If your business is dependent upon strong sales during a specific season, your off-season is probably especially stressful. A 2012 Wall Street Journal survey revealed that more than 60 percent of small businesses owed on invoices that were more than two months old. Ouch!
So, how do you prepare now to boost seasonal sales and keep your cash flow going strong all year? Here, we'll explore that question and offer a few tips to help make this your jolliest season ever.
Keeping Your Cash Flow…Flowing
If yours is among the nearly two-thirds of small businesses carrying unpaid invoices for months, perhaps adjusting your invoicing process will help. Many small business owners wait until month's end to prepare and send out invoices. Instead, consider invoicing immediately. This way, there's less delay in receiving the funds needed for additional inventory or operating expenses. Online invoicing options also help by streamlining the process and eliminating postage fees. Some cost-effective options include Paypal, Bill.com and Quick Books Online.
If you find your business is still short of sufficient working capital, consider applying for a small business line of credit. Your bank often has low-interest options. So, too, does the Small Business Association. They may not be the most ideal option, but don't overlook small business credit cards. They can often provide capital along with business-friendly rewards.
While a clear vision is exceptionally important to any business, it doesn't mean you must avoid other possibilities, especially those closely akin to your business. Find products related to your primary business, that are marketable year-round. For example, if you own a holiday decoration business, perhaps you could create a scaled-down wreath that can be used as a centerpiece at Valentine’s Day or Independence Day celebrations. Lawn care services (especially in northern states) can widen their scope by tending to lawns in the spring and summer, then switch to de-icing and snow removal activities in the fall and winter. In other words, think outside the box in terms of services you can offer.
Are you a local retailer or specialty shop owner? If a retail sales boost is required to get into the black, the upcoming holiday season is probably your golden ticke. According to the National Retail Federation, the holiday season can represent anywhere between 20–40 percent of annual sales for many retailers. But if you rely only on your existing customer base and foot traffic, your focus is probably too narrow. The world wide web has leveled the playing field. Offering your products in different parts of the country, or perhaps even in different countries, is a great strategy to reach a larger audience. Learn about various holidays, festivals and customs that may tie-in with your products, then offer them in a contextually relevant way. After all, they will spend money with someone. Why not you?
Develop a Year-Round Strategy for Year-Round Business
So often, seasonal businesses inundate their customers only during their busy season. And guess what happens at other times of the year? Out of sight, and out of mind. After you have diversified for the off-season and targeted a new customer base, be sure to take time to develop a marketing strategy that accommodates your expanded business model. Social media is the platform for engaging users directly. Offer coupons, exclusive deals, three-hour specials, or other promotions to entice others to engage with you. Email marketing is a tried and strategy tool to spread you message. And remember, don't simply shove your promotions at them. Work to build relationships that last.