Posted at 1:02 PM
According to data from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 1 in 6 businesses has a seasonal component. This means that the bulk of their sales happens during a specific part of the year. For example, wedding-related and travel businesses make the most of their revenue during summer.
With seasonal businesses, you only have a small time frame to turn a profit and you need to leverage your off-season to help you achieve that goal. Cash flow issues are common with seasonal businesses, and expenses can rack up quickly if left unmanaged. With this in mind, we’ve consolidated a list of 5 tips to help seasonal business owners stay on top of their game all year round:
1. Use Your Off-Season for Marketing
The off-season should only be a downtime for your seasonal business operations but not for your marketing campaigns. Keep the conversation going with customers through social networking, e-mail newsletters, and other marketing collateral. Use social media to share interesting and educational information with your followers that relate to your business. Some ideas for social engagement can include:
- Announce on your social media platform that you are planning an opening event this season and invite your followers to suggest a concept or theme. Reward your chosen contribution with incentives or a discount.
- Share relevant news from your sector and invite your followers to offer their own opinions. Retweet interesting comments, which could encourage some to join the discussion.
- Host a weekly Twitter chat on a fun topic in your field. You can employ influencers to help increase the reach, reach out to volunteers for moderation or even team up with another brand/company.
You should also come up with a strategy that will encourage referrals from previous clients. It’s important that you build a personal bond with your customers to build trust and confidence in your brand. Whether they're hiring your services or purchasing your product for the first time, customers like to feel that they know the people they're doing business with.
The best approach to customer promotions is to be countercyclical. While some competitors might be quiet during their downtime, take the opportunity to reach out to your target audience before the busy season reaches its peak.
2. Manage Your Expenses During The Off-Season
Make it a point to regularly review your business plan and financial statements before and after your busy season. What supplemental income generating activity do you have in place during your slower periods? How will you minimize your monthly expenses during lulls?
Set financial goals at the start of the off-season and measure your success afterward. Then adjust and improve each year.
3. Address Staffing Concerns
Hiring expenses constitute a major portion of a seasonal business’ operating expenses so a balance must be found between the cost to keep and cost to replace the staff.
For business owners, the struggle is in motivating short-term contract workers. Short term work doesn’t really inspire loyalty or stellar job performance unless the owner takes action. The best approach is to create a long-term relationship with your short-term staff. Manage expectations by being clear about the length of the job. Take time to train them in new skills, so that they are motivated to come to work and leave the job with a sense of satisfaction and an eagerness to return next season. Showing your staff that they matter regardless of how short their stay with you is will make them feel important and inspired to perform well in their jobs.
Additionally, consider retaining some of your best staff members to help you during low and off-seasons. Having some continuity in who works for you can help make the transition to the seasonal peak easier.
4. Choose a Credit Card Processor that Doesn’t Charge Inactivity Fees
It’s important to make it easy for your customers to pay you for goods and services because missing out on a seasonal sale means having to wait until next season! Allow customers to pay by cash, credit card, and contactless payment systems (e.g. Apple Pay).
Traditional merchant account providers often charge seasonal businesses maintenance fees during off months. Fortunately, there are mobile credit card processors, including Square, that do not charge inactivity fees. They also offer easy account setup, low per swipe fees, basic inventory management, accounting software integration, and other useful services for growing and maintaining your seasonal business.
5. Find Complementary Revenue Streams For Slow Times
Venturing into a complementary product or service offering during slow times of the year will help offset the effects of seasonality and are a good way to make use of offseason staff and resources.
Just make sure that alternative revenue streams don’t take your focus away from your primary business.
- Landscaping companies often handle property maintenance, plow snow, and install holiday decorations during the winter offseason.
- A wedding planner might plan company holiday parties during the slower winter months.
- Travel businesses might offer special discounts for holiday trips during the winter months.
- Eateries that close after tourist season may offer catering or other food services.
Running a seasonal business can be fun, but the challenge is knowing how to maximize your earnings all year round. Take your off-season as an opportunity to evaluate your business plans, connect with your customers through social media, and find alternative sources of income related to your seasonal business. Using your slow season wisely will help keep your business going for years to come.
Blogged by Maggie Aland is a staff writer for Fit Small Business and editor of the Marketing and Reviews sections. She writes on a variety of marketing topics, ranging from newspaper ads to how to market your business on Facebook. Before joining Fit Small Business, Maggie worked as a marketing associate at a niche publishing company. There she was responsible for determining the marketing plan and keeping up with the budget of 10+ B2B products. Her experience includes email, direct mail, social media, events, and more. When not editing or writing, you can find Maggie looking for the best brunch spots in NYC. Maggie LinkedIn