December 21, 2007
Wouldn’t it be great if you were constantly busy, whatever the state of the economy and regardless of the time of year? Wouldn’t it be nice if you were having record sales while most others in your industry are having the worst sales?
If your business is suffering from the recent real estate slow down, or you are usually deathly slow in the winter season, there are some things that you can do. When creating a strategy that will keep your business “recession resistant,” you must begin to think long term.
The first key to steady sales in slow times is to take action before it actually gets slow. I know this doesn’t help much if your sales have already dropped, but if you want to avoid future slumps, you start now. I am not saying that you won’t have lower and higher sales months, but I am saying that by being proactive you can soften the blow that slower months generally bring, while maximizing heavy-volume times to make more money during those periods.
Many businesses have slower times of the year due to weather, holidays, or lack of events. There are at least three things you can do to maintain healthier sales all year long.
Cultivate a Market That is Recession Resistant
During a recession, those with limited discretionary income are affected most. Middle and low-end customers stop spending for fear that the money flow will stop. Or they have actually been affected, and they simply don’t have the money to maintain the same lifestyle they did prior to the recession. One way you can overcome this challenge is to choose a different market. Instead of serving the “Kia” or “Saturn” market, begin to position yourself in the “Mercedes” market.
By choosing the high-end market rather than the middle market, you automatically insulate your business from the huge ups and downs of a middle or low market business. Mercedes clients view many services and comforts as minimum standard; therefore, their spending patterns don’t change in many areas during a recession. They may cut down on the exotics, but will continue to purchase things that are viewed as essential. The low and middle-income customer, however, is far more vulnerable and will react to reports of a down economy by pulling in the reins on spending.
If you are not yet in the high-end market, consider moving into it. This is not done overnight, but in the long run, you will get higher prices and more consistency during the slower times. Mercedes clients use a service company more often than Saturn customers, creating more income for you.
Make Enough Profit in the High Months to Cover the Margin During Slower Months
The second way to combat slow times, especially when dealing with weather or seasons, is to maximize your sales and production opportunities during the busier months. So often, business owners hustle during the high season just to keep up with the work, but they don’t really make a ton of profit; they make enough to get by and maybe a little more. Take advantage of the buying frenzy during the high season, making as much money as possible so that you make more money than you actually need during those months.
Find ways to work more clients into the schedule so that you won’t have to turn anyone away. This may include bringing in part-timers or working longer hours. Eliminate every possible interruption to production. Get equipment serviced before the season starts. Raise your prices.
The more profit you make during the busy times can be used to ease the pain during the slower times. Take retail stores for example. Some retail stores operate at a loss all year long; they make all of their profit during the Christmas season. Obviously, none of us would want to do that, but there will be times that are more profitable, and those that are less profitable. What if the retail stores did not take advantage of the holiday season and just broke even during that time? They would be in bad shape.
Create a Better Strategy for the Slower Months The third strategy to be red-hot during the “off” months is to strategically plan your marketing strategy for anticipated slow times in advance. The most successful business owners I know promote their businesses just as much in the slow times as in the busy months. Make your most valuable offers during the slow months to increase sales, especially to repeat clients. Many clients will intentionally buy during those times to get more for their money. We usually do a 20-percent-off promotion, which is huge.
By the way, how are your up-sells? Use that 20-percent off to close those rug cleaning, carpet protector and hard-surface jobs. When was the last time you talked to all of your commercial accounts? Get your commercial accounts to do their cleaning while you are slow. Pull out all the stops.
The slower months are perfect times to build relationships. Cultivating clients and referral sources during these times will insure that you have more business all year long. Take advantage of times when you (or your staff) have more time available.