Tuesday, 30th April 2019 | Sales,Marketing,Management
10 Ways to Survive Slow Times
Seasonal slowdowns are a common occurrence for many small-business owners. Here are some tips on how to survive the slow months and make the most of your time until sales spike again.
Spring has finally sprung across Canada! While most of us are excited for warmer weather, many small-business owners are fearing the start of a slow business season. Depending on the nature of your small business, there’s typically a season (or two) when you see a spike in sales and another that represents your biggest slump.
Regardless of when your slow business season takes place, it’s entirely possible for your business to survive–if not, thrive–with a little preparation and planning. Here are some ways you can make the most of a slow business season, and a few ideas on how to survive any slips in sales.
1. Anticipate your small business’ slow months
As a business owner, you know your operations better than anyone. So, looking back on previous years, it should be easy for you to predict which months will see fewer sales. As you plan out each year, avoid basing your sales targets on strictly your best months. Maintain a conservative approach with your budget and spending so that you don’t face a budget shortfall when sales are slowing down.
2. Strategize your savings
If you’ve planned ahead, you should be fully aware of when the slow business season will set in. With less revenue to work with at this time of year, many small-business-owners will need to implement a cost-savings plan, including some (or all) of the following measures:
- Reduced operating hours
- Fewer shifts for employees
- Smaller inventory purchases
- Discounts on excess or aging inventory
Remember: your savings plan needs to account for fewer customers and less revenue. Before you implement the savings tactics above, be sure to forecast your anticipated sales and budget needs based on the activity of previous years.
3. Plan for the rest of your year
When sales are slow, you’re likely to have extra time on your hands. Use this time to plan your marketing activities, budget forecast, inventory orders, staffing plans and more. Using the time you have now can set you up for success when business picks up again.
4. Undertake renovations and other fixes
Many small-business owners fear disrupting their operations with a renovation or upgrade, especially during their peak sales periods. This is why a slow business season is a perfect time to fix up your storefront or office space. If you own a restaurant or service-based business, slow months are also a great time for refreshing your menu and service offerings.
5. Rethink your marketing tactics
Some small businesses just aren’t seasonally relevant, such as landscaping companies trying to operate in the winter, or a snow-plow operator trying to drive sales in the summer. It can be hard to find market relevance, but a little creativity in your marketing will go a long way.
In your slow business season, consider hosting a giveaway that customers can redeem when the season is ripe; this can help your business name to remain top of mind year-round. You could also sponsor an event or hold a contest to ensure your name still generates a word-of-mouth buzz that carries you through the slow season.
6. Optimize your operations plan
Updating your operations and testing the validity of any new processes is something business owners simply can’t do during busy periods. When a slow business season approaches, it’s the perfect time to change course. Take a look at your regular procedures to evaluate where and how you can improve. This can include everything from customer service to accounting, shipping, inventory management and even invoicing.
7. Broaden your knowledge and network
It can be tough to take time off as a business owner. Slow times are the best time to take a day or two away for a conference, course, seminar or another event that will better your business. Not only will a learning opportunity to improve your own knowledge, but industry events provide ample networking options for you to gain partnerships that can better your overall business.
Connect with your local Chamber of Commerce or Board of Trade for details on upcoming events for small businesses in your area.
8. Reflect on customer feedback
Let’s face it: customers are leaving you reviews on Google, Yelp and other social media outlets whether you like it or not. Even though it’s a best practice to respond to your reviews (even the positive ones), it can be tough to carve out the time to do so regularly.
Use the extra hours you have during a slow business season to not only review and respond to all of your feedback, but also implement any changes required if you receive recurring negative comments regarding your products or services.
9. Revisit your website
Even if your website is brand new, there’s always room for improvement where SEO is concerned. A little effort goes a long way when it comes to optimizing your search ranking. A few quick checks you can implement include:
- Ensuring you have title tags, headings and alt-tags on your site
- Updating and implementing keywords throughout
- Fixing any broken links
- Checking your page-load speeds
10. Evaluate your social media efforts
While you’re updating your website, a slow business season is also the perfect time to check in on social media. Even if you have an agency or freelancer running your channels for you, how often are you looking at your ROI?
