What slow season? Say no to shutting down your marketing efforts this winter.
Why should you be thinking about the slow season now when you're being bombarded with work? You have profit in hand, so forget the winter and strike while the iron is hot. Not to mention, it’s hard to look four months into the future when you barely have time to think about the present. That said, if you don’t plan your winter marketing now, it’ll be too late by the time the busy season slows down enough to refocus.
When you’re raking in capital from festivals, construction sites and solar eclipses (never saw that coming), spending more money on local and online marketing isn’t incredibly daunting. However, looking at Google advertising, social media pay-per-click campaigns or even running newspaper ads when your business slows down seems like a way bigger financial challenge. The cost didn’t change, but when income slows, it feels like a bigger blow to the billfold. By beginning your marketing efforts early and using the slow season wisely, your business will thrive through the winter and you’ll start 2018 with a bang.
First, let’s talk about the present. When you have extra funds from success in the busy season, it may be all too tempting to spend, spend, spend. Don’t do it! Be conscious of your company’s long-term marketing needs and stay disciplined. Don't spend more just because you have it. This would be a good lesson to learn in my personal life, too, but that’s for another day. Either way, if at all possible, defer spending and try to save any increase of funds. Wouldn’t it be nice to know you have a little wiggle room while all of your competitors are struggling over the winter? I’m not saying stop your marketing programs over the spring and summer, but think about spreading out the message year-round. Why spend more money marketing when you’re already slammed?
As we move toward the end of summer and realize that “winter is coming” (Game of Thrones, anyone?), we think about how to market our companies over the holidays and early 2018. Planning is probably the hardest part of the process. You have to close out the current year, prep for next season, and now we’re adding marketing to the mix. Sanitation isn’t seasonal, but many sanitation businesses are. This is the huge disconnect between our cyclical business operations and the 24/7 market for our products and services. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean people aren’t using the restroom or having their garbage taken out. Plan now, and let your customers know you’re still around in the winter.
There’s no time like the present, so start planning today. If you’re stressed for time, try not to overbook meetings, make too many extraneous deadlines, or take on optional projects. If at all possible, try to schedule some of these activities during the winter to save you some trouble. Is it possible to extend service hours in the summer and reduce them in the winter? Is it possible to schedule meetings, maintenance and busy-work for the winter? Could you offer winter season services to help ease the transition between being mind-blowingly busy and dead slow? Take some time, think about it and see what works for you. If you’re able to shave a few hours out of your third quarter workweeks, you can devote your time to marketing and planning.
Now that you have a little bit of time, look back on your marketing “wins” this year. Think about what you had to do in order to make your efforts successful. Evaluating data trends will help you make smart marketing decisions for the future. What did your customers respond to on social media — what got likes, shares and comments? Did your ad in the local paper lead to phone calls? Did a website visitor email you their contact info or ask for a quote? Cater your winter marketing to those channels that produce the highest ROI. There are only a few months left in the year. … It’s time to act now.
Just because you aren’t making as many sales doesn’t mean your marketing needs to go into hibernation. Keep your business active throughout the year. Keep posting on social media, writing blogs about your work or the industry in general, showing off photos from customers you provided services for earlier in the year, and so on. It’s important to get creative. Do you offer monthly services or long-term contracts to your customers? Incentives to accept long-term contracts (such as lower winter pricing) could keep your customers coming back even in the slow season. Maybe try sending out email newsletters that survey your customers. Find out their specific wintertime needs; then, you can offer those participants discounts or rewards for their time and effort. The goal is to think outside the box and keep up communication with your loyal followers.
Another important question is “Who else can your business reach out to in the slow season?” You don’t have to come up with a new service. It may be an untapped market that you’ve yet to discover. Do some research by reading up on other industries and figure out how you can carve out a niche. I know that cold weather has an effect on your customer’s ordering habits. Sometimes portable sanitation products don’t work well in extreme winter environments. Don’t ignore the facts, but don’t sit and wait for next year either. If you wait, you’ll miss out on business just because of an industry trend. Prove it to yourself, one way or the other.
According to Stephen Sheinbaum, founder of Merchant Cash and Capital, you should take advantage of the period when your competitors have low activity. Your customers — and your competition’s customers — may be just as interested in purchasing before the busy season is at its peak if you offer a promotion before your competitors do. In simple terms, if you run a promotional advertisement (online or in print) now, then prospective customers will be more likely to give you their business during your slow season. If this promotion gives you a leg up on the competition, that’s even better. You’re just giving yourself a chance to boost your winter business. It comes down to a simple question: “Have I given my customers a chance to stick around over the winter season, or do I just expect them to work on my schedule?”
You have to build an expectation for your customers. Using September through January to advertise your special rates, hours or services will let clients know that you’re ready for their business any time of year. If the industry standard is to just “deal with the slow season and rest,” you’ll really stand out by broadcasting your message during this time frame.
Now that the bulk of the year is behind us, you may think it’s too late to start, but it’s not. The slow season can be the best time to deal with marketing tasks. This is also a great time to increase employee cooperation and brainstorming sessions. Get your team involved with some high-level planning. Strengthen your client relations by taking the time to meet with them and gather feedback. You’ll develop new ideas and keep your clients happy. If you don’t succeed in picking up an abundance of new contracts, you’ve still made several accomplishments:
- Set the tone for 2018.
- Built stronger customer perception of your brand.
- Gathered valuable feedback.
When the worst-case scenario is still a win, you’re doing it right.
About the author: Joseph Hummel is the marketing manager for PolyPortables.