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.
Navigating Cash Flow and Profitability
The Basics: Cash Flow vs. Profit
Before we dive into the debate over which is more important, let's clarify what cash flow and profit mean.
Cash Flow: Cash flow represents the movement of money in and out of your business during a specific period. It encompasses the cash your business generates from its operations, such as sales and expenses.
Profit: Profit, on the other hand, is a measure of your business's financial performance over a certain period. It's calculated by subtracting your total expenses from your total revenue. Profit can be categorized into different types, such as gross profit, operating profit, and net profit.
The Cash Flow Argument
Cash flow is often considered the lifeblood of any business, and for good reason. Here's why cash flow deserves your attention:
Short-Term Viability: Cash flow directly impacts your ability to pay bills, cover payroll, and invest essential resources. Without adequate cash flow, your business may struggle to meet its immediate financial obligations, which can lead to severe consequences.
Flexibility: A healthy cash flow provides flexibility. It enables you to seize opportunities, whether investing in new equipment, expanding your product line, or taking advantage of vendor discounts.
Risk Mitigation: Cash flow can buffer against unexpected financial shocks, such as economic downturns or unforeseen expenses. A solid cash reserve can help weather storms that might otherwise jeopardize your business's survival.
The Profit Perspective
While cash flow is undoubtedly crucial, profit remains a fundamental metric. Here's why profit should not be overlooked:
Long-Term Sustainability: Profitability is a long-term indicator of your business's health. Consistently generating profit is essential for reinvesting in the business, repaying debt, and providing a return on investment to stakeholders.
Attracting Investors: Investors and lenders often scrutinize your profit margins when deciding whether to support your business. A history of profitability can make your business more appealing to potential partners and financiers.
Valuation: When it comes to selling your business or attracting potential buyers, profit plays a significant role in determining its value. Higher profits generally translate to a higher selling price.
Striking a Balance
So, which is more important: cash flow or profit? The answer lies in striking a balance between the two. Both metrics are essential, and they are interconnected. A profitable business can generate cash, and strong cash flow can result from effective management of profits.
To strike the right balance:
Cash Flow Management: Implement strategies to manage your cash flow effectively. This includes monitoring your accounts receivable and payable, optimizing inventory, and establishing a financial cushion for emergencies.
Profit Maximization: Focus on improving profitability by controlling expenses, increasing sales, and optimizing your pricing strategy. Consistently generating profit is a sign of a healthy and sustainable business.
Financial Planning: Create a robust financial plan that accounts for cash flow and profit goals. This will help you align your short-term cash needs with long-term profitability objectives.
Small business financing Canada
Three Effective Small-Business Growth Strategies
If you're a small business owner looking to make a mark in the competitive world of big business, it's important to consider which growth strategies will work best for you. While strategies for growth are not one size fits all, these three key approaches offer valuable insights and fast-track the growth of your small business. Explore these strategies and see how they can propel your business forward.
Market Segmentation: Narrow Your Focus
Market segmentation involves identifying a small niche within the broader marketplace to target your sales efforts. Instead of trying to cater to everyone, be specific about your ideal customers and direct all your marketing and sales efforts toward them. The key to successful market segmentation is overcoming the fear of eliminating potential customers. Targeting the entire world and expecting profits from all areas is impossible. Focusing on a specific segment can forge a stronger connection with your core customers, resulting in more profitable growth.
To implement market segmentation effectively, start by conducting thorough market research to identify your target audience's characteristics, needs, and preferences. Tailor your products, services, and marketing messages to resonate with their desires and pain points. By understanding your niche market intimately, you can position your business as the go to solution for their needs, fostering customer loyalty and driving growth.
Become an Industry Leader: Set Yourself Apart
Becoming an industry leader is a long-term strategy that requires consistent effort, a clear goal, and a willingness to take calculated risks. It's crucial to continually enhance your business model, roll out strategic marketing campaigns, and always keep your target market in mind. While your competitors may follow a similar path, feel free to differentiate yourself by taking a unique approach. By standing out from the crowd, you can gain a competitive advantage and reach your destination more quickly.
To become an industry leader, focus on these key areas:
- Innovation: Invest in research and development to create new, improved products or services that address your customers' evolving needs. Stay ahead of industry trends and constantly seek ways to differentiate yourself.
- Thought Leadership: Position yourself as an expert in your field by sharing valuable insights and knowledge through content marketing, industry events, and public speaking engagements. By establishing yourself as a trusted authority, you can attract attention, build credibility, and attract new customers.
- Networking: Build strategic partnerships and alliances with other businesses in your industry. Look for opportunities to collaborate on projects, share resources, and tap into each other's expertise. This synergy can lead to increased profitability for all parties involved.
Leverage Partnerships: Strength in Collaboration
While big businesses often have the financial means to establish partnerships, small businesses can still leverage the power of collaboration. Don't be discouraged by potential negotiation challenges. There are businesses out there that can benefit from what you offer, and vice versa. Focus on building strategic partnerships and joint ventures that allow you to share knowledge, expertise, and resources, leading to mutual growth and increased profits.
To make partnerships successful:
- Mutual Benefit: Ensure that any partnership aligns with the goals and values of both parties. Look for opportunities where each business can bring unique strengths, creating a win-win situation.
- Clear Agreements: Clearly define each party's terms, expectations, and responsibilities. Establish transparent commission or payment structures to avoid misunderstandings down the road.
