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?
I couldn’t help but chuckle about the summer sales slump for most businesses. I grew up on a farm and worked for the local greenhouse/nursery where this was exactly the opposite. Starting in the spring and through fall it was crazy busy and then the winter was when we would take a break.
Regardless of industry though, these are great ideas worth the time investment. My only question would be this: If these things work in the summer slump, why stop doing them the rest of the year?
This is a good time to do things that you normally put off. When I have extra time like this, I like to spend it updating my websites and blogs. Clean it up a bit, maybe redesign it a little. It gives me the chance to freshen things up and remove links that may be dead. Otherwise, I’m just too busy to make the changes.
Lisa – thanks for sharing these great tips! One more to add to the list: if you can’t get away to attend “camp” in person, look for ways to participate virtually (e.g. community sites, online events). You can still connect with other small biz owners and build relationships that may be useful when things pick up again. You may get some great advice to apply to your business, or give back to the small business community by sharing some of your own.
I enjoyed your upbeat article. You suggest, “Try new forms of marketing.” Now, I’m a bit biased, but I have a research approach that is truly new. It allows the marketer to undertand consumer purchasing in-depth so really innovative approaches can be developed. It is called Context-Driven Qualitative Research. I give several examples on my blog, http://beyondfocusgroups.blogspot.com.
This summer in retail will be focused on moving all the leftover spring and summer goods. But this is also the time for smaller, independent retailers to be preparing for the fall selling season, which is likely to see a modest rebound in business, but still be pretty difficult. It’s essential that Q3 buying plans be re-reviewed given the way June sales came in. Err on the side of lean inventories and greater liquidity. Sell and react. Plan the events and programs which will help you stay close to your current customers, and leverage those relations into additional customers through referral programs. Be sure the store is fresh and compelling. Finally, renew your own passion, and infect your employees with it! They are the difference between a store being memorable, and just being a store.
Great upbeat post!
How about having a summer party, e.g. a BBQ? I will attend one on Saturday! 🙂 Celebrating Independence Day with fellow members of Vasa Order of America. Send a summer gift to your customers, like a t-shirt or baseball cap.
Have a good one! 🙂
My advice would be to take the extra time and invest in yourself, educate yourself on a new product, or sales technique. Brush up on social media, spend some time on Twitter, all those things that seem to get pushed aside when you are busy you can dive into when things are slow. Use the time to make sure you are better at what you do for when you get busy!
Cool advise Lisa and welcome in July greetings! I love summer. This is the time that I can somehow relaxed and while relaxing a bit I use most of my summer time building connections on the local community and in the virtual world.
Summers always bring with them lazy customers and low margins. That applies not only to stores but to business in general. This is what I have experienced over a period of time. The only way out I have tried is trying a new product or preparing for more prospective clients.
This is a good list, I will try some of them this year hopefully they bring some change to a long trend.
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Great tips ! With the Recession in place, it is very important to keep your mind open to everything around you and look for more Opportunities. I think with the current economic conditions, The perfect Business to start is a Franchise. Most have a proven track-record of success and this takes away a lot of risk. Visit http://www.redhotfranchises.com to see many opportunities available from nearly every industry.
Great ideas. A number of industry or trade associations are also offering free webinars to attend – I’d recommend checking out your industry and see if there are any ‘free’ programs. The cost is your time of course – but if business is slow now is the best time to try to learn new ways of doing business.
Cool list of tips of Lisa. I agree, summer is a bit lazy for customer and business owners. But what I usually do in Summer, I engage to summer fit business. Like refreshment business. Now, I’m making the most out of summer.
Great post Lisa. Very interesting list of tips to combat any time when things could slow. Thanks for sharing.
Interesting points — I personally think viral marketing would be especially effective during the summer when students with time off are bored, surfing the Web, and I’ve found AdWido to be useful in capitalizing on that.