No matter what business you’re in, no matter how great your product, no matter who’s buying, every business goes through a lull or slow period during the year. Making strategic use of this time can help businesses lay a solid foundation for the months and years that follow.
If you’re in a specific industry, you know from past experience or outside influences when business is going to be slower than normal.
Here are 10 suggestions to mitigate losses when business is slow:
Conduct a business audit
When was the last time you took an in-depth look at your financials? Set up a better inventory process? Cleaned out your warehouse? Figured out your hourly rate? What’s your success rate on proposals? Are you making more money this year than last? Which clients are the most profitable? Do you even know how much money you need to make to break even?
Improve customer service
You already know that stellar customer service is the foundation of business success, and this is never truer than during periods of business downturn. When business is slow, you need to go above the call of duty to show your customers that they are important to you.
Look for educational and training opportunities for you and your employees. Whether it’s fine tuning current skills or learning a new service, it’s a great time to increase abilities.
Instead of waiting for the work to come to you, put yourself out there and make it happen. Face-to-face networking is the single most effective thing you can do to promote your business. Check out your local chamber of commerce or meetup.com for meetings of industry groups you have experience working with.
Offer employees incentives
Offer contest to employees based on their sales and/or customer retention. Last month at Benjamin Franklin, The Punctual Plumber, we offered all our staff TVs if they reached our sales goal for the month. I am happy to report I picked up 12 TVs for our employees. Remember to keep incentives realistic and obtainable. If you can’t afford to offer paid time off, televisions or tickets to the Cardinals, don’t do it.
Find something completely out of the ordinary whether it’s a holiday, event or community organization with which to partner. Your efforts can be rewarded greatly. For example, November 18th is National Toilet Day, and one of our employees dressed up as Benjamin Franklin and delivered chocolate cupcakes with toilet toppers to all of the major media outlets in the area. It was fun, it broke the norm, and it got us noticed.
Desk drawer digging
You know all those business cards you’ve collected over the past year that are accumulated in your desk drawer? Pull out a few, and connect with those folks. Put them in a bowl, and pull out a winner; offer them a free or discounted service, free meal or just call to see how you can be of help to them.
If you know the lull is coming, start preparing six months in advance. Increase visibility by working on your SEO, promotions, introduce a new special service only good during that time period or update your website.
Contests/Referral discounts for customers
Engage your current customers in your social media efforts by holding a contest. Offer a free service, cash or gift card to your favorite restaurant, etc., for participating. Make sure it’s creative, fun and easy for them. Additionally, a great way to say “thank you” to your customers is offering a referral discount. It can be as simple as $10 off their next service.
Maintain a positive attitude
Keeping a positive attitude is perhaps the hardest thing to do when times get slow. You are on edge with no income and bills are coming in. Yet, you cannot wallow in a defeatist attitude that will only slow you down.
During difficult times, keep in mind the title of the popular book by Robert Schuller, “Tough Times Don’t Last But Tough People Do.” Every misfortune carries the seeds of growth and betterment if you can keep perspective. To help keep a positive attitude, socialize with friends and engage in activities you enjoy on a regular basis. This will help lighten your outlook and come back to the office with a fresh perspective.