Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Seasonality affects many industries. While this is simply part of the nature of these markets, it’s vital that these seasons are used correctly to ensure the sustainability of business throughout the year.
There are several ways that this downtime can be strategically utilized to maximize revenue. Let’s discuss some strategies below:
Riding the wave
While some businesses have more obvious seasonal trends than others, many experience periods in the year when business is known to be quieter for various reasons. For example, the cruise ship industry has perhaps one of the most obvious seasonal trends. So much so that they’ve coined a term for it: the wave season. Regardless of whether you’re in travel, education or telecoms, slow periods are inevitable. It’s what you do with them that matters.
While your customers may not be purchasing at a high rate during the slow season, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still looking for information and assessing available purchase opportunities during that time. If you are not reaching out to them during this period, by the time wave season arrives, it’s already too late.
Success in seasonal industries works through the waterfall effect. If you fill the vessel now, it will overflow when you need it to. However, if you sit back and do nothing or cut back on your marketing efforts when sales aren’t happening, your waterfall has no chance of reaching the required level.
Related: 5 Ideas for Staying Busy During the Slow Season
Push now, succeed later
During slow seasons, it’s key to continue pushing content out into the market. Through drip campaigns, you can continually put your brand in front of those who will eventually become your customers. They might be cuddled up in front of a roaring fire in the middle of winter, but an ad for an incredible cruise holiday is the perfect way to get them thinking about what could be when the weather warms up. Gradual yet consistent exposure to your brand helps to build their interest to the peak point of purchase.
When marketing outside of wave season, make the most of the time of year you find yourself in to push sales — think market vouchers for Christmas or even Halloween specials. Unique and interesting offerings that align with your customers’ current experience while helping them to plan for future purchases work particularly well to maximize future revenue. A secured customer now, even at a discounted rate, is far better than clinging to the hope that they will close with you in the future at a full rate.
Related: How To Turn Your Slow Months Into Your Best Months
Laying the groundwork
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) takes time to filter through, so it makes complete sense to use the slower season to get your SEO campaigns underway. Combine this with limited-period offers to encourage customers to make purchases out of their ordinary pattern. Even if they don’t bite on these, your brand is on their mind, and you may just see them again in wave season.
During this time, don’t discount your existing customer database as a vital source of future leads. In fact, considering that these customers have already purchased from your business in the past, they are probably the most qualified leads you have access to in your slow season. Targeting these people with carefully curated offers can help to trigger upgrades and return business. While you’re at it, referral programs will work equally well with this group of customers. They’ve already (hopefully) had a good experience with your business, so why not let them refer their friends and family and earn discounts or access to exclusive deals in return?
Your long-term ROI needs to be the yardstick you use to decide whether to increase or decrease spending, not immediate sales numbers. Although it might be tempting to slash marketing budgets during slow seasons, in the long run, you’ll be doing your business more harm than good.
Related: 4 Tips for Managing Cash Flow in a Seasonal Business
Tracking the waves
While maintaining marketing spend in the slow season is a smart move, if that budget and its campaigns are not tracked correctly, you may still be wasting your efforts and money. The only way to truly understand which avenues are producing the ROI you see in six months is holistic attribution of the channels that produced those sales.
As long as you have a very tight tracking mechanism and attribution, that alone will dictate how you spend and how far you push — because marketing dollars today do not necessarily mean a booking or sale or conversion today, especially if your industry is seasonal. The conversion may happen six months from now, but if you can’t track that six-month window, you’re running blind, anyway.
The key to successfully navigating seasonal industries is smart spending through validated data from holistic attribution. Using the data gathered during wave seasons to guide marketing in slow periods is vital to sustained success in these industries.