When is the "slow season" for your business, and how do you plan for it?
The answer really depends on what kind of business you have, but the key take-away is plan for it and use it to your advantage.
Brett Farmiloe, founder & CEO of Markitors, a digital marketing company that connects small businesses to customers through organic search, asked small business owners and business professionals for their best tips for using their slow season and shared them on SCORE’s website recently. They provided some good ideas and here are some:
Get approvals before big trips. Summer can be a slow time for our business because we have so many of our high-end clients go on extended vacations. Before clients leave on trips, we ensure that we have designs approved and furniture ordered to make sure there isn’t too much pending while they are away. We set lots of design meetings in the spring to plan for the slower summer months. -- Alisha Taylor, Alisha Taylor Interiors
Plan to offer season specials. Although the weather in Sedona, Ariz., is beautiful year-round, we still tend to see a slow down towards the end of the year when it gets a little chilly. We plan for it by offering different types of retreats and specials during that time of the year. It is perfect for individuals or couples looking to travel around the holidays and allows for some new experiences internally as well. -- Gregory Drambour, Sedona Retreats
Test out new strategies. Seasonality is a huge factor for us. The hospitality industry ebbs and flows at different times, depending on what city you’re talking about. For example, in Phoenix, business slows down when the weather heats up. In New York, the slowdown happens in the cold winter months. Fortunately, when one city is slow, another one is busy as hospitality is never 100% dormant. While breaking into a new city isn’t feasible for every small business during a slow season, testing new strategies in your current market is. Take advantage of the slower flow of business to take a look at your existing processes, pinpoint opportunities for improvement, and use the slower months to build new things. -- Zack McCarty, Qwick
Focus on client retention. After the summer season burns out into fall, we typically experience a lull in business. We plan for this by leaning into customer retention. The ability to retain and expand existing customers helps us when we can't depend on significant new business during slow seasons. We look into data and find customers who can potentially expand their contract with us. -- Nik Sharma, Sharma Brands
Set aside funds and stay active. The slow season of our business (residential real estate investing) is the winter months, specifically December through February. We plan in advance by capitalizing on the active, fast-paced months for the rest of the year. We set aside the same percentage of money from every transaction even in the months when our income is much higher than the slow season. We have also found that our slow season is a great time to capitalize on growing our business. Many people in our industry take time off around the holidays, but we choose to work a few hours per day to network and keep our website and socials active. This sets us up for success once the slow season passes. -- Andy Kolodgie, The House Guys
Build relationships. If you often refuse lunch invitations from colleagues, now is the time to agree. When you are not busy, you can connect by eating lunch and drinking coffee together. By establishing friendship in this way, you can accumulate your contacts and prepare for more cooperation in the future. -- Abby Ha, WellPCB
Pivot your client focus. Our slow season normally comes after tax season ends. For the first three weeks or so after individuals and businesses have filed their taxes and submitted their returns, we hardly get any new clients. To effectively plan for this, we pivot our services to other possible clientele outside of our main target audience -- coaching businesses. For instance, we offer our services to schools and nonprofit organizations during and shortly after tax season. In exchange for a small, heavily discounted commission, we develop and implement highly effective marketing strategies/campaigns for local schools and nonprofit organizations. We also provide career guidance services to the students in these academic institutions and the communities that the NGOs serve. By pivoting our services, we are still getting paid, albeit much less, and we are increasing our brand’s visibility in niche market segments.-- Sai Blackbyrn, Coach Foundation
Dean Swanson is a volunteer Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director and regional vice president for the North West Region.