For many businesses, winter signals a slow-down in trade to a certain degree. For summer-oriented businesses such as ice cream sales or beachwear stores, winter can be a particularly quiet time. In other niches, the fall in trade is less marked, but still significant. Rather than viewing this as a problem, why not see it as an opportunity to review your marketing plans and prepare for next year, so that you’re ready to grab a larger share of the market when sales start to pick up?
Giving your website an overhaul is a job that often gets delayed as more urgent tasks present themselves. If you’ve got a site and it’s working, you may not realise how much you could be doing to improve it and work on your optimization. One of the biggest challenges in creating effective websites is coming up with new ways to present information and improve functionality on websites. The web is bursting with millions of other sites all trying to stand out from the crowd and bring in visitors, so set aside some time to review your site and see how well it compares with competing sites. The impact of your site will be directly related to the nature of your business, but there are very few types of business that wouldn’t benefit from improving their online presence.
- Existing clients
Your business may well already hold the key to increasing your sales and profits, so have a look at all your data and see where you can dig out the gold from all the information you’ve collected. One of your most valuable resources is your existing client base, as it’s been proven that customers who have already invested in you are far likelier to spend more money with you when they need something else that you can provide. It makes sense, because if they’ve been happy with your service and, where applicable, your products, they’ll naturally favour returning to your business rather than risking using an unknown provider. This philosophy works particularly well in service-based industries, where client relationships form the basis of your business.
- Real estate, law, and other service industries
Enquiries from potential clients should all be logged into your database, so you have an easily accessible contact list that you can pursue during the quieter winter months. These are people who have expressed a definite interest in your business, whether that’s buying or selling through you. Following up with prospective clients this way gives you an advantage over other service providers who don’t mine their own data, and it’s a resource that you won’t have to pay extra for. You can find out more about ways to take advantage of the quieter months by looking at industry-specific websites that have tips relating to the precise nature of your business.
- Retail stores and e-commerce
If you have a retail or e-commerce business that depends on seasonal sales, then you can use the off-season to spruce up your store or refresh your catalogue, and it could be an opportunity to investigate ways of increasing off-peak revenue by adding new lines or new services to your range. Many niche businesses have discovered that diversifying into related areas can make the difference between breaking even and making a healthy profit. However, the research and planning can take considerable effort and time to do properly, which is why quiet periods should be exploited and taken advantage of. You may find there are new products that would fit with your business profile, or new opportunities to work with other niche businesses to access more lucrative markets.
- Reviewing your marketing
This is also a good opportunity to reflect on what worked well in your business and what wasn’t so successful. Regularly reviewing both your business and marketing plans is an essential task when you run a business, but when things are hectic and you have a mountain of other tasks to complete, it can get pushed to one side. These less hectic periods are ideal for dusting off all your plans and predictions, and seeing how you stand in comparison to where you thought you would be. Unless you review your progress, you can’t learn from the experience, and you could end up making the same mistakes again. An in-depth review of your marketing campaigns will provide you with valuable insight into the way to shape your future plans and make your marketing more successful.
- Research and training
You should never start believing that you know all you need to as a business owner, because there are always opportunities for growth and development. You may be knowledgeable and experienced in your field, but new trends, new discoveries, and changes in external influencing factors like the economy or the marketplace mean there is a continual stream of new information that you need to keep abreast of. Take some time during your quieter periods to read up on what’s happening in your industry and the wider world, and invest in training for you and your staff where it would be helpful.
As the year progresses, you should be examining and comparing your figures in detail to spot trends, and see where you could be increasing profits through price increases, cost-cutting, or pushing a particular service or product that could be making more money. Use the reporting functions on your accounting software to run reports for you, and look at the kinds of information and comparisons that are recommended by your accountant or financial services that will help you pick up on the information you can use to increase your profits.
There aren’t many businesses that don’t experience fluctuations in their trade throughout the year. If you know your business has a seasonal basis, it’s easier to make plans for using the time wisely. If your lulls are less predictable, you should make a contingency plan so that as soon as things start quietening down, you can get to work on the backroom tasks that will drive your business forward in the future.