Business slowdowns affect nearly every industry. Sometimes, these slowdowns are seasonal — a dip after the holiday shopping season is common in the retail industry, for instance, and the fast food industry tends to see a slowdown in the first few months of each year, when people are fresh off their New Year’s resolutions.
If you’re a small business that hasn’t been around for very long, these slowdowns can seriously affect both your cash flow and your bottom line. Owners of new businesses tend to freak out when such slow periods come around, often rushing out with unplanned marketing advertising rejigs and hastily done layoffs.
You need a plan for anything you do
It’s important to remember that slowdowns are part of nearly every industry. The better you are able to anticipate downturns arising from government policy changes, international forces at play, nationwide recession or a change in political climate, the better placed you will be to respond.
Unfortunately, businesses often respond to downturns in an unplanned manner. For instance, when business slows down at a home improvement concern, it could be poor credit availability to the end consumer that’s behind it. It would hardly do to simply step up advertising or offer a discount. It would work far better, though, if the business were to tie up with a lender to offer clients easier access to credit.
Analyzing the market
An accurate reading of the market is fundamental to taking effective action in the event of a slowdown. Many businesses will turn to experienced mentors for advice or simply network among fellow business owners in the industry. Signing up with a market analysis firm for market intelligence can greatly help.
One can’t build up a network of advisers and mentors once a problem turns up. It’s important to prepare an informed network well in advance.
Ensure that your cash flow sees no disruptions
When a slowdown appears, it may or may not come as a surprise. There may not be enough arrangements in place to make sure that there is unrestricted access to short-term liquid funds. Business credit cards could be the answer. If you’ve already signed up for a few business cards, you will likely have immediate access to funds for important purchases. You will also likely have built up a good D&B business credit score. With such a score in place, you should have no trouble accessing business loans.
Look into expanding
Businesses expand into new areas and product lines for a very important reason: business in one area could help cushion a blow in another. When slowdowns occur, they usually do not affect different business areas at the same time. Small business magazines constantly remind entrepreneurs of the need to expand both nationally and overseas. While it would take a special set of skills to pull an expansion drive off, a larger footprint certainly would help smooth out instabilities.
Look into targeted advertising
When your market intelligence tells you why things have slowed down, you can begin to target your business at consumer segments that aren’t affected by those causes. Promoting your business among recent retirees, for instance, may be one way to find customers during a time when credit availability to the end consumer is troubled. It’s a segment that tends to be flush with cash. If consumers fear poor home resale value, a home improvement business could help itself by advertising among homeowners who aren’t likely to want to sell. People who plan to live in a home for a long time could want to invest in home improvement for themselves.
Precisely targeted advertising can help find exactly the right kind of consumer. Pay-per-click advertising and direct mail marketing, both tend to be highly effective for such purposes.
Learn to stand out
In a slow market, it’s the businesses that truly try hard to stand out that win. If you’re a consumer-oriented business, anything from zany parties and events to lines of loss leaders could work. If you are a business-oriented company, you could try to stand out simply by investing in giving business owners the kind of information they need, for free. Many businesses succeed by commissioning reports, research papers and other usable information that clients would love to get their hands on. They advertise such free reports, and build up a great mailing list.