Even the best-run businesses go through slow periods. Whether it’s due to a sluggish economic period or just a particular time of year – such as school holidays or the Christmas holiday period – most businesses will go through a lull every now and then.
It’s important you don’t just twiddle your thumbs and wait for things to pick up again. Instead, use the time constructively to do things that you don’t usually have time for. Here’s a list of things to consider doing when business is running a little slow:
- Focus on the bigger picture
- Have a sale
- Improve your relationships with your clients
- In-house client visits
- Analyse your marketing strategy
- Plan for the next 12 months
- Take some time off
Focus on the bigger picture
Running a small business means spending a lot of time doing the hard day-to-day tasks. Subsequently, it can be difficult to find time to sit back and analyse how things are going and where the business is heading. If time is always in short supply, a bit of a lull can provide you with the opportunity to focus on the bigger picture. Take the chance to analyse your recent performance as this can help you refine your business strategy and stay on course. The age old adage of “working on your business rather than in your business” fits well when things are going slow.
Have a sale
Everybody loves a sale – it’s a tried and tested way of improving business. Of course don’t go clearing out all your stock at rock-bottom prices if you’re just experiencing a bit of quiet period. Look closely at your cash flow to assess what impact the slow down is having on your ability to pay suppliers and creditors. Once you’ve established your cash flow requirements you are in a good position to determine how much you want to markdown your stock for the sale.
Improve your relationships with your clients
When things are humming along nicely, small things can often get overlooked. Undertaking actions to strengthen your relationship with key clients is often one of them. This can be easily fixed in a number of ways. Consider offering your most important clients special discounts or simply make a greater effort to keep in contact with them by sending them newsletters, brochures or emails. Staying in contact with clients is a relatively easy exercise that can really help improve your business.
In house client visits
From personal experience one of the key programs I ran with clients was to have VIP nights. We invited the local real estate agents to a VIP night and had an info session on mould and the impact of mould in rental properties. The night provided them the opportunity to be able to have a hands on look at the equipment and had a better understanding why mould cant just be “wiped off”. It created an informal atmosphere and I was able to give them a better understanding of the processes involved in remediation – even better they now could understand our invoicing! Try this with your real estate agents or builders, strata managers or large commercial clients.
Analyse your marketing strategy
Time analysing your marketing strategy is time well spent. Take the opportunity to ask yourself whether you can improve your marketing and consider if there are any areas that are letting you down. Your advertising could possibly do with an update or maybe you could work at creating a stronger brand for your business?
Other marketing strategies to consider include direct mail, email and text. You might also consider looking at your online and social media presence. The sight of Facebook and twitter links on seemingly every webpage suggests that many businesses have them just because they can; however, while this may be true in a lot of cases, it doesn’t mean you should dismiss them out of hand. When used properly, they can provide a valuable means of staying in contact with clients.
Also, look at your website – is there room to enhance your client’s experience when they visit it? As the buying process typically begins online you need to make sure that your website portrays a professional image and draws client’s attention. Keep your website simple and focus on what your customer wants to see – they don’t want 20 pages of information all about “you”. They want to see a solution to their needs – what solution can you offer them?
There is a vast amount of channels you can use to improve your marketing but before venturing down one path at the cost of others, it is best to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each so you arrive at a strategy that is best going to get your message across to your target market.
Plan for your next 12 months
As the year draws to a close, start giving some thought about strategic planning for 2014. What will you do differently? What will you do more of? Less of? What are the key elements that will grow your business to the next level? An easy exercise to do is to have a vision in mind of where you want to be – then work backwards. If your vision is to be the largest / best / most responsive carpet cleaner or restorer in your area – what do you need to do to make that happen.
One of our key challenges that we do every year is to cut costs by 10%. It’s a challenge but one we are able to do – sometimes its as simple as renegotiating your mobile phone and internet provider. Try looking for off shore printing suppliers. One of the best things we did was move to an off shore printer – the same product we brought in Australia for $2.68, we ended up paying 84c. This was a substantial saving over a 12-month period.
Take some time off
Small business owners rarely take time off simply because if they do there is no one else to keep the business running. This is the tough reality of operating a small venture. However, everyone needs a break at some stage – especially those that have been working long days over many months. If you know that business is going to drop off for a short while and you really need a break it’s best to take the opportunity then and come back refreshed and energized to get back into the swing of things.
Most businesses go through lulls from time to time. However, by making the most of this quiet time you may just strengthen your business going forward.
Attached is an Annual Action Plan Template – look at this and see where you can make best use of the quiet times for a more productive 2014.