It’s exciting to run a beloved business, especially during your most profitable months. Whether you’re the talk of the boardwalk during the summer, or everyone’s favorite place to order holiday items online, there is little more satisfying than seeing orders pile up when your peak season rolls around.
Unfortunately, the off-season doldrums are a real thing. When your peak season rolls past, your bills don’t stop. You still have to pay for overhead, staff, or whatever fixed costs you have that make your seasonal business a real, live company. Because of this, there’s really no such thing as a seasonal business—just a business with a peak season.
If you have a seasonal business, or you’re thinking of starting one, it’s important you have a strategy for keeping your seasonal business up and running all year long.
Here are a few tips to help you along.
1. Invest in marketing ahead of time
Many business owners are flat-out scared to spend money on marketing because they feel it’s less of a priority. Unless their money is making a direct, measurable impact right away, most will justify the expense as not worth it. But that’s not the case, especially for seasonal business owners.
If you make the majority of your income in a short window of time, you need to be absolutely certain you hit the ground running the moment that window opens: as soon as the weather turns, when the calendar page flips—whatever your business’s mile marker is. That means investing in marketing.
One way to get started is to create awareness campaigns for your business before your peak season starts so your company is top of mind for your prospects. To get started, you’ll need to understand who your prospective customers are: where they’re located, the places they often patronize, the social media platforms they’re active on, the events they attend, etc. (check out this podcast on remarking, targeting, tracking for more on how to get started). Once you understand this data, it’ll be much easier to target them.
You could also consider also offering coupons, discounts, or other incentives to use your business. This helps not only keep your business top of mind for your prospects and customers, it gives you a leg up on your competitors. It also gives people are a reason to come through your doors or visit your website ASAP.
2. Add another product or team up with another company
Another strategy worth considering is testing out other seasonal offerings, or including year-long products or services in addition to your seasonal bread-and-butter. Your frozen desserts business might not be as successful during the cooler months as a bakery or cafe specializing in gourmet hot chocolate, sure. But you might still be able to generate some additional revenue during the slower months with a product that’s true to your core and doesn’t require you to begin housing inventory or raw materials that are wildly different from what you’re used to (you don’t want to create dead stock).
Of course, it’s not always possible for every seasonal business to add new products. You might consider, then, creating a partnership with a company that has an opposite peak season. You might be able to create a product or service together, or collaborate on an event together and share the revenue. Leveraging each other’s customer bases and knowledge means you can reach a larger audience and return the favor when your seasons switch.
3. Look at opportunities in other markets
Luckily, the world isn’t the same everywhere. Culture, climate, and customs vary in different regions of the country and across the globe.
If you’re able, think about taking advantage of online platforms for identifying markets and opportunities for distribution far beyond where you are currently looking. For instance, you might find you’re able to fill a unique need in an area with a peak season that lasts longer than the one that’s local to your market.
4. Apply for financing at the right time
If you need small business funding to bridge you from one peak season to the next—which is very normal for many seasonal business owners—you have to be strategic when you apply.
Many business owners use financing options like opening business lines of credit, invoice financing, and short-term loans (among others) to make sure they cover their operating expenses, including salary and rent when their revenue isn’t high.
Although it might seem tempting to wait until business dies down for the season to apply, you should act ASAP. You may be busy, but it’s important to get your business funding application in when your bank account is flush and you’ve had several months of strong earnings. Lenders will want to see that you’ve been doing well and that you have a track record of success to be able to make your loan repayments.
Running a seasonal business can be tough, but it can also be rewarding. Whether you’re brand new to the game, or a seasoned pro (sorry, we had to!), making sure you set up your business with the right strategy for your slower months will help ensure your success—for both the peak season and beyond.
Meredith Wood is the editor-in-chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. She is a resident Finance Advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more.