Are You Looking Forward to the Summer (or Dreading it)?
For many, the warm summer months and long days provide welcome relief after months of damp and gloom. However, for many independent business owners, it can mean weeks of uncertainty, disruption and a slow in momentum. Sound familiar? Then you may have a case of the summer doldrums…
As the summer holiday season approaches, many of us see our businesses grow quieter and our customers, elusive. This may be because they too are struggling to sustain trade in a quiet period. Or, because they are busy covering leave or, are on leave themselves. Whatever the reason, they often turn their focus inwards to keep their own businesses moving.
As you’ve more than likely found, clients are invariably distracted and far less receptive to new business commitments during this period. This for you can mean several weeks treading water in the doldrums with few new business opportunities.
So what can you do?
It is easy to see why some business owners dread summer. But, just as it’s possible to plan a strategy to negotiate the lead up to Christmas, it’s also possible to create one to avoid the summer doldrums and regain some control.
Here are few short-term measures and tactics you can bring into play this year to kick-start your efforts:
Give Your Business A Boost
- Promote: Increase your visibility by holding a sale or running a special promotion. Free trials and taster sessions are a great way to renew interest in your business. Alternatively, why not offer a discount on your staple products and services to encourage uptake. Try and avoid spending too much money on paid promotion though, the returns may not be as good during holiday periods.
- Update: Send out a personal mailer. The summer is a good time to reach out to contacts (especially those that have gone off the radar) with a personalised note or card. Remind them you are open for business and highlight any products or services that can help them overcome their challenges during this time.
- Entertain: With the light evenings and warm weather what better time to host an event? Invite key clients or new prospects for a summer barbeque or cocktail evening. Or, why not try a simple social at a local bar or café? Not only is it a good way to strengthen your connections, but you can also use it to announce new products or services, or offer exclusive discounts.
- Network: Step-up your networking efforts. During busier periods, activities like networking can be overlooked. So, during the quieter summer months seize the opportunity to attend some business events and make some new contacts.
Use The Opportunity
- Solve: Be the solution to your customers’ summer doldrums problems. Understaffing is a big problem for many during the summer. Could you offer outsourcing services to help lessen the load for your clients? Or, maybe you have a new product or service that could save them time? Let your customers know you are there for them if needed.
- Infiltrate: The best time to approach a tough prospect with a gatekeeping PA is to do it while they are on holiday. With the PA away, you may find you can ring straight through and speak to them directly.
- Strategise: The busy period leading up to Christmas can soon sneak up. So use a quiet period wisely to plan your end-of-year strategy or a launch for the New Year. This will ensure you end the year on a high and stay ahead of your competitors.
To steer clear of the summer doldrums next year and beyond, try these longer-term measures. Although they take more time to prepare, they will have a greater strategic impact:
- Plan Ahead: At the start of the year, forge a plan with existing clients or create plan to acquire new ones. Aim to get dates in your diary to make sure you have a continuous flow of business even in the quieter holiday periods. Plan your events and promotions ahead of time and don’t forget to include some to drum up business in predictably quiet months.
- Diversify: Focus on generating recurring income throughout the year; introduce some retainer based products and services. For many businesses, ad-hoc project-based engagements are unavoidable. However, even a small shift in your client portfolio towards retainers, will give you greater certainty of income during quieter months and help you avoid the doldrums.
…And remember, you will need cover too! Members of your team will no doubt need a break at some point in the summer. Make sure you have sufficient cover to stop clients slipping through the net and swimming away to your competitors.
Finally, don’t overlook your own downtime. The quieter summer months are an excellent opportunity for you to have a well-earned break. Spend time with family and friends or jet off yourself. Whatever you do, be sure to relax, reflect and recharge …because Christmas is just around the corner!