by Yuwanda Black
Ahh, the pleasures of downtime. The phone is not ringing, your inbox is not full of orders to be processed and sales have been pretty good. BUT, it's what you do during this "lull" that can make or break your company's busy season.
Complacency kills - sales, motivation, innovation - you name it! If your business is seasonal, there are things you should be doing during off-peak times to ensure that you make the sale during your busy season.
Outlined below are three areas that you should be paying particular attention to before you relax during off-peak times.
1. Inventory: What's sold? What didn't? Why? Can you get the same goods cheaper with another vendor? Will you be able to get your best sellers in sufficient quantity when your busy season rolls around again? Do you have enough stock on hand now, even though it is your "slow season?" Can/should you increase your offerings by adding complementary products/services?
Your inventory is your business. Now that you have some time, take stock of your merchandise. Examine prices, styles, quantity, vendor contacts, new merchandise offerings, etc. The effort you expend can add exponentially to your bottom line over time.
2. Advertising/Marketing: If you don't have a marketing budget, now is the perfect time to devise one. If you do have one, then you know that it requires constant tweaking.
Now's the perfect time to pull out sales charts and see: What ads worked? Which ones didn't? Which medium (newspapers, postcards, sales letters, Internet ads, etc.) produced more actual sales and/or generated more leads? What was the cost per sale/lead from each medium? Which ad programs should you expand, cut, explore more? What partnerships can you form with like vendors? How much will it cost? Etc.
You should also be pre-paying for upcoming seasonal ads. Advertising during heavy holiday periods (Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, etc.) can be expensive, and there's no guarantee that space will be available if you wait until the last minute.
You will be better able to track your ads and make better financial choices than if you wait until the last minute. Your money will go further because ad takers are much more likely to offer discounts if you pay early, and in full.
3. Work Flow/Management: Systems and processes can always be upgraded to meet the demands of your business.
For example, is your customer database automated? If not, now is a good time to get all contact information on your customers into some kind of easily retrievable, automated system. If you really want to increase sales, find out who has spent what over a period of time. This way, you can creative incentive/reward programs for your best customers.
Do you use software to keep your books? Do you update it on a regular basis? Do you have an accountant, financial advisor, representative at your banking institution?
Now is the time to catch up on paperwork you've been lax on, and to establish relationships that can propel your business to the next level.
NOTE: Every small business owner should develop a relationship with a bank. Even if you don't think that you have anything to offer them, or them you, remember, you are growing a business. Having a relationship with a banker can pay off in more ways than you know over time.
Who knows when you might need a home equity loan, a small business loan, a business credit line, an increase on a credit card, etc. Although your credit history carries the most weight with banks, when your application could go either way, an endorsement from your banker could be just the thing to push an application through.
These are but a few ways to use effectively utilize the slow periods of your business. You don't have to spend every moment of the off season taking care of these tasks, but it is a good idea to always set aside a portion of time when your business is not crazy to give it a checkup.
This way, you can guarantee continuous profits year round.
Yuwanda Black is an Author/Instructor/Speaker,
and small business expert who advises others on how to achieve the
dream of working for themselves. She has written and published
numerous small business articles and press releases
in promotion of
her ventures. Her current venture, EthnicVendors.com is an
online shopping portal and catalog distributor for ethnic goods and
services. It is a subsidiary of EthnicHomeDecor.com.
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