January can be a tricky time for many small businesses. With consumers unwilling to spend big after Christmas and potential clients either working on their budgets or still on holiday, start-ups often struggle to generate serious revenue during the month.
That’s not to say the rest of the year will be a breeze, as demonstrated by figures released last week that showed there was a slowdown in consumer spending in November.
But business owners need to be particularly mindful that the start of 2013 doesn’t turn into a horrible cashflow crunch.
“Cashflow over the Christmas and New Year period is where every business feels the pinch,” says business advisor Brad Callaughan, of Callaughan Partners.
“With the majority of business closing down for a two to three week period, it is forward thinking and planning businesses that survive.”
“We are all aware January will be quiet and the only way to plan around this is to look forward with both income and expenses. Having a cashflow projection that has comparisons to last year can be a great start.”
“Looking back can always help us look forward. If this is your first year, look to others in your industry to see what you competition have done or seek advice from your accountant early.”
But now we are already well into January, what can you do to help boost sales? Here are three essential ways to get things moving in the right direction:
1. Focus on your best customers
Ideally, you’ll have a database of your best customers and some sort of loyalty program that ensures they keep spending with you rather than go elsewhere.
Now is the time to reach out to your best customers and encourage them out of their January spending slumber with a well-targeted pitch.
“You need good understanding of these customers’ purchasing history so that you can tailor new products and offers that complement that,” explains Brian Walker, founder of Retail Doctor Group.
“It’s a good time to think about point of difference. Be very crisp and sharp – don’t be all things to all people. Focus on the position of your brand, what’s unique about it.”
“You can invite customers onto a loyalty program and contact via email, SMS or ask them to join a social media group.”
“The offer has to be precise and relevant to consumers. You really have to understand who your customer is and have a great relationship with them.”
2. Have as many sales channels as possible
A website, according to Walker, has moved from being a “nice to have to being something you have to have.”
But having a website alone isn’t enough to generate sales in this quiet period, even though it will be the first point of call for most consumers researching any potential purchases.
Three quarters of small businesses still fail to use social media in any way to boost sales, meaning that even by just setting up a Twitter account or posting something on a Facebook page, you could well move ahead of your competition.
“Online will account for 10% to 12% of all sales this year and more than 80% of us research items online, so you really don’t have much of a choice anymore,” Walker says.
“The attitude of ‘I’m a retailer, I have a shop’ has been replaced with ‘I’m a retailer, I have a brand’. It’s a huge trend and you need to make sure you’re in that game with things like smartphone-enabled websites.
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