• What to Do When Business is Slow

Not every small business has an audience that can use its products and services year-round. This means that when things slow down and the rush is over, it’s time to kick back, relax and wait until the craziness of the next peak season comes around again, right? Not quite. This slow time can be a blessing in disguise, if you know how to use the time effectively. So, what can you do when your business is slow? This post will give you some ideas on how to manage your off-season time and get your marketing activities lined up in anticipation for your business’s busy season.

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Some businesses, such as landscaping companies, ice cream shops, or craft business that knit scarves and fuzzy socks for winter, have distinct peak seasons and off-seasons. Other businesses have more customers at the end of a fiscal year, during months popular for weddings, or when college students are in school. No matter what your slow season is, these times provide you with the perfect opportunity to get prepared for your busy season to start up again.

Marketing Activities for When Business is Slow

Don’t wait until the week before your peak period to hold a promotion to bring people into your store. Use the methods below as a guide to help keep your audience engaged year-round, both on and offline.

Set New Goals

The off-season gives you a chance to identify the components of your marketing plan for your peak sales period and to set new goals for your business. Look at what you’ve accomplished and adjust your business’s goals based on the success or failures.

Develop short and long term goals and create a weekly or monthly content marketing plan to achieve them such as:

  • Get more website traffic: Brainstorm new blog post topic ideas and publish them out
  • Grow your social media following: Set a social media schedule and planning out post content
  • Generate more leads: Send out email newsletters with updates, new blog posts, class schedules, advanced sales, and loyalty programs
  • Increas sales: Plan promotions like a gift with purchase, in-store only sales, or themed promotions during various holidays

Related: Small Business Marketing Plans

Start a Customer Loyalty Program

The off-season is the perfect time to launch a customer loyalty program that you can promote on social media and in your email newsletters. Loyalty programs keep your business in your audience’s mind and remind them to purchase goods and services from your business, even if it’s not the peak time. Loyalty programs can also provide an incentive for customers to return to your business once your busy season begins again.

Launch a Referral Program

Starting a referral program during your off season is something you’ll definitely want to do. The people who will take advantage of a referral program are loyal customers who already use and like your business! Keep your loyal customers coming back, and entice new customers to purchase from your business by giving discounts to both the original customer and the customer who was referred.

Advance Purchase Deal

Advance purchase deals are ways to solidify sales for your business once things pick up again and also keep your business on your customer’s minds during the off-season. You can also send out direct mailers and email reminders to keep your business on the forefront of your customer’s mind until you deliver the product or service. For example, a landscape business can offer summer discounts on snow removal services, or offer a discount for lawn mowing services that are purchased before spring starts.

Master Email Marketing

Email newsletters provide a way to group together and send out important information to your audience all at once. Plan out future email newsletters during the off-season, and create basic outlines for monthly newsletters. Think about holiday promotions that you can run during your busy easy. Also consider what other promotions you might want to hold, what products you could showcase, and upcoming events you can highlight.

Segment Your Email List

Your business’s slow season is a perfect time to go through your email list and separate the good leads from the ones who never engage with your business.  Use the extra time you have to look at your email analytics to gauge who is and isn’t engaging with your business. If you have an email list of 1,000 members, but only 800 are opening your emails, you’re not using your time and resources effectively. Periodically clean out your email list to remove unsubscribers and inactive subscribers, and make room to grow your email list. Segmented lists can save you time and money by enabling you to target people who are most likely to engage with your business.

Created segmented lists for:

  • Hot Contacts: Simply put, hot contacts are your best customers. They’re the people who engage with your business, refer their friends, and keep coming back for more of your product or service. Those on this list will be eager to read the information you send out, whether it’s blog updates, links to your newest video marketing posts, dates of upcoming product launches, or appearances at craft and trade shows. Your hot contacts will also be the first to jump at the opportunity to join a loyalty or referral program that you start.
  • Engaged Leads: These are people who might not need purchase your product or service very often, but still want to stay up to date with your business and maintain a relationship. Let the members of this list know when you’ll be showcasing your business at events or coming out with new products.
  • Supporters: Supporters are people that you most likely have personal connections with outside of your business, such as friends and family members. Supporters are important for your business, but don’t necessarily need to get every email update that you send out. Consider sending emails to supporters when you launch a new customer program or have a major announcement.
  • Business Contacts or Partners: This list will consist of people you may have met at events or partnered with in the past. The people in this list will likely be associated with other small businesses, and might be interested in learning about future partnerships, upcoming product launches, or classes you’ll be hosting. Think about ways you might be able to partner with the members of this list for future events and entice them to want to engage with your business.