Now that you have a few extra hours, check up on your social performance and metrics. Ask yourself if you’re reaching the right audiences on the right platforms. If not, consider rethinking your approach to ensure you’re making the most from your investment on social.
When your slow times rolls around, don’t panic. With solid forecasting and planning in place, you should be able to predict when your slow times will occur each year. With this additional foresight, you’ll be able to make the most of your time, ensure you have processes in place to account for any slumps in sales and avoid the fear that can come when sales slow.
Video marketing for small businesses
As commerce moves increasingly online, small businesses are looking for ways to get an edge on their competition and video marketing is a promising strategy. Take a look at these numbers: According to Google, YouTube reaches more 18- to 49-year olds in an average week than all cable TV networks—combined. And it’s more than reach. Video is a strong medium for selling, too. In a 2020 report by Wyzowl, 84% of respondents said they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video.
The data is there. It’s clear that video has a place in marketing small businesses, but effective implementation is another thing entirely. If you’re already using video, do you have the resources and know-how to execute it effectively? And if you’re not, why not? In this article, we’ll share some ideas and best practices for getting the most out of video marketing. Types of videos to consider As a visual medium, video has very few restrictions. If you can tell a story visually, you can tell it on video. That said, your marketing clip may not be the best place to try out an avant-garde approach. Luckily, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. These 9 types of video are tried and tested to get you the views and conversions you’re after.
These short videos are the most common type of video marketing out there. Running around 90 seconds, a product overview shows the main elements and benefits of your product or service. Most television ads are product overviews. When shooting this kind of video, keep things short and sweet.
Think of a teaser video as an amuse bouche for your upcoming product or event. As short as a couple of seconds, the teaser video is designed to pique the interest of your viewers, exciting and engaging them. As an example, imagine you own a kitchen supply shop and you have a new, imported pepper mill coming in. To market this, you could film a teaser with just an up-close glimpse of the grinder plates in action. You could even tie in a contest by having your audience guess the appliance. The idea of a teaser is to arouse interest and foster engagement.
Similar to product overviews, explainers are frequently animated spots that break down products that would be difficult to demonstrate otherwise. If you have a complex or virtual product to sell, you might consider an explainer.
Livestreaming videos are interactive and, due to their availability on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, free and extremely easy to set up. When you livestream you can speak to your audience directly and they can respond to you in the comments section. This is a live medium, so it’s important to make sure you have help with moderation but livestreaming can be the perfect way to share a Q&A or an event. You can showcase your expertise while making your viewers feel like they’ve had an intimate interaction.
Video blogs, or vlogs, are video-based posts designed to inform or educate. They’re suitable for how-tos, tips, or for information that breaks down easily into smaller chunks.
If you’re trying to show someone something more complex than suitable for a vlog, a video tutorial may work well. For example, let’s say you own a photography shop and want to share how to replace your LCD screen on a certain camera. A video tutorial will work perfectly. For computer-based tutorials, the content could be as simple as recording what you’re doing on your own screen.
Milestone or leadership announcement
If your business has reached a new milestone or has had a change in leadership, you could put out a press release and hope it gets read. Or, you could produce a video that captures behind-the-scenes content and showcases the personalities of the people involved. This is your chance to draw your viewers in and make them feel that they’re getting to see what your company is all about. Milestone videos can also help bridge the gap created by COVID and make your viewers feel connected to you and your business.
Contest or promotion
Running a contest or promotion is an established marketing tactic and using video only makes it stronger. As contests have closing dates, it’s critical to get the video shot well in advance.
Webinar or interview
Like a panel at a conference, a webinar or interview can educate and inform your viewers. Make sure you’ve selected a quiet space with a visually appealing background, and that your interviewer is knowledgeable and comfortable in their role. Webinars work well where the buying process is complex or lengthy.
As you can see, no matter your purpose or type of information, there’s a style of video for it. Start simply by running a livestream event or a useful tutorial and work your way up to the more expert applications.
Mitigate risk and potential cash flow issues with a business line of credit
Small business owners know that sometimes businesses need cash. Sometimes they need it fast. Liquidity is a lifeline for small businesses, and owners need to make sure they have the tools in place for every eventuality. A business line of credit is a strong defence against volatility, emergencies, or simple fluctuations, extending a continuous option of cash liquidity so that cash flow never becomes a problem. Read on for more about business lines of credit, how they work, and whether your small business would benefit from a line of credit.
