Many businesses experience lulls. Maybe you know when to expect them. Maybe not. Either way, it can be worth treating any slow period as an opportunity to strategize ways to increase your revenue.
But before you devise a strategy, it can be wise to get a sense of why sales are dropping. Is it a predictable seasonal shift? Or are there new competitors on the scene? Other external influences, such as new industry developments and economic shifts, can also hurt sales, as can internal factors like a sudden drop in product quality.
Internal problems, like poor customer service, can usually be tackled head on with better training, regular performance reviews, hiring more workers, or implementing a customer relationship management system. External influences, on the other hand, might necessitate more innovative strategies to increase sales revenue. But with a little creative thinking and planning, you might ride those lulls out. And, who knows, in the process you may find a revenue generator that will benefit your business during busy times, too.
Here are seven ways to try to increase your revenue when sales drop.
1. Add Services or Products That Complement Your Existing Business
Try to think about related services or products your customers would appreciate. If you own a gourmet food store, for example, you might stock specialized kitchen equipment or add an online ordering and delivery service. If you’re a landscaper, you might add snow removal during winter. Or maybe you own a summer camp: You can use the winter months to rent out your facilities for conferences or weddings, for example, or perhaps create a winter camp plan for those weeks when school is out.
The key here is to think beyond your primary product or service, as it may not be the only asset your business has to offer. Even if potential offerings stray from your original business model a bit, the fact that your business can continue to generate revenue is what matters – especially if you’re able to leverage the assets you already have, like a versatile location or niche expertise.
2. Create a Loyalty Program to Increase Revenue
Loyalty programs can be as simple as a punch card or a more complex point system that allows shoppers to earn rewards over time. Whatever format you use, the strategy is similar: Track customers’ purchases and reward them with a discount or freebie. This can help keep customers coming back in order to earn the reward.
Also consider building a rewards-for-referrals element into your loyalty program, as this can entice customers to recommend your business to friends – and the more customers, you bring in, the more potential to increase revenue.
If you don’t already use customer relationship management (CRM) software, a slow sales period could be the perfect time to set one up. CRM software can help you to track customers’ behaviors and your interactions with them. This can make it easier to not only provide top-notch customer service, but more effectively target coupons and communications to customer needs and preferences. For instance, during a sales slump, a business might analyze CRM data to identify customers who haven't made a purchase in the past six months and then send them a personalized discount offer as a way to incentivize purchases and boost engagement.
3. Offer Pop-Up Sales to Generate Interest and Pull in Revenue
Pop-up sales can either be unannounced, revealed exclusively to specific customer segments like social media followers, or announced just a few days before the event. The spontaneity of these sales can drive customers to revisit your store or monitor your social media channels to find out when you’ll be having another pop up. Those who feel a reason to proactively check your accounts, rather than simply scroll through feeds, can be more engaged and thus more likely to help you turn sales swoons into revenue boons.
4. Host Events That Can Bring Sales Up
Want more foot traffic? Try to find ways to create a memorable in-store event. Take independent bookstores, for instance. These small businesses faced years of industry pressure from competing superstores, e-commerce giants, and e-readers. But many local sellers have found ways to pull in revenue by hosting events like book signings, as well as by establishing themselves as a vital community hubs. Such decisions have empowered these small shops to not only survive in the face of industry trends, but thrive in spite of them.
An open house-type event may be a great opportunity to give out product samples or offer short demos of your services. Consider bringing in big industry names to give lectures, signings, workshops, and the like, or partner with local artists and musicians, neighboring businesses, or charitable groups in your community to make your event an all-out bash. Other business event ideas that can boost revenue include hosting a celebration for your business’s anniversary, or even a relevant holiday. An ice cream shop, for instance, might choose to host a National Ice Cream Day promotion to bring in more customers, while a local brewery might celebrate its anniversary by bringing in a food truck and offering discounted pours of its limited-edition anniversary brew.
5. Go Into Power-Marketing Mode
Slow seasons can be the perfect time to ramp up your low-budget marketing strategy. For example, consider refreshing your email newsletter to promote exclusive discounts to subscribers. It can also help to promote the newsletter on social media to get more subscribers.
You can also encourage customers to provide testimonials that you can then showcase on your website, social media pages, review sites, and even in-store. You may want to reward customers with discounts to help incentivize their contributions.
Another low-budget option can be to incorporate user-generated content in to your marketing strategy, for example by reposting customer selfies taken at your location, or including such images in your marketing campaign – with permission, of course.
6. Find a Niche Market
Increasing revenue during a downturn may hinge on identifying and catering to a niche audience. Consider an ice cream and candy shop: bustling in the summer but quieter during cooler seasons. To bridge the seasonal gap, they might introduce treats tailored for dogs, tapping into the ever-loyal market of pet lovers. Similarly, a beachwear store in a tourist area might diversify into fitness or yoga apparel for locals during off-peak months to help increase revenue year-round.
Of course, tapping into a niche market doesn’t always have to be a seasonal affair. An electronics store, for instance, might be able to increase revenue by offering DIY workshops on computer coding, soldering, or setting up smart home automation solutions – all of which can appeal to people who want to better understand the innerworkings of the tech they rely on. A restaurant, on the other hand, might appeal to food enthusiasts by hosting culinary classes, tasting sessions, or special parties that highlight local seasonal dishes or special wines.
7. Set up an Online Store or Online Scheduling
If you’re not already selling online, now may be the right time to set up an online store. Not only is it a good project to take on during an off season, but it can be a way to help increase sales revenue both now and in the future. Even if you don’t plan to offer shipping, allowing customers to browse what’s in store before they come into shop – and place orders for pickup – might benefit sales.
If your business is service-based, you might offer virtual consultations. If you’re unable to provide services virtually, simply setting up a web-based scheduling program can make it easier for your customers to schedule appointments. Many people prefer online scheduling to making phone calls, and it also means people can schedule appointments after business hours – potentially increasing your customer base.
The Bottom Line
Try not to let slow-sale periods get you down. Instead, try to think of ways to help increase revenue, whether by adding additional services, hosting pop-up sales and events, tapping into a niche market, refreshing your low-cost marketing strategy, or creating a loyalty program. Taking advantage of every opportunity to develop your business can help you get out of sales slumps and possibly even increase your revenue into the future.
A version of this article was originally published on February 22, 2017.
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