Any business that depends on seasonal customers must find ways to deal successfully with the dreaded off-season. Whether you sell boogie boards on the Jersey Shore, Christmas trees in Vermont or have any other enterprise that is more profitable at certain times of the year than others, it behooves you to make the most of your downtime. There are numerous ways to transform inactivity into future profits.
Make Your Database Work for You
When your store is in full swing and customer traffic is at its peak, it might seem inconceivable to add another task to your list of priorities. However, dedicating some resources to capturing customer information now can give you a great deal of content to work with in the off-season.
The customers that you add to your database today can become the leads and mainstays of tomorrow. Once you obtain their contact information and add it to your database, you can send them newsletters, coupons and other customer loyalty promotions. Furthermore, you can make them feel like true members of your team by subscribing them to your blog in which you share insider details about the goings-on at your business. The key is to keep your store on their radar throughout the year even if you are only open for a few of those months.
Make the Most of Customer Input
Everybody loves to read reviews about businesses, so put your loyal customers to work for you. Ask them to write testimonials about your products and services that you can place on your own website or in forums such as Yelp. Photos and videos are other fun ways that your Internet visitors can get a taste of what you have to offer during the off-season. Just imagine the plans that could be set into motion if a potential customer reads reviews of your summer clam shack during the depths of a cold and snowy winter. What is in the back of their minds in February might well be money in your cash register in July.
Write Compelling Off-Season Content
Those slow months can give you the perfect opportunity to get your creative juices flowing. If you want existing and new customers to remain interested in your business and what you have to offer, it is crucial that you keep providing them with lively, interesting content. You might not be selling too many skis in July, for instance, but you certainly could provide your customers with tips that can help them stay fit during the off-season. Your fruit farm is not producing blueberries or apples in the cold of January, but you could dish up some delicious pie recipes that incorporate the crops you grow.
Don’t Forget About Email
While we are not recommending a bombardment of content to your customers’ inboxes, you can respectfully and discreetly use email to keep your business on the minds of your customers during the off-season. If you own a Christmas tree farm, for instance, why not send updates on the growth of the spruces and pines that will be decorating people’s homes next December? The key is to remain viable and visible without overdoing it and irritating your customers.
Use the Off-Season to Boost Customer Interest
Everyone likes a bargain, and your downtime is the perfect vehicle for furnishing deals to your customers. Weeks or even months before the season starts, send out an email blast and generate some Facebook and Twitter buzz about your store. If you sell seasonal products, offer them at “early bird” prices. Reward customers with discounts that they can use as soon as you open your doors. In short, do whatever you can to whet people’s appetites for what you will be providing.
Give Some Extra Love to Your Local Customers
Your store might cater mostly to snowbirds or to tourists who flock to the area for the skiing or the beaches, but what happens when they leave? There are still people who live in the area year-round, and these locals can be your saviors when the vacationers head back home.
If you remain open throughout the year, think of ways to reward the people in your community. Give them discounts on your products; offer hometown loyalty cards to make them feel special. Furnish them with unique deals that only locals receive, and be sure to let them know that you accept credit card payments – even if you encourage the use of cash for your tourist customers. When you make conscientious efforts to join with and give back to your community, you will be rewarded by support and loyalty from the people of your town.
Offer Referral Programs
Whether the word of mouth happens between town locals from where your business is located or among the friends and acquaintances of the tourists who visit you during peak season, make it your business to turn these positive vibes into repeat and new customers. Reward your current customers for letting others know about your establishment, using cash, product samples and discounts. And be sure to give incentives to your potential customers as well. Use the off-season to encourage prospective guests or customers to sign up for your newsletter or subscribe to your blog. By so doing, you will bolster your database and create a buzz about your establishment that you can carry straight into the next busy season.
If you make the effort to use the off-season to your advantage, you will be amazed at the results. You won’t just keep your current customers connected and engaged; you will set the stage for welcoming new ones. When your busy time rolls around again, you will be set to reap the rewards.