Every business has those hot seasons. Those times of year when business is banging! It could be summer when people are taking it easy, it could be fall when people are getting back into a routine, or it could be around holidays, wedding seasons, and sports seasons. Which means that there are inevitably times of year when business is slow.
And even more scary, there are those times when we’re not busy and we’re not sure why. Or when circumstances beyond our control wreak havoc.
Yeah, you can run your business into the ground by deeply discounting everything in a panic-induced frenzy, or you can use this time to not only set your brand up for major growth once the revenue starts flowing, you might even make some major fixes that were causing business to dry up in the first place.
When business is slow, that doesn’t mean you should slow down. Now is the perfect opportunity to work on all those things you’ve been meaning to get to to improve your brand.
Here’s our top ten list of things to do when business is slow.
If you DIYed your website or hired an inexperienced designer, chances are your website isn’t optimized for ranking on search engines.
I know- we’re just as infuriated anytime we see that someone has paid someone else to design their website without taking SEO into consideration. We’ve had clients come to us after paying thousands for a fresh new site only to find that years later it was never optimized.
And if you DIYed you probably weren’t thinking about this- you just wanted a site up and fast. But now it’s time to level up.
SEO doesn’t have to be super complicated. Check out this post all about the beginning SEO essentials and start spreading that Google Glitter all over your metadata.
There are several reasons business can be slow- hello COVID-19!
But business could also be slow because people just aren’t connecting with your brand.
They don’t see how your business fits in with what they need and they’re just not feeling those buy-now feels.
Something’s off- so fix it!
There’s a lot that goes into clarifying your brand message, and this is something we work on with our clients during our brand strategy workshops, which take between 12-15 hours of intense work.
If you’re a service based business, this could be adding new testimonials or updating your portfolio with case studies.
But the easiest way to increase the value of your brand when business is slow is to add valuable content.
Now there are a lot of ways you can blog, and I’m not necessarily talking about a traditional blog. You can podcast, vlog, create graphics, etc.
But there is a small hitch- don’t be that business that’s like, “Business is slow so I’ll blog and try to get more business but as soon as the money’s rolling again, no more blog.”
When COVID-19 hit our inboxes were bombarded with this kind of nonsense. It’s a sad plea for business. You’re showing people that you only care about providing valuable content to them only to build up more business. Gross.
As we’re writing this, we’re coming to the end (fingers crossed) of sheltering in place in California.
And not to toot-toot or anything, but business has not been slow for us.
And here’s the kicker- we haven’t posted on social media in about five months.
The magic is in the email list.
We don’t even have a large list. Service providers don’t need large email lists. That would be the product based businesses- both digital and physical.
And don’t you dare think about just putting up a “Join Our Newsletter” form on your website and call it a day.
People don’t give a flying fudge about an email list.
What can you create that will blow their minds?
Once again, our clients leave with a solid plan to grow their email list that we work through during our brand strategy workshops.
It’s a smooth business move to have multiple revenue streams. This doesn’t even have to be super-related to your business either, but it can be.
Our friend Brianne Wik of Brave Fear runs in-person retreats. And during COVID-19 it hasn’t been the best time to be in the retreat business. That’s why she has e-courses, consulting, and a boat load of business guides that she sells on her site.
Not only that, but she’s a Beauty Counter consultant. Not related to her business, and that’s amazing!
Because Brianne has worked out a way to make money when business is slow that not only supports her life but supports her values.
Nobody said that all your income has to come from just one business.
Bet you didn’t know I write curriculum guides for Harper Collins Education. Yep- as we speak I’m in the middle of a guide for high school teachers to use with Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile in anticipation of the motion picture release this fall.
Education and mystery novels are a big part of what makes me, me! And isn’t it great that I make a living doing all kinds of things I love and not just one?
I want you to not only add in more income streams, I want you to tap into all aspects of your life and see if there are other opportunities outside of your brand to support yourself fully.
Has it been a while?
If you built your brand years ago on a shoestring budget, you most likely didn’t get the brand identity of your dreams. And there probably was little strategy involved.
Think of it like furniture. You’ve got your starter college furniture that got you by. You may have even elevated to some IKEA, but there comes a time when your furniture should reflect your life, personality, and values.
