November and December are big months for virtually every business, but for some merchants, this period can make or break their budget for the year. Some seasonal businesses expect to earn 70 percent of their annual revenue within just a few months. Whether you're recovering from the holiday season or anxiously awaiting your summertime rush, here are some practical ways you can extend your revenue generation beyond those core months.
Diversify your offerings
Many seasonal businesses own assets that they can utilize throughout the year; all it takes is a little creativity. An outdoor ice rink could become a roller-skating rink during the summer months. A snow-plowing business could put their trucks to good use and double as a lawn mowing company. A Christmas decoration business could pick up off-season sales by selling decorations for Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween and birthdays. Evaluate what you have and how you can put your space, equipment or branding to use in other creative ways.
Brandon Stephens, president of Christmas Decor, tells Business News Daily that "you want to choose [opportunities] that you can pursue using the same people and equipment you have for your core business. This will help to reduce overhead costs and make it easier for you to market your new business to your current client base." Think beyond hard assets and consider the talent you have on your team, as well as your partnerships and vendor agreements. How can your employees continue to add value throughout the year?
Capture online off-season sales
E-commerce is a growing channel for retailers; this past holiday season, e-commerce sales accounted for 14.6 percent of total retail from November 1 through Christmas Eve, according to Mastercard. Savvy business owners can carry that momentum throughout the year and find success selling online.
You don't need to sell a physical product to take advantage of the digital market. Restaurants, event-planning companies, kayak tours and summer camps can all benefit from establishing a strong online presence. Create a website, develop a blog, optimize your social media accounts and start generating leads online. In the off-season, send email marketing campaigns to get prospective customers excited about your offerings and keep them in the loop year-round.
Revamp your marketing strategy
If you market yourself as a one-season business, your customers will likely see you that way too. "Seasonal business owners have to think like hardcore guerilla marketers and employ all the lateral thinking they're capable of," says Terry Kyle, author of 400 Latest & Greatest Small Business Ideas. "The best time to brainstorm such ideas and to experiment with them is during the slow season."
One of the best examples of a seasonal product company turned year-round success is UGG, the American footwear company. The brand started by launching its now-infamous boots before expanding with sandals, slides and sneakers. "The hardest part of the business was its seasonality. We made good cash flow for three months and went negative for nine," UGG founder Brian Smith told Forbes.
Seek out partnerships
Boost sales and cut costs in the off-season by partnering with other seasonal businesses. The best way to do this is by seeking out businesses with products and services that complement yours. This increases the chance of their customers becoming your customers. For example, if you sell snow skis in the winter, partner with a shop that sells water ski equipment in the summer.
Establishing a referral program can also help you maximize sales in your slow season. When a customer frequents your business during the peak season, give them a coupon for your partner business and ask the other business to do the same when its sales are booming. Double your reach through online collaboration, including a cross-promotion campaign on social media.