Taking the leap and starting your business can come with a whirlwind of emotions: excitement, nervousness, even stress. In the same breath, owning a business can come with great rewards.
1/ Invest in your employees
Du Toit advises business owners to make use of business downtime to train employees and provide them with skills that will allow them to operate more effectively and efficiently.
“Training should form part of a business’s retention strategy and by upskilling employees during seasonal lows, businesses will ensure their people feel valued and that they are playing an important role in the business’s success,” she says.
2/ Mind the budget
Business owners may be tempted to spend unnecessarily when a business is doing well. Instead, they should consider saving additional finances to prepare themselves for seasons of lower demand.
“When businesses notice a shift in spending – for example, they haven’t had as good a peak season as expected – they should consider adjusting their costs and spending to remain on top of cash flow,” adds Du Toit.
3/ Create off-season excitement
To ensure the business remains top of mind for customers – even during off-peak seasons – organisations can create excitement by offering specials, conducting direct marketing activities and running promotions. This will attract business during off-peak seasons and remind customers about the peak season ahead.
4/ Create niche markets
Customers have needs all year round. Try and find a way to service those needs throughout the year.
Du Toit says off-peak seasons are also a good time to expand a business’s products and service offerings. “There is more time to think about add-ons or what customers would enjoy. Business owners do, however, need to make sure that the addition of duties for employees will enhance rather than limit them.”
5/ Maintain customer contact
No matter how positively customers view a business, these feelings will soon dissipate if they don’t hear from it for an extended period. Irrespective of how successful a business becomes, service and communication are critical to the retention of customers.
“By keeping in constant contact with their customers, businesses can reassure them that the supplier they have partnered with cares about them. Sometimes all it takes is a small prod in the form of an email to say: we haven’t forgotten about you. It could also be something bigger, such as a marketing roadshow or TV and radio ads – whatever the business can afford,” says Du Toit.
6/ Promote data analysis of business operations
It’s imperative to have clear oversight of a business’s strongest and weakest aspects. This will help businesses to prepare for high demand seasons and budget for low demand seasons.
“This is why it’s so important to have good quality accounting packages and customer relations management (CRM) systems in place. Businesses that don’t have data at their fingertips can’t make relevant decisions,” notes Du Toit.
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7/ Think outside of the season
It’s important to set the groundwork early, either through targeted online advertising or by building relationships with regular customers to elicit additional business, or thinking of ways to attract new customers. It’s helpful to use strategy sessions and meetings with management teams and employees to get their input when trying to find creative solutions for an ever-changing market landscape.
“Business owners shouldn’t wait before trying to establish a year-round customer base. They need to be creative in their thinking around fluctuating seasonal demand and then focus their marketing activities to align with that,” she says.
8/ Inventory control
Some businesses generate a year’s worth of revenue in a few months. This means the availability of stock is paramount for them to meet high demand in peak seasons.
“Nothing is worse than having high demand and no stock available,” says Du Toit. Business owners can use their downtime to forecast correctly for seasonal demands, and perhaps look at promoting once-off sales or other promotions to sell surplus stock where necessary.
9/ Spend time on marketing and admin
Businesses should invest time in thinking creatively and considering whether their current website and advertising measures are still relevant to their customers. Admin can often be tedious, but it’s an important driver of business success. By tracking expenditure versus income on an ongoing basis, businesses will have a bird’s eye view of what’s happening in the business at all times.
10/ Get online
Technological advancement and social media have resulted in the evolution of marketing. Businesses can promote themselves and sell their goods and services anywhere, at any time.
Du Toit advises that businesses take advantage of what technology has to offer – from e-commerce platforms to social media – to create opportunities for new business. “It’s important to stand out from the crowd and differentiate the business from its competition.”