The U.S. economy is made up of more than 31 million small businesses. Yet in the last quarter of 2018, there were nearly as many startups opening doors as there were businesses that closed – 249,000 versus 222,000 specifically, according to the Small Business Administration.
Granted these figures are pre-COVID, but figuring out what it takes to not only keep business going but also make it successful remains top of mind for entrepreneurs, regardless of the times.
Whether you’re in a small town or a metropolitan area, how can you maintain a thriving business when seasons change and slower months prevail? We’ll let you in on a few strategies to keep business going amid challenging times.
These 10 Tips Will Help Your Business Thrive Year-Round
You know your company’s offerings meet a demand, and you’ve been able to keep business going. But off-seasons can be a make-or-break moment. Here’s how to prepare for success regardless of the time of year.
1. Forecast Business Activity
To accurately plan for slower months, you need to know when you slow months start and end. Analyze last year’s figures if available to have an idea of what this year will bring and when.
Identify your fixed and variable expenses. Then start preparing – make revenue projections and determine levels you’ll need for operating cash, staff and inventory.
2. Diversify Your Offerings
As many top thriving businesses understand, sometimes you need to tweak your product and service offerings to appeal to need and demand. If you’ve ever lived in a state that experiences snowy winters, for instance, you’ve likely seen June’s landscaper turn into January’s snow plower.
Figure out how your business can weather the seasons in a similar way. Maybe you can look to introduce seasonally relevant products that resonate with your target audience. Or perhaps you can adapt your products or services to reach a different market.
1-800-Flowers.com is one example of a company that’s diversified its product line with a family of brands ranging from The Popcorn Factory to Harry & David. As such, the company is able to offer customers more than just flowers.
Come the winter holiday season, when flower sales might be down, the company is able to promote other gifting options, including cookies, chocolates, fruit bouquets, specialty popcorn and even steak and seafood.
3. Market Your Brand Differently
Similarly, consider marketing your products in a new way, potentially reaching a previously untapped sector of customers. Blue Mountain Resort in Palmerton, Pa., is one of many thriving small businesses despite seasonal challenges. Blue Mountain does a great job of marketing its brand differently throughout the year.
In winter, the resort is known for its ski slopes. Once the snow has melted, the slopes are advertised as bike trails and visited by mountain biking enthusiasts far and wide. The resort also markets off-season scenic chair lift rides and an adventure park with a ropes course, rock climbing and laser tag.
4. Consider Partnerships
Think about approaching a company whose brand and values complement yours and working together for on- and off-peak events. You could test the waters first with a one-time joint event, such as a pop-up, or establish a longer-term partnership.
Consider marketing your products and services together too, from brick-and-mortar to online. This could help you both saving on advertising costs and lead to greater exposure.
5. Stay Top of Mind With Your Customers
Whether you’re a small-town business looking to thrive in slower winter months or a big-city boutique dealing with road construction on your block, make sure your customers don’t forget you. Send postcards or email newsletters and communicate with your followers on social media.
Post photos and videos of your store, new products, customer favorites and more. Also, share upcoming specials. Consider requesting customer testimonials and reviews too. You might even want to run a survey or contest to help you stay top of mind.
6. Find New Ways to Promote Your Brand
Creating a thriving business means moving beyond the status quo. Slow seasons are the time to ramp up your marketing efforts. Consider innovative ways to generate interest in your brand. For instance, in 2021, you might market and host a community Zoom session where you record a how-to video on a topic of interest to your target clientele.
Consider networking with other area entrepreneurs or joining a local business organization too. Also, reach out to the media to see if they’d be willing to feature your business, or consider subscribing to HelpaReporter.com to provide your expertise to journalists and get your company name out there. Spread the word and promote your brand far and wide.
7. Take to the Web
Have you been putting off branching to the Web? You aren’t alone: 36% of small businesses don’t have a website, according to customer data and marketing platform Clutch.
To ensure you have a thriving business regardless of the season, you need to have an online presence. A little website design equals a lot of reach in terms of ecommerce. Cater to out-of-state customers and even global ones, who live in climates where it isn’t off-season.
8. Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
Position yourself as a company that users can turn to for accurate, insightful information on a topic that interests your target audience. Do so by publishing quality content throughout the year.
Provide informational content, including blogs and videos, that educate customers. This helps you stay top of mind in the customers’ eyes.
9. Build Your Emergency Fund
Just as you’d save money for personal emergencies or unexpected expenses that might arise, do the same for your company. Set aside a percentage of revenue every week or month to build up your business savings.
Having a cash buffer can help you get from one season to the next. Aim for enough to cover at least 3-6 months of expenses. Set up automatic transfers to your savings account until you’ve reached your goal.
10. Make Wise Use of Financing
Our final thriving business idea: Consider obtaining financing to help weather seasonal lulls.
A line of credit is a flexible form of financing designed to be there when you need it. You can apply and get approved for a certain credit limit, but you don’t need to touch it right away. Just keep it in your back pocket until you find yourself experiencing temporary cash flow issues or encounter an unexpected expense.
All-Season Business Ideas
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the greatest employment growth over the next decade will be in the individual and family services sector, which is projected to increase 1,052% from 2019-2029. Other services, including pet care and personal care, are expected to grow 97% over the same time frame.
With that in mind, here are a few business ideas that can be profitable regardless of the season, from entrepreneurial endeavors that can keep you busy year-round to small-town businesses that thrive.
- Child care
- Car wash
- Home health care
- Cleaning service
- Dry cleaner
- Delivery services
- Funeral services
- Pet grooming and boarding
Here are a few options for top thriving online businesses:
- Search engine optimization
- Affiliate marketing
- Online teaching and tutoring
- Computer systems and design-related services
What Are Your Thriving Small Business Ideas?
Making it through the challenges different seasons bring is something all thriving small businesses have managed. How will you keep your company on an upward trajectory? What steps will you take to make sure your business doesn’t just survive but thrives?