Does your business experience sales peaks and valleys based on either the day or the season? For many seasonal or time-sensitive businesses the peaks are often optimized and the valleys are opportunities. Let’s look at ways to maximize sales, cash flow, and time for a business that experiences such highs and lows.
Ideas to expand a seasonal business:
A seasonal or time-sensitive business can be extended to other periods. Look to your off-peak periods for ideas. For example, if your store sells Christmas ornaments, consider expanding into décor for other holidays like Halloween or Valentine’s Day and rotate your stock to cover multiple seasons. If you have a coffee shop, you could offer pre-prepared products or meals that could be purchased for other parts of the day (e.g., take-home dinners). If driving incremental sales during non-peak periods is important to you, there are multiple ways to achieve this objective:
And, don’t forget the media when you are taking your business to a new level. Invite local writers to your establishment or offer special services to them. A good relationship with the media can create bridges to new consumers. Keep in mind that your Facebook, LinkedIn and web pages are all part of your media plan and should reflect your news.
Maximizing a strictly seasonal business:
If you strictly want to maintain your current, seasonal business model, consider developing a communications plan to stay in close contact with your customers during the off-periods. For example, if you have a bed and breakfast that is busy during the winter months, consider reaching out to your consumers in the off-season. You could send them direct mail pieces, email blasts or newsletters to remind them of their visit and encourages them to return next season. The key is to be “top-of-mind” with your customers when they are making decisions for their next winter trip. Similarly, a business that is not busy after 5 p.m. might send email blasts to customers a few hours before they leave work to remind them to “stop in” after work.
If a seasonal business is optimal for you, consider a plan to maximize your time during lighter business periods. This might encompass activities like physical business improvements and marketing plan updates through tax preparation and visiting with potential suppliers.
Seasonal businesses often have two accounting challenges that can be focused on during lighter business periods. The first involves late payments on invoices. According to a 2012 Wall Street Journal survey, 64% of small businesses have unpaid invoices over 60 days old. There are ways to reduce this including terms on invoices over 30 days. Consider such a policy if you are experiencing late payments. On the flip side, ask your suppliers for flexible terms when purchasing from them in order to have closer timing of your expenses and sales.
The other area of special importance for seasonal businesses is cash flow. Cash flow is extremely important for seasonal business owners. Past actual cash flow is a reasonable projection for future cash flow. Careful tracking of cash flow will help you make optimal decisions for future growth, expansion or change.
So, whether you decide to move your business beyond current seasonal ventures or maintain your current approach, seasonal and time-sensitive businesses have many opportunities for growth and optimization. And, as we enter the very beginning of the holiday season, we hope that these ideas generate helpful thoughts about your small business!
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