For a seasonal business that relies on a summer crowd for the majority of their annual profits, the end of the season can induce some anxiety. “That’s it?” small business owners might be thinking to themselves as they rehash the summer crowds or review their books.
But even without patrons clamoring in from the boardwalk for scoops of ice cream or souvenir purchase, there are still ways to profit and retain customers during the slow season, and especially, to take advantage of having time to think more big picture about your business strategy for next year.
If you’re a small business, here are five things you should consider doing before you close up shop next week.
1. Extend the season
The back-to-school craze starts in early August, and that can make it feel like every single possible customer will be back to the grind come the Tuesday after Labor Day. But that’s not always so. Empty nesters and couples without children often vacation when resort towns are quieter, and they might make a point to arrive after Labor Day. Surfers and beach bums still consider October to be beach weather in some locations. If your area expects a strong enough showing of visitors after the summer officially ends that your bottom line will increase, then don’t close up shop just because it’s September.
2. Offer an end-of-season sale or discounts
When you’ve reached the very tail end of your season, consider having a sale or offering a Groupon or Living Social deal on products or services to encourage people to take advantage of the last days of sunshine and warm weather. Or if you’ve reached the end of the summer, and your tourist clientele have already returned home, you can consider offering special deals and discounts to locals in the area. (It’s a good idea to maintain a solid relationship with locals since they live near your business all year around, and this makes discounts for them a win-win. Plus, if they adore you, they may refer next season’s tourists to your business.)
3. Minimize expenses and prepare for off-season costs
Since you aren’t making much of a profit, it’s a good idea to cut expenses in the off season. You can save money by scaling back on the number of employees and their hours and, instead, take advantage of contractors. Cancel any subscriptions or accounts that you may not be using regularly, and consider negotiating with regular vendors to arrange a hiatus. Also, think about the care of your building or office space in the off season, to prevent expensive damages. If you’re on the water, put up shutters to prevent damages to your building during storms. If the pipes are in danger of freezing, install an alarm system to warn you.
4. Partner with an “in-season” or year-round business
If there other local businesses that offer a service or product that people enjoy in your off-season or all year round, you might be able to find a way to work with them to promote each others’ businesses and increase traffic to both. For example, if you own an outdoor mini-golf course that stays open but sees a drop in guests, maybe you could partner with a local restaurant to offer half-off a round of golf when you show your restaurant receipt.
5. Find a way to stay connected with customers and reassess your marketing plan
Just because your busy season is over doesn’t mean you can afford to stop thinking about your customers–you should always be thinking of new and creative ways to retain your loyal customers and reach out to new ones.
Think of ways to stay on your existing customers’ minds during the off season: create a newsletter that you send throughout the year, start doing some content marketing, or dream up a membership or referral program to prepare for next season.
Also, take time to evaluate this past season’s marketing strategies– what worked well and what didn’t? How can you start preparing for new, creative strategies for next season?
So, as you recover from the nonstop work of a busy season, make sure to take the time to close up shop carefully and keep the business going during the off-season, all so you’re in good shape to start next summer with a bang.