What is a business line of credit and why would you use one?
Just like a personal line of credit, a business line of credit is a loan that gets you access to capital that you can use to meet your needs. For small businesses, these needs might be purchasing inventory, replacing or repairing equipment, renovations, paying off unexpected expenses, or other short-term cash flow gaps. Cash flow allows you to be nimble and make decisions quickly. With a business line of credit, you can simply take out an advance on a pre-approved amount with its own predetermined repayment plan to meet your short-term needs.
A business line of credit from iCapital is an unsecured line of credit with pre-negotiated interest rates and repayment terms. With this product, you can access any amount of money up to your limit on an as-needed basis. And, when you take out a business line of credit with iCapital, our software will automatically send a notification when you become eligible for credit limit increases so you’ll always have up-to-date information on your available cash flow. If you’re interested in a business line of credit, simply apply online with your bank statements and your application will be reviewed on the same day. You can expect funding in 24 hours or less.
Alternatives to a business line of credit
A business line of credit is not the only product you can use to ensure you have access to cash flow for your business. Other products include:
- Term loan
With a term loan, you repay daily or weekly over a set term. There is no interest rate but rather a predetermined fee negotiated by you and the lender, based on your credit score, length of time in business, and other factors. This type of product might work well for a single unforeseen expense such as replacing broken equipment.
- Merchant cash advance
Also, a one-time loan product, a merchant cash advance is perfect for those in retail, hospitality, or food service-type businesses. Rather than having a set repayment amount, you repay based on a percentage of the daily sales transacted through your credit/debit machine. This means that you can get much-needed cash flow without worrying about closures or slow seasons.
- Secured business loan
With collateral (typically property), you can get a business loan to use toward your expenses. As a secured product, you may be able to negotiate lower interest rates and longer repayment terms.
Cash flow is absolutely vital for small businesses and it can be hard to keep on hand. Business loans, cash advances, term loans, and lines of credit are all powerful products to help you keep your business running smoothly. Applying for a business line of credit will ensure you can enjoy the peace of mind knowing that you have access to a pre-approved amount, should the need arise.
Small business financing Canada ,Business loans for bad credit ,Management
Better business & customer service in 2021
As 2021 grows closer, many small business owners are making plans with an eye towards rebounding from a year disrupted by the pandemic. Now is the time to plan, but COVID-19 is really only one of many variables impacting small businesses right now. The pandemic affected how products and services were offered and delivered, and will have implications well into 2021. But savvy business owners are also planning against other market forces like the shift to big box stores and the uber-fast delivery expectations set by Amazon Prime. As you build your new year’s strategy, consider these ideas to make your business stronger in 2021.
Make purchases and delivery easier—for everyone
According to web registrar GoDaddy, “Roughly half of those [businesses] surveyed had a website or active social media account before the pandemic hit. That number has almost doubled.” Businesses who want to maintain or grow during COVID-19 are flocking to online and the next big shift is going to be the adoption of platforms that do everything in one place: sales, email communication, and even marketing.
By undergoing a digital transformation, small businesses can improve their own system while continuing to offer top-notch customer service—and it’s not as complicated as you might think. Take for example, Coffee Tree Roastery, a small shop in Toronto’s West End that, as a response to the COVID-19 retail shut downs, began selling online and offering local delivery or pick-up. They chose the Canadian platform Shopify, which allows them to manage everything from online orders and payments, to in-store POP transactions with one system. For their customers, this represents an easy way to order and pay 24/7.
Some businesses are new to being online, while others are ready to adopt better digital tools. Wherever your business is in regards to your digital presence, now is the time to invest in online.
Go all-in on customer service
It’s tough to compete with the lightning fast delivery times of Amazon Prime or the rock bottom prices offered by some big box stores. Our advice? Don’t. Cultivate your advantage where the giant retailers can’t compete—the personal touch.
You’ve already taken steps towards an online platform so your customers receive the fast and easy ordering process they deserve. Next, figure out what more you can do to make shopping with you pleasant, stress-free, and perhaps even memorable. Free local deliveries, discounts for in-store pick-up, and personalized invitations on key dates like birthdays or anniversaries are all terrific ideas.
