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4 ways seasonal businesses can boost profitability year round

A seasonal business is one that earns most of its revenue during a certain part of the year. That can mean the warmer months, for industries like landscaping, travel, and weddings. It can also mean the colder months, for industries like snow removal and skiing.

If you own a seasonal business, you already know that the slow season can bring challenges. You built your business to do something specific, and when the season won’t allow it, you can get stuck with expenses without sufficient cash flow coming in the door.

Here are four tips for boosting your profitability year round:

1. Get creative with the off season.

Just because you can’t do your “main thing” this time of year doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to create revenue. Think creatively about what your business is already good at—and how that can be adapted to another season

A few examples: With an investment in a bit of extra equipment, a landscaping crew can become a snow removal company during the winter. A moving company can use its fleet of moving trucks to partner with local furniture, hardware, and appliance businesses to handle deliveries of large items. And a tax prep service can shift to year-round financial planning after tax season.

You can also think outside the box about your physical shop space. Could you rent it out or close it to save on electric and heating bills? Simply explain to customers that during the off-season, all business is handled over the phone. 

2. Build your marketing machine.

With your office staff less busy filling orders and managing jobs, the off season is the perfect time to work on your outbound marketing strategy. First, there’s more time for traditional sales and marketing efforts, such as email campaigns, making phone calls, and sending direct mail to your customers and leads.

You can also find new ways to stay in touch. Always wanted to do a newsletter? Now’s the time to set one up: create a template, decide how often you’ll send one, and take advantage of your “free” time making it look just like you want. How about social media? Try different types of posts to see what your fans and customers like hearing about—then do more of that year round.

If you want to get more ambitious, reach out to publications to see if they’d like to run a story on your business. Reporters often need plenty of advance notice to plan out a feature story in order to publish it as you’re gearing up for peak season.

3. Focus on your existing customers.

While you always want to be reaching out to new customers, don’t forget to stay in touch with your existing customers. They can be your best sources of not only repeat business but precious referrals.

The off season is an ideal time to solicit input. When you’re hustling between jobs during the peak season, you may not have as much time to reach out. Your best customers are your best source of helpful, constructive feedback.

You can also gear up for peak season by offering existing customers a discount for jobs that are planned months in advance. That way, you’re using your off season to ensure maximum profitability once things start heating up.

It’s also never a bad idea to stay on customers’ minds with little extras. For example, a local organic farm could publish blog posts with seasonal recipes, like the perfect hot chocolate or hearty stew for staying toasty when it’s cold outside. A landscaping company could publish growing calendars and tips for taking care of your greenery during the winter months.

4. Refine your cash flow.

Budgets can get tight during those lean months. Use the opportunity to create a year-round budget that accounts for heavier and lighter times.

As a rule, you should always save as much as possible during the busy season. This can help establish a buffer against unforeseen expenses that pop up during the slow season, such as updating equipment, adjusting to a change in tax codes, or socioeconomic factors such as COVID. You may also need to pay staff, electric and heating bills, advertising expenses, and annual expenses such as conferences and shows.

If you put it off during peak season, the slow season is also the perfect time to explore enhanced tools to help with cash flow. If your business has a fleet of vehicles, an app like Fillip Fleet and the Fillip Visa* Prepaid Card can help streamline cash flow with spend controls and by eliminating the lag time between payment and reimbursement or end-of-month reconciliation. Explore solutions like Fillip and telematics to prep for a more efficient busy season.