has nothing to do with the company’s product – they are simply providing value in their broader niche (dogs), and showing they care about their customers.
And here’s a perpetually underrated way to up your content marketing game: repurpose your existing content.
Have a blog post? Turn it into a Twitter thread and a LinkedIn post.
Have a YouTube video? Turn it into a blog post and a few Tweets.
You get the point.
3. Get to Know Your Customers
By getting to know your customers, you can improve your marketing campaigns and your offerings, making them better suited to meet your customers’ needs.
Setting up a customer advisory board is a great way to get to know your customers.
4. Focus on the Latest Developments in Your Industry
During the peak season, your daily operations are more of a priority, so it’s easy to lose focus on the big picture. But as a small business owner, you’re the one steering the ship, so it’s important to stay aware of the latest developments in your industry.
The slow season gives you time to read industry reports, attend conferences, and network with people who are “in the know.” These types of activities provide you with valuable insights, which you can use to adjust your strategies and long-term plans.
5. Work on Your Financial Planning
The slow season is a great time to sort out your finances.
A good starting point is making/updating cash flow projections. As a business with a slow season, it’s important to consider your month-by-month cash flow breakdown. You might expect a lot of cash to enter the business over the next 12 months, but what if you don’t have enough cash flow over the next six months?
With cash flow projections in hand, you can mitigate any risks. Maybe you expect a shortfall in four months – in this case, you can increase your savings rate over the next four months or explore financing options.
6. Brainstorm Ideas to Grow/Improve Your Business
The slow season might be unavoidable for your small business. Maybe you have a pool cleaning business in New York, and no matter what you do, New Yorkers are not going to want their pools cleaned in January.
But depending on your business, there might be ways to increase sales during the slow season – even if not to the same levels of peak season, every sale counts.
Let’s say you have an e-commerce business that sells swimsuits, and a large percentage of your customers are based in northern US states. Your sales typically drop dramatically during the winter months. In this case, you might be able to entice customers to buy swimsuits in the winter with a sizable discount or a creative marketing campaign that mentions the benefits of warm-weather getaways.
What if there’s no good way to meaningfully increase sales during the slow season?
In this case, you can still brainstorm ways to grow/improve your business, in general. That may mean improving your product or service, opening a new location, or something else. Whatever you do, it’s a lot easier to make changes during slow season than during peak season – when you might barely have enough time to keep up with demand.
7. Launch a Loyalty Program
A loyalty program is a way to encourage repeat customers through the use of incentives.
You can create a points-based system where customers can exchange a certain number of points for a discount, other type of deal, or a specific product, to name a few possibilities.
You may be wondering: how do I determine what to offer through a loyalty program?
Start by thinking about what matters to your customers. What types of offers are actually going to make them want to stick around?
Also, consider how much it costs to acquire a new customer. If it’s very expensive, you might want to create a loyalty program that offers quite a bit of value. Let’s say it costs you $1,000 to acquire a new customer, on average. In that case, a loyalty program that costs you a significant amount – but much less than $1,000 over the customer’s engagement with your small business – might be an excellent financial decision.
8. Prepare for the Holiday Season
Does your small business see an increase in sales during the holiday season?
If so, the slow season is an excellent opportunity to prepare for the holiday season.
There are a number of ways to position your small business for holiday season success including:
- Create gift sets
- Stock up on inventory
- Hire and train seasonal staff
- Prepare holiday marketing campaigns
As a small business owner, it’s important to be the opposite of the last-minute holiday shopper!
9. Automate Some of Your Processes
There are countless SaaS solutions that allow you to automate routine, repetitive tasks. The monthly subscription fee is often much cheaper than what it would cost to have hourly staff do the same thing.
By doing this, you free up your staff’s time to focus on higher-value tasks that can’t be automated.
It can take a while to identify tasks that can be automated and find the right solutions, however, which is why this is something to prioritize during the slow season.
10. Slow Down
Here’s our final tip. It might sound trivial, but it’s not: slow down.
As a small business owner, you’re constantly working on your business or thinking about ways to improve your small business.
The slow season provides a golden opportunity to relax and recharge.
This doesn’t need to be justified from a financial standpoint, but an added bonus is that temporarily decreasing your workload can energize you ahead of the peak season, allowing you to grow/improve your small business.
The Bottom Line
While the slow season brings threats for your small business, it also brings opportunities for your small business.
Ideally, you can find ways to increase sales during the slow season. But if you can’t, it’s still possible to decrease the chances you run into financial problems during this time. Again, projecting cash flow allows you to predict the timing of financial issues – this gives you time to take appropriate action.
And with the time freed up during the slow season, you can grow/improve your small business – applying many of the tips mentioned in this article.