Most retailers experience seasonal slumps. While January is traditionally the lowest month for sales, the summer season, when people are putting their money into fun in the sun, can be hard for a lot of businesses.
Certainly, the best thing you can do for your company is to recognize the potential for a sales drop and prepare for it. Saving money during your busy season means you can still pay the bills when sales fall for a couple of months. You can also keep morale up by recognizing the natural decline and realigning your sales goals accordingly.
However, there are strategies to both beat the slump and take advantage of it to make your business even more productive in the busy season.
Some businesses benefit from increased advertising during slow months, but in many cases, it's just that people are not interested in your products or services. Don't throw good money into bad marketing to an uninterested audience. Try the following instead.
- Find a new geographic audience. Look to other nations that may not be in the slump season. If you sell winter clothing, then expanding to the Southern Hemisphere or targeting northern regions might be your best bet.
- Find a new demographic. Can you target businesses instead of consumers? Can your products be repurposed for a different summertime use?
- Target your advertising to where your product is attractive year-round. For example, golf gear sells best at Christmastime, but it is always popular near golf resorts.
- Find a new angle. Others may be having the same slump as you. Can your product help them? Can you tweak your advertising to a "prepare now so you can enjoy later" message?
A great way to beat the slow season is to diversify in your area with something that is not dependent on season.
- Offer online classes. With some simple webinar software, you can teach people across the world without ever leaving your home. Find something that relates to your business that you have expertise in, create a one-hour webinar or a longer class about it, then promote and teach it. If you record the sessions, you can offer the recordings year-round as well.
- Explore alternate means of sales. This may be the time to branch out into e-commerce or to seek affiliates (or become an affiliate).
- Find related products that work better for summer. Ski resorts, for example, set up mountain-biking trails and other summer activities, then rent the equipment to keep income going year-round.
Work on the long-term benefits
When preparing for and keeping up with the crunch season, you may not have time for long-term projects. The slow season is the time to pursue them.
- Catch up. Whether you finally get the paperwork done or reorganize the warehouse, use these slow times to get your business – and yourself – back in order.
- Build your business. This is a good time to brainstorm new products, explore new campaign ideas or set up a new POS system.
- Strengthen client relationships. This is a good time to reach out to your regulars, whether to see if there's a way to improve your service, offer them a deal or remind them you value them.
- Revise your image. Refresh your marketing material. Give your products or packaging an upgrade. Update your website.
- Strategize. Analyze your sales from the past year to see where you can better focus your efforts in the coming busy season.
- Network. If you aren't getting customers in the summer, send your sales reps to networking events where they can meet motivated leads and others in the industry.
- Learn a new skill. You can find free webinars and reports on marketing, sales and your industry online. You could also join a forum in your field and start asking questions.
- Build your reputation as a subject-matter expert. Write a book or a series of articles on your business. The published word sets you apart as an expert in your field.
Finally, take advantage of slow times on a personal level. If your busy season means 70-hour weeks, use the slump to regain balance by hanging out with your family or taking a quiet afternoon to contemplate what you love about your company and where you want to take it in the future. Giving employees an early afternoon off or an optional social function can build morale. Gather up the memories, optimism and good attitude so it can carry you into your hectic busy season.
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