Plan your off-season in business

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The answer really depends on the type of business you have, but the key to remember is to plan it and use it to your advantage.

Brett Farmiloe, Founder and CEO of Markitors, a digital marketing company that connects small businesses with customers through organic search, asked small business owners and professionals for their best tips for using their slack season and recently shared it on the SCORE website. They provided some great ideas and here are a few:

Get approvals before big trips. Summer can be a slow time for our business as we have so many of our high end customers going on extended vacations. Before clients leave on a trip, we ensure that designs are approved and furniture ordered to ensure there is not too much waiting while they are away. We have many design meetings in the spring to plan for the slower summer months. – Alisha Taylor, Alisha Taylor Interiors

Plan to offer seasonal specials. While the weather in Sedona, Arizona is beautiful year round, we still tend to see a slowdown towards the end of the year when it gets a little chilly. We anticipate this by offering different types of retreats and promotions during this time of year. It is perfect for individuals or couples who wish to travel while on vacation and also allows new experiences in-house. – Gregory Drambour, Sedona Retreats

Test new strategies. Seasonality is an important factor for us. The hospitality industry comes and goes at different times, depending on which city you are talking about. For example, in Phoenix, business slows down when the weather warms. In New York City, the slowdown occurs during the cold winter months. Fortunately, when one city is slow another is busy because hospitality is never 100% dormant. While it’s not possible for all small businesses to break into a new city during an off-season, testing new strategies in your current market is. Take advantage of the slowdown to review your existing processes, identify opportunities for improvement, and use the slower months to create new things. –Zack McCarty, Qwick

Focus on customer loyalty. After the end of the summer season until the fall, we generally experience a lull in business. We plan for this by relying on customer loyalty. The ability to retain and expand existing customers helps us when we cannot count on significant new business during lean seasons. We look at the data and find clients who can potentially extend their contract with us. – Nik Sharma, Marques Sharma

Set aside funds and stay active. The off-season of our activity (residential real estate investment) corresponds to the winter months, in particular from December to February. We plan ahead by capitalizing on the active and quick months for the rest of the year. We set aside the same percentage of money for each transaction, even during the months when our income is much higher than the low season. We have also found that our off-season is the perfect time to capitalize on the growth of our business. Many people in our industry take time off during the holidays, but we choose to work a few hours a day to network and keep our website and social networks active. It sets us up for success once the slow season has passed. – Andy Kolodgie, house guys

Build relationships. If you often turn down your colleagues’ lunch invitations, now is the time to come to an agreement. When you’re not busy, you can connect by having lunch and coffee together. By establishing a friendship in this way, you can build up your contacts and prepare for more cooperation in the future. – Abby Ha, WellPCB

Rotate your customer focus. Our off-season normally comes after tax season ends. For the first three weeks or so after individuals and businesses file their taxes and submit their returns, we hardly get any new clients. To effectively plan this, we direct our services to other possible clients outside of our main target audience – coaching companies. For example, we offer our services to schools and non-profit organizations during and shortly after tax season. In return for a small, greatly reduced commission, we develop and implement highly effective marketing strategies / campaigns for local schools and non-profit organizations. We also provide career counseling services to students of these academic institutions and to communities served by NGOs. By pivoting our services, we still get paid, albeit much less, and we increase our brand visibility in niche market segments .– Sai Blackbyrn, Coach Foundation

Dean Swanson is a Certified SCORE Volunteer Mentor and Past SCORE Section President, District Director and Regional Vice President for the Northwest Region.


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