- Collaboration Tools: Utilize technology and collaboration tools to streamline communication, project management, and resource sharing. This can enhance efficiency and foster a seamless partnership experience.
Small business financing Canada ,Marketing
Unleashing Your Business's Potential: 4 Reasons to Embrace the Power of Small Business Loans
4 Reasons to Embrace the Power of Small Business Loans
Starting or growing a small business requires financial resources; sometimes, you need additional funds. This is where small business loans come into play. Small business loans can be valuable to expand your operations, manage cash flow, purchase inventory or supplies, launch marketing campaigns, or upgrade your technological infrastructure. In this blog post, we will explore four common reasons why taking out a small business loan might be a strategic move for your business.
Expanding your business operations:
One of the most common reasons to consider a small business loan is to fund the expansion of your business operations. Expansion could involve opening a new location, renovating an existing space, or investing in new equipment or machinery. By securing a loan, you can access the necessary capital to cover upfront costs and allow your business to reach new heights. Expanding your operations can attract a broader customer base, increase revenue, and enhance your overall market presence.
Managing cash flow:
Cash flow management is crucial for the success and stability of any business. Even profitable businesses can face periods of cash shortages due to delayed client payments, unexpected expenses, or seasonal fluctuations. A small business loan can provide a temporary financial buffer during these challenging times. By bridging the gap between payables and receivables, you can ensure that your business can continue to operate smoothly, meet its financial obligations, and avoid disruptions in day-to-day operations.
Purchasing inventory or supplies:
For businesses that rely on inventory or supplies, having access to a consistent and well-stocked inventory is essential. However, purchasing inventory or supplies can strain a small business's cash flow, especially when there is a need for bulk orders or a sudden surge in demand. A small business loan can provide the necessary funds to purchase inventory in large quantities, take advantage of bulk discounts, or invest in new product lines. This enables your business to meet customer demand promptly, maintain competitive pricing, and potentially increase sales and profits.
Launching marketing and advertising campaigns:
Effective marketing and advertising are essential for business growth and attracting new customers. However, these endeavours can be costly, especially when targeting a diverse audience through various channels. A small business loan provides the financial resources to invest in impactful initiatives such as social media campaigns, SEO strategies, print media, and influencer partnerships. By allocating funds to these areas, you gain a competitive edge, expand your reach, and achieve a higher return on investment, fueling your business's success.
Upgrading technological infrastructure:
Maintaining a competitive edge and operational efficiency hinges on having up-to-date technological infrastructure in the rapidly evolving digital landscape. However, technology upgrades, such as implementing new software systems, improving cybersecurity measures, or purchasing new hardware, can be expensive. A small business loan can help cover the costs of these upgrades, allowing your business to streamline operations, enhance productivity, and deliver better products or services to customers. Investing in technology can future-proof your business, ensuring you stay relevant and adaptable in an ever-evolving market.
As small business owners, a loan can be a game-changer. It enables expansion, cash flow management, inventory acquisition, impactful marketing campaigns, and technological upgrades. These loans fuel business goals and growth. However, approach this decision carefully. Evaluate your needs, finances, and repayment capabilities. Responsible use of small business loans positions your business for success and unlocks its full potential.
Small business financing Canada
Customer retention best practices for your small business
In 2023, the business landscape will be more dynamic, with constantly evolving trends and changing customer demands. You can keep your customers engaged and returning for more with the right strategies. Here are some invaluable customer retention best practices to help you stand out from the crowd and keep your customers coming back for more:
Embrace Omnichannel Sales
The pandemic accelerated the shift to online shopping, and customers are now more comfortable than ever buying online. This means providing a seamless experience across all channels, from your website to social media platforms, mobile apps, and online marketplaces. Investing in innovative technologies such as AI and automation can deliver personalized and efficient products that set you apart from the competition.
Use Social Media to Build Relationships
Social media is a powerful tool for building relationships with your customers. You must use social media to build a community around your brand, engage with your customers, and create meaningful relationships. By actively listening to your customers and responding to their queries, feedback, and concerns, you can show that you care and establish trust. Furthermore, social media allows you to showcase your brand's unique personality and values, which can help you stand out from the competition. Sharing customer stories, testimonials, and reviews can also be an effective way to humanize your brand and build social proof.
Leverage Data Analytics
Data analytics can help you understand your customers better and identify opportunities to improve customer retention. You can identify opportunities to improve customer retention and create personalized experiences by tracking customer behaviour, preferences, and feedback. Investing in data analytics tools can help you make data-driven decisions and optimize your marketing and sales strategies to meet your needs.
Be Transparent and Authentic
Customers are increasingly demanding transparency and authenticity from the brands they do business with. Customers are looking for open and honest businesses about their practices, policies, and values. This requires being transparent about pricing, shipping, and returns policies and using authentic and inclusive marketing messages. Doing so can build trust with your customers, which is essential for long-term loyalty. Customers are also more likely to recommend businesses they perceive as transparent and authentic.
Focus on Customer Experience
Customer experience will be a major differentiator for small businesses. As a small business owner, providing exceptional customer experience across all touchpoints should be a top priority. This means investing in customer service training for your staff, optimizing your website for usability, and gathering customer feedback to improve your products and services continuously.
These customer retention best practices can help your small business to stand out from the competition, improve customer loyalty, and grow your business. By embracing omnichannel sales, using social media to build relationships, leveraging data analytics, being transparent and authentic, and focusing on customer experience, you can create a loyal customer base that will continue to do business with you and recommend your brand to others.
Sales ,Marketing ,Management