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.
What Is Working Capital and Why It’s Important In Your Business
What Is Working Capital?
When your company needs products or services in the short-term, you use working capital to pay for it. Unlike cash flow, which refers to money going in and out of the company, working capital is a snapshot of a company’s financial health. You can figure out what your company’s working capital is by looking at the value of your company’s assets minus your liabilities. This is the amount of money you have on hand to meet immediate expenses–in other words, your working capital.
Why is it important?
It’s obvious that a company should have the working capital it needs to pay its employees and purchase inventory, but your available working capital is also a good measure of your company’s overall financial picture. If you have access to sufficient or even plentiful working capital, you can rest assured that you have the resources to manage your upcoming expenses. If your working capital is low, you can run into problems.
Additionally, working capital is essential in helping businesses maintain and grow their operations in the future. With enough working capital, a business can cover its expenses even if there are outstanding payments from customers. In the best-case scenarios, businesses can use extra working capital to reinvest in their operations by buying additional inventory, launching marketing and promotions, and hiring additional staff.
Every business should strive to have ample working capital, but this can be a challenge, particularly in times of economic downturn.
4 Tips To Improve Your Working Capital
1.Get a Cash Flow Forecast
It’s easier to get where you want to be if you have a clear picture of where you are. A cash flow forecast is a financial projection that shows how much money your company can expect to receive and when. Make sure you look at revenue, expenses, and net cash. With this information, you can make better, informed decisions about spending.
2.Automate Business Processes
Your working capital relies on receiving payment, so it makes good business sense to streamline the invoicing process. Using an automatic invoicing system, particularly one that’s tied to the delivery of your product or service, will free up time and, importantly, ensure your invoicing isn’t delayed due to busy employees or time constraints. The ability to track your invoices can make your working capital more predictable, which will allow you to make educated decisions about spending.
If you run a small- or medium-sized business, you’ve experienced late payment, or even worse, no payment at all. Following up with outstanding invoices is time-consuming and frustrating, so it’s smart to bake in incentives for customers, suppliers, and vendors who meet their obligations. Incentives could be monetary or symbolic in nature. The idea is to encourage good business practices while fostering positive relationships.
4.Improve Inventory Management & Avoid Stockpiling
Inventory management is the process of matching your company’s inventory to expected sales. The trick is to make sure you have enough–but not too much. Stockpiling inventory is expensive, and money tied up in overstock can’t be spent on more immediate needs. Consider investing in a digital solution.
Access to sufficient working capital is a great indicator that your business is healthy, and a healthy business is one that’s positioned to grow and take on new opportunities.
Marketing ideas for your business in the new year
As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to revisit your marketing strategy to meet current consumer expectations. Forecasting trends is tricky, but what’s clear is that in 2023, customers value privacy, inclusivity, transparency, and overall authenticity, and it’s your job to show them how your business practices meet these ideals. Read on for six steps you take right now to market your business in 2023.
Understand your changing audience
The first thing you need to do is revisit your market. Review your sales and marketing data to make sure you have a realistic grasp on the size, demographics, and character of your target market. Pay close attention to any changes in your ideal customer and use this updated intel to seek out new opportunities. For example, if your business has grown or taken a new direction in recent years, it might be attracting a new audience. Make sure you’re communicating with the most appropriate market segment.
Update your website
Your website is one of your most valuable marketing assets so it’s crucial that it be in good shape. Review your site to make sure all the content is correct and up-to-date. Check to make sure that it loads quickly and displays correctly across desktop, tablet, and mobile platforms. You probably look at your site regularly so consider getting someone with “fresh eyes” to take a look. Ensure that your site works intuitively and offers a seamless customer experience. A site that’s pleasant to use will help you convert new visitors and retain returning ones.
Maximize the potential of social media
With more than 4.7 billion people using social media, your business cannot afford to ignore it. If you’re just starting out on social platforms, now is the time to claim your presence. Set up accounts for your business on top platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Investigate which sites your ideal customers might be using and ensure you’re on them too. Post relevant content, regularly, and make sure that you keep your profiles fresh and current. Try running contests or promotions to boost engagement, and take advantage of the built-in shopping capabilities available on many platforms. You can communicate a lot about your brand values by aligning yourself with other local small businesses through collaborations or sponsorships.
Leverage video content and live streaming
Video content has been a rising trend for the past several years, and is well-suited to businesses who want to increase awareness, improve lead generation and sales, and reduce support calls. Consider how video content might work for your business, keeping in mind that consumers appreciate being entertained. Live streaming is popular and an effective way to connect with your audience in real time. Engage your audience with quality storytelling. Inform them with a clear and concise script. Be creative.
Get interactive with your audience
When was the last time you did an online quiz or game? How about worked with an online calculator or map? Interactive content is engaging, which is why audiences–and marketers–love it. It’s low-cost and can help you increase brand loyalty, generate leads, and drive sales. Think about ways your business can use interactive content to grab your customers’ attention.
Respect consumer privacy
More than ever, consumers are concerned about privacy. Demonstrate respect for your customers’ privacy by compliance with standards like GDPR, by properly acquiring and using user data, and by continually informing your customers of exactly how you’re handling their information.
If you want to stay ahead of your competitors in 2023, now is the time to fine-tune your marketing efforts to communicate your business’ authentic brand and values. Take an inclusive, transparent, privacy-first approach, to reach your target audience.
