No matter how successful your business, there are times when you may experience a slowdown. The reason may simply be due to seasonal demands or, as we’ve seen in recent weeks, the result of a global crisis.
When slowdown happens, business owners and senior management teams experience increased pressure and stress about sales revenue, paying the bills and employee welfare. The temptation is to hunker down and weather the storm.
However, having a little more time on your hands gives you the perfect opportunity to work on your business rather than in your business so that you’ll be perfectly positioned to take advantage of the upturn.
Schedule your social media
Love it or hate it, social media is a great way to engage with your customers. Now is the time to really think about your message, put a content plan together and then schedule all your posts for the next few weeks.
There are lots of scheduling platforms to choose from, with many offering free options and training to get you started. Some of our favourites include:
Do your research as each have their own advantages and drawbacks, plus there are other popular platforms to choose from. Facebook also allows in-app scheduling.
Work on professional development
Your employees will learn, grow and become more productive in their roles when you invest in their training and development. So, when business is slow, it’s a great time to carry out a skills audit of your team and then start looking into free or low-cost training options.
Importantly, employees who are furloughed during the Covid-19 crisis, can still engage in training (it’s actually encouraged) under the specific guidelines detailed here.
We’ve already mentioned that many social media scheduling platforms offer free training (including tips for generating content and building following). However, particularly in the current climate, you can find all kinds of deals:
- Free SEO training from Moz academy
- Heavily discounted business courses from Reed
- Discounts from freelance providers looking to boost their own income during a difficult period
You can also take advantage of fully funded training right here at The Business Village with our our tenant business Brook Corporate Developments and colleagues at Sheffield City Region on a wide variety of topics including:
- Survive, Revive and Thrive
- Returning to Work Safely
- Effective Communication
- Increase Sales during COVID
- Cash Conservation
- HR for Post COVID
find out more and get your seat here.
Diversify to meet demand
When UK lockdown measures were announced in March 2020, many businesses completely pivoted their offer to meet changing demands:
- Delivering guitar tuition and fitness classes online rather than in person
- Restaurants and pubs offering takeaway food options
- Shops quickly moving to e-commerce and local delivery services
By repackaging your products/services and offering things in a different way, you could retain your existing customers and even increase sales.
Also, a little time spent on competitor research could identify any gaps in your own products/services or uncover emerging market trends which you may have missed.
Refine your systems and processes
Slow periods give you the opportunity to step back and look at your existing systems so that you can see what works and what’s just additional bureaucracy. You can then create more streamlined processes for when business picks up.
If you’re providing a service, consider how easy it is for potential clients to book appointments and whether this could be automated via online calendar software. Once you’ve landed a client, are your onboarding and offboarding processes adding value? Time spent creating new onboarding documents now will give your business a professional image when customers come knocking at your door.
Ask a few questions
By getting in touch with your customers (via interviews or questionnaires) to learn more about their experience of buying from your business, you can:
- a) understand what you’re doing well,
- b) understand where you can improve, and
- c) collect some stories to create case studies and testimonials
You could also ask them to leave reviews on Google, LinkedIn or Facebook to help reassure potential customers about you and your business.
For anyone with employees, it’s equally useful to ask them questions to find out how things are, whether they’re happy, and what ideas they may have to improve the business.
If you’ve considered writing a newsletter or creating videos for a YouTube channel, this is a great time to get started. With less day to day pressure, you can spend more time being creative and develop something which really engages with people.
Here’s a link to The Business Village YouTube channel where you can catch up on the very latest developments as we crack on with our new Building Four and perhaps have a giggle at how far we have come since the BBIC was first established some 30 years ago.
You could also work on building your email marketing list by writing something that people will find useful and then making it available as a free download. This has the added bonus of positioning you as an expert in your field.
Quiet times are also perfect for working on your blog. You can develop a content plan and then get a head start on writing and scheduling posts. You could also look back through your old blog posts to add links for more recent posts, or even pitch to write guest blog posts elsewhere which can help to get your business known.
Tap into your network
Reaching out to people in your network when work is lean could lead to you working with someone else who is overloaded. Alternatively, you may find complementary businesses to partner with, eg. a content writer partnering with a website designer to present a fully comprehensive service to clients.
Networks are particularly crucial for solo business owners going through tough times as you’ll find people who understand the issues and who can offer either a friendly ear or some innovative ideas.
In person is great, but it’s equally effective online via LinkedIn and Facebook Groups. Equally, consider joining both professional organisations where you’ll find people who know your industry trends, plus general business groups where you’ll meet a diverse range of business owners.
Carry out a marketing audit
Stepping back from day to day business gives you the opportunity to refresh your website and ensure that it’s up to date with current information. Similarly, you could look at your existing marketing materials and overall marketing strategy.
At the very least, you could begin preparing a list of potential leads and start pitching to them.
Additionally, give your past customers a little love by sending them a personalised email (or make a phone call) to ask how they’re doing. It will remind them about you and your business, and you may just walk away with some work which they had in the pipeline.
Sort out those niggly little jobs
When business is booming, it can be hard to keep on top of some of the smaller jobs. So, if you’re behind on your book keeping or other paperwork, now is a great time to get back on top of them.
Similarly, you may only have had the time to put the basic details into your CRM system, so it’s worth taking a closer look to ensure that you have all the relevant details captured.
Or maybe your office needs an upgrade – a coat of paint, a thorough clean, or general organisation to make things more efficient?
Have a little down time
This may be an opportunity for you to avoid burnout and give yourself a break, sit back, enjoy life and do the things which make you happy. We all work so hard these days, so why not take some time off, start a new hobby, spend time with family, or get exercising.
Besides, it’s well known that giving your brain a rest and doing something completely different can actually get your creative juices flowing. Then, when you get back to your business, you’ll have tons of new ideas and renewed energy to catch the upturn.
As you can see, slow business times do not have to be negative and can be used productively to either change how you offer your products and services or to create a firm foundation and prepare yourself for the busy business days ahead.