As the holiday season approaches, business owners in the retail industry are prepping for their busiest season. But not every small business thrives around the holidays. Seasonal businesses, like home renovation contractors for example, usually see a drastic reduction in new business as consumers are more focused on holiday planning and spending time with family.
With the right plan in place, any business can survive their slow season by focusing their efforts on new ways to save money, make money, and prepare to be at their strongest when things inevitably pick back up.
Start Planning Early
You know your business better than anyone. Chances are, if you have been around for at least a year, you have a pretty good idea of when things start to slow down and money gets tight. Instead of scrambling just to keep the lights on when your slow season creeps up, plan for the inevitable drop in revenue throughout the year.
If you haven't created one already, creating a yearly budget for your business is vital when planning for any cash flow slow downs. Developing an accurate budget of revenue versus costs will help you better predict projected profits for the year, in turn helping you make better spending decisions. Not sure where to start? We like Inc. Magazine's piece on creating a business budget.
While making your budget, it's important to consider important end of year responsibilities such as taxes. Generally speaking, a business can have a variety of different types of taxes ranging from payroll taxes, to employment taxes (for things like social security and Medicare), to the standard income taxes every business is expected to pay.
Check Up On Your Current Clients
Many times when smaller businesses are in the heart of their busy season, checking in with their current clients may have to take a backseat to working with new clients and dealing with immediate customer service issues. When you find yourself with extra time on your hands, why not take this time to check in with your loyal client base?
A simple phone call asking your current clients how they're liking your service, or even asking if there is anything you can do to help nurture the relationship you have with your company, making them feel like a valuable part of your business. Plus, regular client check-ups can provide a wealth of information about customer satisfaction, brand awareness, and even stimulate innovation based on customer feedback.
Does your business offer multiple services? Especially in the home services industry, while a current client may use you for their air conditioning maintenance needs in the summer, if you offer heating maintenance as well, it's a good idea to reach out to those customers as winter approaches and ask if you can assist them in other areas. Though this may not work for every industry, if applicable to yours, this is an excellent way to build on the relationship you've worked hard to cultivate while creating an additional revenue stream for your business.
Refocus Your Marketing Efforts
It's no secret that your marketing budget can take up a large piece of your spendable income. As you prepare for a dip in profits, divert some of your time to re-evaluating which marketing efforts are working and drop the ones that are not.
When evaluating your various marketing campaigns, you'll want to consider dropping campaigns have a high spend with a very low return. Don't be hasty, though. It's important to consider the lifetime value of each customer earned on a campaign you're considering dropping to accurately determine your ROI.
Your slow time is also a perfect time to think about different ways to capture new business. It may seem counterintuitive at first to spend money on giveaways or offer 50% off new service, but these types of promotions have the potential to create lifetime customers who may not have previously considered your services.
While your new client signup is slow, an additional way you can refocus your marketing is by digging into analytic data you've collected over the past year and make sure your efforts target the right people. Plus, while you're changing your ad targeting, your marketing and sales teams can re-engage previous prospects that never resulted in a conversion and try to sway them to become a new customer.
Focus On Employee Training & Development
If new jobs are few and far between, how do you keep your employees productive and engaged? Without as many client obligations, you have time to dedicate to the development and training of your staff, which is an excellent way to foster employee engagement and job satisfaction.
Slow seasons are the best time to schedule important individual meetings with your team to get better insight into their career goals, identify strengths and weakness through performance metrics, and provide feedback. Create a customized plan with each member of your team to address how they can achieve their goals,make improvements, and how you can help facilitate this growth.
A focus on training is another great way to spend your time during a slow season. Whether it's training on existing processes to make sure everyone executes them flawlessly each time, or adding skill sets to the members of your team, spending time on training is never a bad investment. Not only will it make your team members better at their jobs, but focusing on the right skill sets now will ensure a strong team when your slow season ends.
Take A Vacation
Planning vacations around business slow downs is an excellent way to ensure your team is getting much needed time off while having a relatively low impact on the day-to-day of your business. Instead of leaving when your team needs you most, taking time away while business is slow has little impact to your teammates, clients, and bottom line.
Slow season vacations are uniquely beneficial in that not only will they encourage your team to take a much needed vacation, time away from work has its own benefits in creating more engaged, healthy, and refreshed employees who will be ready to hit the ground running when your busy season starts again.
Business slow-downs are an expected part of running a business. What you do during that slow down can make the difference between constantly dreading these times, or taking advantage of this time to make your business perform even stronger as each slow season comes to a close.
How do you manage slow seasons at your business? Share your tips and tricks below!