Related: Email Marketing for Small Business Owners 

Maintain Your Social Media Accounts

If you want to take a break from drafting email newsletters and blogs, hop on social media to maintain your social media accounts. This can be done in a variety of ways, including:

  • Using customer posts as a #ThrowbackThursday to when your business was just beginning
  • Reposting pictures of your clients using your product or service
  • If you’re a landscaping business but it’s winter time, think about posting a picture of a beautifully trimmed lawn and a caption with a countdown until the season changes
  • If you’re a bakery who’s known for their hot chocolate, post a picture of some customers drinking it and use the caption to announce how long it will be until the specialty returns to your menu.

Putting some of these methods in place will ensure strong client retention despite the decrease in sales activity, and will help you keep up your momentum for the upcoming season.

Plan Future Sales and Promotions

Creating a future marketing plan will help alleviate some pressure as sales pick up. Instead of having to spend valuable time brainstorming and wondering how to attract customers while also maintaining inventory and responding to customer requests, you’ll have ideas mapped out on a calendar and have your promotions spread out evenly.

Some examples of “return to peak week” sales are:

  • Promotion the week before peak sales
  • Special sale for the first two weeks of your peak period
  • Deals on fun national holidays such as “National Donut Day” or “National Dog Day”

Get Ahead of Your Competition’s Marketing

If you’re satisfied with how the layout your future marketing plan looks, you can focus on doing other, smaller tasks you don’t usually have time for or think about as much as you’d like to. Maybe you’ve been wanting to create a business Instagram account or update your website’s photos and captions, but haven’t had the time—well, now you do!

If your business has a strong social media following, think about working on your business’s blog or, if you don’t have one yet, start one! Brainstorm ideas of what you can write to stand out as a thought leader and expert in your industry and, if you have more time, create outlines or even fully draft a few posts so you can publish them periodically.

Plan and Host Classes or Events

Take advantage of having extra time in your schedule by hosting classes or events for your community. If you have a brick and mortar location that’s underused during certain months, offer to rent the space out for events or partner with other businesses to collaborate on joint events. Collaborating with businesses helps both businesses get new customers.

Hosting instructional classes for people is an effective way to keep potential customers interested in your business when its slow. This is especially applicable if you have say, a food business or flower business where people can be hands on. In addition to engaging customers, hosting classes helps to bring in some extra cash when sales are low.

Get Involved with Charity

Another way to market your business during your off season is to get involved with a local charity or sports team. What better way to get your business in front of people than with a named sponsorship on a flyer, t-shirt, or banner?

Improve Your Website’s SEO

The off season is the perfect time to work on improving your business’s SEO—a little effort can go a long way! Take the time to research keywords for your business and add them into blog posts that you’ve written or are going to write in the future. Do you have title tags, headings, and alt tags on your website? Check out our local SEO guide for more tips on how to improve your business’s SEO.

Blog for your Business

If you haven’t hopped on the blogging bandwagon for your business’s marketing, don’t worry it’s not too late to get started writing your first blog post, especially during the slow season. If you’re a business owner with the time to write blog posts throughout the year, consider saving them up and queuing them so they post during your  busiest time when you can’t give as much attention to your blog. As a business owner, you can write about anything and share your expertise with your audience. Right when your peak season is approaching, try some of these ideas for potential blog posts, to put your business on your audience’s radar:

  • Holiday gift guides
  • Spring cleaning tips
  • Seasonal services (useful for landscaping or contracting businesses)
  • Seasonal treatments (useful for spas and salons)
  • Seasonal flavors or creative lunch prep ideas for kids (useful for catering or or other food-focused businesses)
  • Promoting partnerships with local businesses

Once you have exciting topics that you want to write about and that your audience will want to read, make sure the blog looks just as interesting as it sounds! Try adding infographics, photos and videos, or even using block quotes to highlight positive customer reviews.

Related: 130 Blog Ideas to Rock Your Business Blog

Host a Social Media Giveaway

Holding social media giveaways gives your audience a reason to stay engaged with you and keep checking your pages for the latest promotion or contest. Whether you’re hosting an Instagram giveaway or prefer to run a contest on Facebook, track where your audience engages with you the most and run the contest from that platform.

Social media giveaways don’t just make your customers feel appreciated, but they also give your business more free visibility than you thought possible, especially if you choose the methods asking participants to post a photo with your business’s hashtag or tag a friend.

Now you’re more equipped to take advantage of your down time and view the slow period as an opportunity for more success. Evaluate what part of your business you think needs the most work and allocate a majority of your time to enhancing it – there’s no better time to do it than a slow sales time. Keep a list of other tasks you’d like to accomplish during your slow time, and make sure to set goals for yourself to keep up with your progress during the busy season as well.

How do you stay busy and productive during your company’s off-season?  Let us know in the comments below!

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