Dealing with the quiet times
Have you noticed that things seem a little quiet on the ‘net at the moment? It’s as though the whole world has taken a joint absence of leave from everything internet related and it just seems a little ‘too quiet’ on the social media front?
.. this is an over-exaggeration but I’ve definitely noticed a lack of enthusiasm on my part when scrolling through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and it seems as though there is a general apathy towards sharing online at the moment and people are posting images and updates less often than they usually would.
In addition to this I’ve also noticed that those who are still posting whether regularly or not have made mention of the fact that things appear to be a little sluggish on the old internet side; sales are down, engagement is down, people are liking posts less often, enthusiasm is generally on a downward spiral to nowhere interesting etc etc.
And this got my brain whirling as to why this may be and old memories came flooding back of how it felt a number of years ago when I was left twiddling my thumbs during what felt like the most eternally long low sales period in my life as a retail business owner.
This time of year is generally a busy one for everyone and life just seems and feels different at this time of year for a number of reasons; our attention is diverted to getting away, spending more time with family and friends, being outdoors and enjoying the glorious weather we’ve recently been having in the UK and generally spending less time glued to our mobile devices (well, if this can actually be said when studies are finding that we’re TOO attached to our phones!).
But whatever the reasons, as an owner of a business, it can be a somewhat demoralising time when sales and client enquiries have taken a nose dive and you’re left wondering what on Earth you can do to keep momentum and motivation going until things pick up again.
Well, running a business can be both life changing and a big drainer on your time. It takes major effort and determination to make sure you have a work-life balance which is especially hard when your passion and interests are just the things that are helping you to live the life you want to lead and bring in the money to sustain this.
So here are a few things that can help when feeling like you’re stuck in a bit of a low sales/ clients rut at this time of year (spoiler: they won’t necessarily help to improve the sales/ enquiries coming in but will give you some food for thought as to how to approach these slower times):
Complete long over-due tasks:
Do you have to be so present on your business at this time of year, or can you move your attention to other areas that may have been lacking in action?
It’s all about using your time effectively; if sales and clients are at their bare minimum, use the time to take stock of productive tasks that give you a feeling of control again. That way, when things start to pick up again you’ll have already crossed these tasks off your list and delve head first into getting things back on track with a renewed sense of purpose.
If you’re a producer, can you plan for the slower periods by introducing new products or incentives to keep the sales coming in? Can you send out newsletter emails to subscribers with a % off purchases over a certain amount in order to keep your business in the mind of the consumer?
As a service provider, can you keep interest going by drip feeding a new service that you’re due to launch in the coming months? Is there a discount that you may be able to offer (however this comes with it’s own considerations, mostly regarding the perceived value of your services through a discounted offer that may actually devalue what you do to the end user! A blog post for another time perhaps…)
It’s not about changing everything what you do and offering incentives left, right and centre that don’t give you any benefit, all in order to keep your audience engaged but about using all avenues available to you to show everyone that you still have great products at all times of the year.
Seasonal Items/ services
Again this mostly relates to those who produce items; start marketing your seasonal items or at least make a start with planning your marketing campaign for the (fast) approaching festive season.
I remember using the time to make a detailed inventory of all stock I had in store and assigning certain products to the seasons. This wasn’t written in concrete but I had a good idea of what I had at hand and what I needed to re-order in in preparation for the festive season ahead.
With this information in mind I was then able to plan any offers and incentives to customers, as well as know what items would be taken to events to coincide with the theme of the event itself.
Take time out (AKA, don't just be a business owner!)
Another memory that came flooding back from the yonder years was the man next door to my shop who deliberately shut his doors for 2 weeks every August so he could go on holiday and enjoy his time away from his ‘quiet period.’
I initially found this behaviour to be maverick-like and a little risky (thoughts of “what if customers turn up to buy, find his shop closed and never go back to him again?” entered my mind) but over time I came to realise that he had the right idea.
Staying glued to a business at a time when all you’re doing is wasting valuable mental energy in worrying about low sales and enquiries and forgo-ing any available time that could be used more effectively to recharge your batteries was counter-productive.
So be kind to yourself and give yourself some time off too. You’ll probably come back with new ideas and a new clutch of intentional goals and aims to work towards before the end of the year. And remember, the only person you can rely on to be nice to you, is you.
This will come with time and you would be hard pressed not to notice seasonal changes in sales and interest in your products/ services over the course of building your business.
Use any available information you have to build a clearer picture of what sells well at any point in the year, and plan for these periods.
As time goes on, you will have gathered so much valuable information on trends, sales forecasts, clients enquiries and reasons for up’s and low’s, and you can prepare yourself for what may be around the corner.
Don’t take it personally
Ahh this is better said than done, I really can relate.
You may see others around you, whether personally or on social media, and feel your stomach churning when it seems as though they are doing really well.
It’s been said before but don't believe everything you read on the various social media platforms; it's highly highly unlikely that you’ll get a business owner who 100% spills the beans on how blooming hard times are and that it’s a constant worry how they’ll pay their rent, studio space, employee wages at the end of the week. It’s not fun to acknowledge and it most certainly isn’t fun to disclose the background troubles to the general public.
On that note though, I do applaud those who do take a stand and openly admit that times are hard and maybe this year hasn’t sailed by in the way they’d anticipated and hoped for at the start of the year. I also applaud those who take active steps in changing their fortune around and take risks in other ways that may be just the golden ticket for their venture. Without risk, nothing will change.
Seeing business lows in a personal way is extremely hard not to do, but it ultimately detracts you from using the same motivation to pull your socks up, pay attention to what matters to your business and make plans to pull yourself out of the slow season in whatever way you can control.
In summary, slow seasons can be hard to deal with, especially when you're growing or building your business and you’ve made good strides along the way. As with everything in life, there are many ebbs and flows and you’ve just got to focus on what you can control, accept not everything will be easy and in your favour and make a conscious decision to use all available information to form a robust plan to create little life-jackets for you at any point in the future when things take a downward turn.
And most importantly, be kind to yourself and remember the positives you’ve made so far, because I can assure you, there will be a lo of progress from the day you started to where you are now.