Same goes for your brand. Small businesses go through growth stages, so the brand identity system that worked for you when you started, or maybe five years in, might not be what your business needs now.
It might not be connecting with clients and customers to create that gimme-gimme sensation they get when they come across brands they love.
And if your current brand identity was based on a trend, you need an upgrade. No more chevron patterns, no more gold foil that you can’t read, no more random leaf and flower logos that mean nothing, and no more Hello Beautiful font (there is a particular place in Branding Hell for Hello Beautiful- I’d rather you use Papyrus).
If you don’t know where to start with a new brand identity, check out this article on Stylescapes and how we use them to determine the direction for all the brands we design.
This is especially important for all you service providers out there.
If you don’t have your processes and systems down, you’re not providing a stellar client experience.
Project management may sound like a drag, but without it you won’t be able to charge premium pricing and you won’t get repeat clients or referrals.
We highly recommend The Practical Project Management kit from The Futur (affiliate link). It will help you create a great experience for your clients with 70+ videos, email templates, work approval forms, after-action review worksheets, and additional bonus content.
But seriously- even if you ship products you need to get down your shipping procedures, vendor ordering processes, etc. And then there’s the thank you emails that need to be created, feedback emails for reviews.
We recently made probably our bagillionth purchase from Retro Supply Co. and we got a sweet little email letting us know that we were now VIP customers with VIP benefits. That’s a process that business has developed to make us feel special.
There was a trend in website design that’s had it’s time- the cluttered collage.
Yes, there are still influencers out there who have this look, but you’re not here to be an influencer. Your website is not a “Dear Diary” moment. That’s a whole different kind of marketing.
If you’re a small business you can’t tell website visitors everything you do all at once in a jumbled mess that looks like high school art class.
The brain likes order and logic, so if you’re website is button happy, copy happy, image happy, and/or graphic happy, it’s time to streamline.
Streamline doesn’t mean boring- it means orderly. It means designing your site in a way that doesn’t burn brain power.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many websites we’ve reviewed where it’s not clear how to buy something. No wonder business is slow!
Photography can get dated pretty fast, so the one thing brands need to update on a regular basis is photography.
Get new product shots, get new brand shots, get new headshots.
The big thing here is to find a photographer that specializes in the type of look you’re going for.
We highly recommend Lish Creative for product photography, but her style might not be for everyone. It’s not even our style, but she’s great!
This is why it’s essential to have a clear brand style guide that includes a section covering photography so you know exactly how your photography should be edited or else your website (and Instagram) will look like a jumbled mess of saturations, contrast, vibrancy, exposures, color balance etc. And if you don’t know what those terms mean- for the love of all things holy stop taking your own photographs.
When business starts to pick up again you want to look as pro as possible. Stop trying to do everything yourself! And hey- maybe business will pick up again because you finally decided to go pro!
Passion projects are one of the best things you can do when business is slow.
One, they keep you busy so you still have content to share with the world.
And if you’re especially interested in being hired to do more work that lights you up and fits your style, you’ve got to start with passion projects. They allow you to hone in on your personal style and creative point of view- and this is true for creatives and non-creatives alike.
What started as digital illustrations for Nathan turned into paid commissions to create merchandise art for Six Flags theme parks.
And my passion for mystery book clubs eventually led to paid opportunities with a major publishing house creating book club guides.
But there’s also something incredibly freeing about passion projects. To just create with no regard for clients or customers. To just get into the flow of creating. Even if you see no way to incorporate a passion project into your business, just giving yourself the space to create and get into the flow will allow for more creative problem solving when you’re feeling blocked in your business.
That’s why Nathan plays the bass and I play the guitar. While we have several passion project ideas for growing the business, we’ve also got passions outside the business. And if we’re feeling stuck, we take a music break and come back feeling a whole lot less stuck.
Now hopefully business picks up before you have a chance to get to all the items on this list. So set some priorities, get the help you need, and constantly work on improving your brand. Even when business picks up again, work on improving your brand. Because the more you provide an immersive experience for your clients and customers, the less likely you’ll run into many times when business is slow.