5 Tips for Your Small Businesses for the Holiday Season
Set your goals
It’s always a good idea to have a plan to meet your goals, and your sales goals are no different. Set a realistic goal for your holiday season, and make sure you account for metrics other than revenue. Customer engagement and social media following are also important.
Think about seasonal milestones like Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, and strategize about how you’ll leverage them in your overall plan. If you’re at loose ends, take a look at what your competitors are doing. Track where they’re advertising and what kinds of promotions they’re running.
Finally, track what works and what doesn’t. Planning doesn’t end just because it’s after New Year’s–you can take what you learned into the following seasons.
Create a marketing plan
You might already have a loyal customer base but the holiday season is the perfect time to attract new attention. People are primed to purchase, so they’re seeking out advertising. Get your name out there to acquire new customers, enrich your relationships with existing customers, and drive sales.
Your marketing plan should cover the what, how, and where you’ll advertise. Make sure you prioritize the marketing channels that matter. At a minimum, you should revisit your online presence, ensuring that your web site and social media channels are up-to-date and active. Also consider paid options like Google Search Ads and social media ads.
Stock up on inventory
All your goal setting and strategic planning will be for naught if your shelves are bare when your customers arrive. Now is the time to survey your sales numbers from last year. Account for any changes (if your marketing is successful, for example, you may have more demand), and get your orders in. The last thing you want to do is to give your customers a reason to seek out your competitors.
Attract customers with promotions and sales
Holiday shopping is extremely competitive so you’ll want to give your potential customers as many reasons as possible to visit your store. Store-wide or specific sales may entice your customers but you can make things more interesting and set yourself apart with promotional discounts like early bird specials, discounts, or free shipping. Make those on your email lists or social media feel special with targeted incentives like coupons or exclusive deals. Consider bonus offers. Also, don’t ignore end-of-season sales opportunities. You can capitalize on the momentum you’ve created with deep discounts that will help you maintain customer attention and clear overstock or excess inventory.
With all these strategies it’s a good idea to beta test them before a complete roll-out so you can hit the right balance and get customer attention while still turning a profit.
Open an online storefront
Whether you offer an online shopping experience or not, it’s a good idea to go at least partly digital over the holidays. Online shopping is very popular and shopper fatigue is real. Start by making sure everything on your existing web site is complete and current, and that any shopping capabilities you have are in perfect working order–including on mobile.
If you have little or no online purchasing capabilities, consider connecting to a service like Shopify, or leveraging Facebook Shops or Instagram Shopping to show off your wares.
The holiday season is a key part of your sales cycle. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can strengthen your relationship with current customers and attract new customers, all while hitting your sales targets.
Empowering Your Small Business With The Means to Market
The thing is, when you’re an SMB, it can be tricky to figure out just how much you should be spending. The answer, of course, is it depends–-on your industry, your goals, and your costs. Still, setting aside money for marketing is not a nice-to-have. You’ll have to market yourself if you want to compete.
Why is marketing so important?
Marketing is the tool businesses can use to introduce themselves, to engage with potential customers, to drive sales, and to foster loyalty. Without it, you’re missing an integral piece of your business model. While word-of-mouth is one way to get customers, it’s not easy to reach people as regularly and in sufficient numbers as you’ll need to sustain your business. Here’s where to set aside some budget.
Invest in awareness
Marketing encourages interest in your products and services which is why you can’t afford to do without it.
Marketing for customer acquisition is a strategy that tries to reach customers who’ve never bought from your company before. It’s obvious why this is important: your customers are the ones who make purchases.
Customer retention marketing focuses on nurturing existing relationships to make sure that your clients will not only want to be repeat customers, but also want to refer your business to their friends. Leveraging customer loyalty is not only good business sense, it’s also generally more affordable than attracting new customers.
Budget for marketing
You’ll need to invest strategically in your marketing, whether in traditional methods like newspaper or television, or in digital advertising platforms alone. In any case, you need your business to be on the internet. In some cases a simple (but well-written and SEO-friendly) website showing location, services, and hours will suffice. Other businesses will need something a little more robust.
Social media is just as important when it comes to your digital presence. Consider having at least one account on a top platform where you can publish contests, promotions, or interesting news from your industry. Social media is a powerful way to direct customers to your main site or to make sales.
Managing your marketing budget
Your business needs a marketing budget, but how much should you be spending? The most effective way to assess a realistic but effective marketing budget is to research, measure, and then evaluate.
You can arrive at a preliminary budget by looking at your revenue and determining what strategy will most help you reach your goals. For example, are you hoping to get more customers, have your current customers make more purchases, or have your customers pay more for more premium products or services?
Make sure that you have clearly defined and measurable goals. If you’re looking to increase web traffic, determine how many site visits you’re aiming for. If you want to see more engagement with a certain market segment, define as many characteristics as possible. This kind of granular thinking will enable your marketing team to tailor their efforts to your desired outcomes.
Record what you spend on each kind of marketing so that you can measure the return on investment and refine your efforts going forward.
Finally, schedule a review each quarter and adjust your budget accordingly.
Marketing will help your business meet its goals–but only if you invest in it. If you need help budgeting for your marketing plan, iCapital can help. Contact us here.