How to turn seasonality into opportunity for your small business

November 1, 2017

For small businesses, it can sometimes feel like “feast or famine” when it comes to the up-and-down nature of revenue opportunity throughout the year.

Businesses that specialize in selling winter coats and outerwear are often left with not much to do in the spring and summer months. Perhaps a coastal restaurant is crammed to the gills during the go-go four months of summer tourist season, and scrambling to keep the lights on throughout the winter months.

Whatever part of the year a business goes through their “famine” phase, it can be possible to mitigate for the up-and, especially, -down periods they might face each year with some forethought and strategy.

While many proprietors do their best to squirrel away funds while the coffers are fat to save for those slow periods, the best laid plans can go awry, leaving many small businesses scrambling when the going gets tough.

Influential ad man Joseph Sugarman once wrote, “Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity.”

So the key is to take the problem of seasonality and turn it into an opportunity. Below, we’ve outlined a few strategies to do so.

Launch an e-commerce site

Many small businesses have looked to the internet to lend a helping hand in bringing in revenue when times are tough. Remember our winter wear shop example from above? The one with nothing to do all summer long? Well it’s cold somewhere during the summer months. Perhaps the key to doing brisk business year round is putting up a Spanish language site optimized and localized for search in South America, where it’s winter during our summer months.

Reposition your business

Or maybe the key for our cold-weather proprietor is to offer a wider range of related products, like light jackets for spring and fall and even swimwear during summer. It’s not a stretch for a business to change from a winter coat shop to a year-round outwear provider—it’s just a matter of proper positioning.

Offer related products

Many small businesses deal with seasonality by offering related products that they can sell year-round. For example, many snowboard shops also offer skateboards, shoes, and apparel. Even though business for snowboards might fall off during warmer months, people skate year round.

Assess and re-deploy your assets in creative ways

Look at your business and its essential elements—each has value in its own way. The key to unlocking the potential of each element during down times is to look at how one might use them in other ways.

Having a lot of empty space in-store might make you the perfect venue for events—networking events, art shows, fashion shows, band release parties. Flex your network and your assets to your advantage to get the most out of your business year-round.

Develop a content strategy

Many businesses ramp up for back-to-school season and the busy holiday stretch. But if you’re the lone voice among your competitors who’s blogging year round, you just might get the jump on everyone else who’s not marketing. Develop a content calendar and blog and keep at it year round to pull in customers, clicks, and interest 24/7/365. If you don’t have the time to maintain a full blog, posting consistent content to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or another social network that’s popular among your network can also work.

Whether it’s taking your business online, talking when no one else is, or pivoting into new product offerings and income streams, smart businesses know how to deal with seasonality proactively. The key to taking seasonality out of the equation is to look at your business from unique angles, and then capitalize on the opportunities you find.

Doing so just might mean the difference between “feast or famine” at your small business.

Featured image by Flickr user Mike Deal.

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