Welcome to July, folks. We’re now officially knee deep in summer. That means along with the BBQs and sunburns, you’re probably also facing sluggish sales and a loss of in store face time with customers. As happens every year, warmer weather means people are spending more time at the beach and less time making heavy buying decisions. It’s the summer lull and there’s nothing you can do to combat it.
Or is there?
As an employee, I always loved summers in business because it meant the store grew quieter and the workload all but stopped. But as an employer, that same situation can be a little terrifying. However, it’s important not to panic. Instead, use this natural lull to revitalize, revisit and plan for the future.
Here are some ways to combat and tackle the quiet summer months:
Go to camp: Last week Seth Godin offered some great advice for business owners, telling them how summer camp could change their life. The same way it inspired and changed you as a child, summer can change you as an adult. If the summer months are typically slower, invest some of that time elsewhere and in other actions that will help you to grow your business. Learn a new skill, take a class, find a barcamp to help immerse yourself in your industry, form a Tweetup to make new friends and strengthen industry ties, etc. The knowledge and connections you gain during these months will make you stronger and more powerful once the cooler weather hits and things pick up again.
Create cross promotion incentives: Unless your business is summer-oriented, things typically slow down for everyone during the warmer months. That makes it the perfect time to band together with complementary local businesses and find ways to cross promote. Create new partnerships that will allow you to trade services and share referrals to create new incentives for customers. If you’re a bakery, find a local sporting arena or community theater and ask them to sell your cupcakes at their concession and offer to give coupons or notices about their events in return. If you’re a landscaper and your business is booming, hand out flyers for winter service companies to get people thinking early. If the recession has taught us anything it’s that people band together in hard times.
Do something crazy: You know that marketing strategy you wanted to try in December but you didn’t have time? Or that product you’ve been waiting to test? The local seminar you wanted to try and organize for your community? Now is the time to do that. When things get you slow, you have the best reason to experiment and try things you normally wouldn’t have had time to risk. The smaller group of folks now in your store make up the perfect focus group. Release that product and see what the reaction is. Hold a big in store event to get people interacting with you again. Try your hands at creating a viral sensation. Right now you have the time to brainstorm and implement things you won’t necessarily be able to fit in a few months from now. Use it.
Get more social with your brand: Similar to doing some crazy, now’s the perfect time to start experimenting with social media and to create your social media business strategy. Set up that Twitter account, create the Facebook Fan pages, and film those customer retention YouTube videos, etc. If things are getting slow, occupy that time with new activities that could strengthen your company in the long haul. We all have whiteboards of things we can’t wait to do if only we had time…now you have that time.
Research new forms of marketing: Break out of your current promotional bubble and look for new opportunities. Keep an eye out for new speaking opportunities, write articles to appear in industry publications, start making new connections with local media, and get a little bit aggressive with your promotional tactics. The media has a tendency to get a little “soft” in the summer months, help give them content to stand out among all the fluff pieces about summer festivals and events. They’re hungry for it and if you can pitch them a great story about your company, they’ll very likely take it. These types of activities will also help build your place as an expert long after the leaves begin to change colors again.
I’ve seen many small businesses let their spirits die due to the summer slump. Don’t take that mind set. Instead, use this time to try out new strategies, create new relationships and build momentum that will take you clear into the Fall. What are some of your avoiding the summer slump suggestions?