Find ways to stand out beyond your customer service efforts, too. Take 15 minutes with your team to brainstorm strategies that make your product or brand memorable, with an added bonus for “feel good” touches. Even if you’re only allowing curb-side pick-ups, consider putting out a small hot apple cider to warm up your customers. Include a hand-written note on the bag for the personal touch. Or, tuck a little freebie like a candy cane or chocolate into the order.
Earn a loyal following
Building your brand is about more than just awareness. You want to earn your customers’ loyalty. Think about ways you can inspire your customers to not only return for more of your product or services, but also recommend you to their friends, family, and colleagues.
Tap into what matters. For example, if your customers value their local shops, find ways to reinforce this like giving them a branded reusable shopping bag. Remember your customers’ names and listen when they tell you about their lives. Recalling their order or their children’s names will go a long way to making them feel special. Encourage repeat customers with VIP offers or discounts. Positive interactions are an incredibly powerful advertisement for your business.
There are many challenges facing small businesses as we roll into 2021, but there’s no shortage of pathways to success. Customers want what they’ve always wanted—fast and easy ordering, a pleasant experience, and a personal touch. COVID-19 has caused notable changes in the shopping experience, but good service is always appreciated, even from six feet away.
Small business financing Canada ,Management
5 ideas for stimulating sales through this pandemic winter
For Canadian small business owners, the approach of winter without a COVID vaccine holds some uncertainty. Businesses that have managed to adapt and pivot during the first stages of the pandemic face another slow season—this is especially true for those in areas retreating back into stage 2 restrictions. With more time at home, people appear to be spending more time on social media, particularly on YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn. (Facebook has always had strong usage rates.) Whether it’s to connect with friends and family virtually, to search for jobs, or to enjoy online diversions, it’s clear Canadians are taking to social media. This is an opportunity for Canadian small business owners. Here are 5 fresh ideas to connect with buyers, increase awareness of the business and products/services, and deepen loyalty using social media.
#1. Make ‘em laugh
Canadians are under a tremendous amount of pressure. If you can engage your followers in a fun or funny way, you’ll have a good chance of not only keeping their attention but also leaving them with a positive feeling about your company. Skip cold corporate speak if favour of messaging with a light and relatable tone. Puns and in-jokes are great but make sure your humour is relatable and uncontroversial.
#2. Run a contest
Who doesn’t like the chance to win something? Engage your audience with a contest like this one by SAOR Studio that’s helping its members to stick to their exercise regime with a workout bingo. The game is proving to be almost as much fun as a night out at the bingo hall—members are even posting their progress on social media. The big prize? Complete a line and receive 15% off on gym merchandise—a win-win.
3. Use livestreams
Nothing stops the runway for Canadian fashion brand Miik. Using Instagram and Facebook Live, the Toronto-based clothier has taken the catwalk digital and now customers can tune in for virtual viewings and Q&As with the owners. Borrow this strategy to host industry “shows'' or to launch new products.
4. Post often
Even if you’re open for foot traffic, people are increasingly hesitant to be out and about, so posting regularly is more important than ever. Get creative with your content so you don’t give your customers social media fatigue. Consider the Halifax Thunderbirds. While this Canadian lacrosse team is side-lined, they’re keeping their audience entertained and engaged with squad news, fan pictures, and anecdotes from past matches.
The National Ballet of Canada is taking a similar tack by sharing behind-the-scenes posts of dancers in their homes and offering free, live virtual ballet classes and performances. The same strategy that works for athletes and performers can build relationships with retailers. Edmonton-based New Classics uses their Instagram to showcase their ethically crafted and environmentally conscious slow fashion items so customers can window shop from their couch before ordering online.
5. Be inspiring
Tone is everything and these days Canadians are looking for brands that make them feel good. Search out and post thoughtful and inspirational (but not saccharine) statements and ideas that show off your brand voice. Take for example, Mail Chimp, the marketing platform. They’ve peppered their feed with lovely, simple animations with positive, encouraging phrases like "It feels good to put something back into the world" and "Making the most of it sometimes requires a little something extra." Choose statements that are in line with your brand voice and couch them in your own design.
Canadian small businesses needn’t fear the coming cold months. With the right social media strategy and outreach, they can meet their customers where they are—in their comfy clothes, at home.