Many businesses experience a yearly off-season — a time when traffic is slower than the rest of the year. Some businesses adjust hours to accommodate fewer sales. In certain cases, companies might close completely during the off-season, before reopening later in the year.
If you’re not sure whether your business experiences an off-season, take a moment to review total sales — and total foot-traffic numbers if you run an in-person business. If possible, take a look at sales and traffic totals over a multi-year period. Make note of any periods when sales and/or traffic might have decreased cyclically, without any other influence from marketing.
A noticeable decrease in traffic, sales, or business interest that occurs regularly most likely means that your business endures an off-season. Fortunately, there are several ways your business can use an off-season to your advantage. Despite any inevitable slow points your company might experience, there are still things you can do to find success.
Gain a Better Understanding of Your Current Off-season Expenses
Just like any other time of the year, your company will often have expenses during the off-season. Whether you’re paying for inventory, utilities, or other costs, it’s important to understand what you’re spending at any given time.
As long as your company remains operational during the off-season, you’ll need to know exactly how much revenue you must generate to remain profitable.
Auditing your current products or services is a great way to identify off-season profits. You’ll need to know which of your products or services still sell during the off-season, and which items do not. This will help you track total revenue, and determine which items are still worth selling during non-peak months.
The best way to obtain knowledge on your off-season expenses is through your expense reports. Some companies keep expense reports in an online revenue management program, which might also track inventory, orders, and other sales-related figures. In certain cases, a company might still track expenses manually.
No matter how your organization tracks expenses, take the time to thoroughly analyze how each product has performed. Look for sales trends like rising or falling average order values, and be honest about which products might not remain profitable during the off-season.
Use This Downtime to Plan the Rest of the Year
You’ll typically have more time than normal during the off-season since fewer customers are walking through your doors. The best companies understand how to leverage this extra time to plan for the rest of the year.
Many companies choose to schedule employee training sessions during the off-season. With less time dedicated toward customer service, employees have time to refresh skill sets, learn new best practices, and familiarize themselves with a new product or service offerings. You can also take these weeks, or months, to implement strategies that improve workplace efficiency.
The off-season is also a great time to improve business plans. Take time with your team for a few brainstorming sessions, where you can identify new ways to achieve sales goals. Consider asking sales representatives — and other employees who don’t regularly contribute to high-level strategy — to participate. You’ll be able to reinvent your sales process to close more leads before business quickens.
Consider Diversifying Your Services
Some businesses see their off-season period as a time to “hibernate” until business improves. However, some of the best businesses use their off-season to diversify products or services.
There’s rarely a better time than an off-season to add new products or services to your available offering. With less traffic and fewer tasks to accomplish, your business can build products or services that satisfy any new or emerging customer needs.
Sometimes, a business might add a product or service only during their off-season. For example, a coffee shop might add seasonal hot chocolate to their menu, until tourists return with the warmer weather. Companies might also choose to start a delivery service during their off-season, to connect customers with products without any hassle on their part.
Other businesses adopt a community education approach to their off-season. They might host educational workshops, complimentary seminars, or other public events. Even with fewer customers in attendance, these businesses can develop a rapport with anyone in the area — even becoming a favorite for locals until business improves.
Downsize Your Inventory and Host an End-of-season Sale
Inventory is one of the biggest challenges a business can face as it approaches its off-season. As customers leave and sales dwindle, your company might have existing products you need to sell before they expire or lose value.
One major way that companies reduce their inventory is through an end-of-season sale. Let the community know that for a limited time, you’re reducing prices on your most popular goods and services. Once word spreads that your items will be on sale, open your doors and welcome potential customers inside.
Less inventory means more room for next year’s products. In addition, more sold products mean more profit in general, and less overhead that you’ll need to send back to a warehouse.
Downsizing also allows you to learn more about your customers: Which product bundles they like, which products sell well alongside others, and which profit margins promote the most sales.
Don’t Forget About the Customers
No matter the time of year, staying connected with customers is important to promote ongoing sales. It’s easy to engage with customers who are actively walking through your doors. However, you might find it more difficult to reach customers during the off-season, after most of your business has gone home for the year.
Despite a decrease in overall sales, there are still several ways that you can connect with clients and customers during the off-season. These include:
- Target markets unfamiliar with your products or services;
- Engage with audiences across online media channels;
- Create an email marketing strategy that provides helpful content to clients;
- Partner with local businesses that are still in-season;
- Create online content that further educates your customers;
- Integrate new marketing software into next year’s advertising plan;
- Service local customers in new ways;
- Host in-person or virtual events and giveaways.
These strategies can help you continually engage with clients. No matter the time of the year, you’ll be able to provide customers with valuable assets that improve satisfaction.
The right technology will also help you make the most of your business’s off-season. For example, you can implement automated software programs that better track inventory and total transactions, and provide valuable insight on sales and product trends.
You can also use technology to connect directly with customers across various social media platforms. Through social media, you can answer customer questions, broadcast new product offerings, even field reviews from satisfied buyers.
Technology won’t replace skilled trades, but it can still yield many benefits for your business. These include:
- Adding more revenue streams;
- Automating tasks and project management processes;
- Improving the customer experience;
- Educating potential customers on your products and services;
- Tracking sales information;
- Identifying optimal routes for product delivery or dispatching field workers;
- Storing documents and information securely online.
These benefits of technology can help your business improve operations and make the most of your off-season. Whether you’re a nursing home providing remote healthcare options or a technician in need of automated HVAC lead management services, technology can help you realize faster, more efficient operations.
Deep Clean the Business
Less foot traffic also gives your business the opportunity to deep clean. Even if your company doesn’t fill store windows with appealing products, it’s still important to maintain a clean, organized storefront.
After you address areas that customers see — including restrooms — it’s time to clean any back rooms. Clean any shelves, cabinets, or other areas in the back of the business typically used to store products. If you have a breakroom, empty and scrub the refrigerator with strong cleaning supplies.
Your storefront is the first opportunity you have to impress a passerby and convince them to spend time inside your store. From the front of your business to the back, make sure that the cleanliness of your store elevates the shopping experience for all customers.