Every business has its busy times, and its slow times. Holidays, seasonal downturns, the occasional zombie apocalypse; all of these can lead to a natural decline in sales. This is not the end of the world (except for the zombie thing). In fact, it’s an opportunity. Time you don’t spend keeping up with high sales volume is time you can devote to that which otherwise wouldn’t get much.
When sales are naturally slow (due to predictable market forces rather than a slump), you can make improvements to your business that will make the high times even more profitable. Rather than trying to boost sales through the slow season by doing promotions or events that few will attend, use the time to make your business even stronger. It means taking a more complex approach to scheduling, but if you can maximize the value of your down-time, you’ll be that much more successful.
Here are five of the most effective ways to make the most of a slow day, week, or month:
1. Take a break
Seriously. Time off is important, not just to your personal well-being, but to the health and growth of your business. If you can schedule it during a typically slow period, all the better. Entrepreneurship is a full-time job, but even the independent business person needs to let off the gas and allow themselves to forget about work from time to time. When you come back, refreshed and invigorated, you may even outperform your pre-vacation self.
Yourself, your employees, or both. Professional development is key to the long-term success of any business, so any opportunity to focus on improving everyone’s skill set is a bonus. Identify the weakest aspect of your own business game and focus on that. Maybe you could use a crash-course in web design. Maybe you could take a public speaking course. Maybe you could bone up on your tech. Whatever it is, take the time you have and do it. For your staff, you can do team-building exercises or experimental projects. The options are myriad.
3. Fill Your Content Bank
If you read this blog regularly, you know that content marketing is my favorite kind of marketing. Content production, however, takes time. Lots of it. So when you have some to spare, it’s always a good idea to get ahead of the workload. Write as many blogs as you can and store them up for later release. Film instructional videos. Create infographics. Record podcasts, like the $100 MBA Show, which I like to pre-record and batch as far in advance as possible. Write emails for your marketing campaign. Get all your content locked and loaded for when business is back on the upswing.
4. Product Development
While you’re waiting for your current product to sell, make a new one. Write an e-book, design some software, create a new tutorial course, or simply consider what else a customer who buys your product might want. Or simply modify an existing product, add upgrades or new features, or create a supplemental companion product. Use the extra time to really explore the furthest reaches of your imagination.
Brainstorm (alone or with your team) without the pressure of having to create a product. Consider even the weirdest ideas that occur—one of them might turn out to be a great outside-the-box innovation. Time spent at the drawing board is never wasted.
5. Improve Your Website
One thing any business website needs is constant refreshment and renewal, perhaps better described as “new reasons for people to visit.” When business is naturally slow, consider a redesign. Study your analytics to see what aspects of your site are under-performing, and revamp around the goal of improving the numbers.
Alter the design, the flow of your pages, or go all-in with whole new site built from the ground up—it’s a perfect excuse to have a grand launch event to kick off the next busy cycle.
Identifying “Slow” Periods
Planning the productive use of slow periods is a game-changer, one that can give your business an extra edge. However, you’ll need to be able to anticipate those periods accurately. You’ll have to study the patterns of your industry, and your business in particular, to identify where on the calendar you can take the action of your choosing.
For example, most of the West experiences a slowdown in non-retail business around the end of the year, what with the big holidays. However, New Year’s in China is a good month or so after the ball drops in Times Square. Most people don’t alter their purchasing habits between semesters at Universities—but college students do. Every market, especially the more niche markets favored by entrepreneurs, has its own unique cycles.
Scheduling around predictable slow periods means taking a more nuanced, complex approach to your calendar. That might seem difficult at first, but the reality is that not every day, week, or month should look the same—not if you’re syncing your actions with the flow of business. Refer to your analytics and identify the slowest sales week for your business. Highlight that week for the upcoming year, and devote it to one or two of the suggestions listed above. When the week is over, you’ll be glad you did.