Ask any small business owner if their goal is to have offseasons, and they are going to say, “heck no”. But while theoretically not ideal, off-seasons aren’t the worst thing that could happen to your business. I’m not going to try and convince you that they are a good thing but if you handle them right, they are not the end of the world.
It only makes sense that certain times of the year are busier than others for online sellers. Of course between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday are going to be the busiest times of the year for any kind of seller because thats when the buyers are pulling out their wallets!
And then we have businesses with very specific, seasonal products that are in higher demand certain times of the year.
Example: I have a friend who sells her custom knitted scarves and other winter accessories on Etsy. As awesome as they are, they just don’t sell when it’s warm. Duh! Unless you live in Siberia, a scarf isn’t going to be high up on your priority list during June.
So the question for sellers wanting to turn their off-season into an on-season is, what can you do to help your business during the slower times?
Killer marketing strategy is always a good idea, but you can only do so much marketing warm hats when popsicles are a popular commodity. And adding to your product/service repertoire is an idea, but not always realistic. My friend could knit bathing suits, but her chosen medium is better suited for those mittens.
Turns out the solution is simple. Don’t wait for success to come to you. If you want to beat the offseason, you have to take action!
The off-season that you are experiencing right now gives you the perfect opportunity to take that action and set yourself up for future success. Those scarves may never sell to Southern Californian’s during summertime, but that gives you no excuse to waste any time. The only wrong thing you could do is do nothing at all.
How to Turn the Tables
So whether your products are seasonal or you simply experience unwanted downtime between sales peaks, here are a few ideas to to turn your down time into productive time.
Contain the chaos!
Has running your small business left you with an unorganized mess? Receipts everywhere, and paperwork you just haven’t gotten around to? Well hey, now you have no excuse not to get organized! Hit up the nearest Officemax and optimize your workspace for ultimate productivity. When your business is organized, it will run smoother and you will be less stressed.
Spy on your rivals
It’s time to bring out the big guns. First, make sure you know what you are up against by doing some online reconnaissance. Check out your competitors’ stores and websites to see what they are up to. Are they successful? What makes them successful? Learn from them and stay competitive in your market.
Just because sales are slow right now doesn’t mean they will always be. Don’t twiddle your thumbs, put them to work and stock up on your products! SumAll gives great tips for getting your store ready for upcoming busy seasons. Use previous sales data to predict which products are going to be in high demand during your on-season and stock up on them so you are ready when the sales wave hits.
It’s time to pull out the crazy idea folder! Have a new product you’ve been dying to experiment with? Take advantage of this time and try new techniques, materials, and designs. Once things pick up, your “crazy” ideas could end up being your best sellers!
Take some “me” time
Running a business can overtake every aspect of your life, but good balance is important and necessary for your sanity. Do other things you haven’t had time for.If you’ve been dying to read 50 Shades of Grey, READ IT! Go see that new movie with Adam Levine that all your friends have been raving about. Finally take up your friend on those surf lessons. At the end of the day, you have to take care of yourself if you are going to take care of your business. I know this one could be hard because it doesn’t feel directly productive, but it’s all about keeping the balance.
Inspiration works in mysterious ways. Sometimes you will find it right under your nose, and other times you have to chase it. Use your downtime to do a little chasing. Jump in the car with no destination in mind and see where the road takes you. Talk to other small business owners you know, or check out online forums like Entrepreneur’s Inspiration Station, designed just for bringing entrepreneurs together. Open your mind and the inspiration will come flooding in. Future you will be grateful.
Make the Switch. Turn Off into On!
Your business doesn’t have to hibernate during off-seasons. Sure, ideally sales would never drop and there would be no such thing as an off-season. But an off-season is not synonymous with unproductivity. It all just depends on how you take advantage of the situation.
The things you do during this “downtime” can and should greatly influence the success of your business.
If your products are seasonal, those sales during times of low demand may not change, but if you use your offseason right you can compensate with improvements in times of higher demand. If your products are not seasonal, overtime these strategies can help you banish the off-season and get you more consistent sales.
Because these six things are all crucial aspects of any growing business, off-time or not. Capitalizing on the downtime now is really an investment in a future of growth by forming good habits and practices. Now that you know what to do, your offseason just got turned back on. Remember these tips to make sure it stays on!