One issue that affects nearly every business is dealing with those times of the year when customer interaction slows down, demand for products and services diminishes, or Mother Nature has other plans for your bottom line.
Whether it’s retail, construction, recreation or entertainment, those slow periods can cause anxiety with business owners wondering what strategies might minimize expenses and still help retain the loyal people who’ve stuck with your company through its ups and downs.
In my line of work, the dining and hospitality business, we’ve developed some off-season strategies that keep guests coming back. While we enjoy our peak seasons in the summer and fall, we’ve been able to stay busy year-round. Maybe some of our ideas can be adapted to fit your organization’s needs:
- Develop a customer loyalty/rewards program, then tie it to your direct mail and online marketing efforts by offering last-minute deals and special packages to loyalty club members.
- If your slow time of year is seasonal or weather-related, look for ways to keep customers coming in by sponsoring special events, such as guest speakers, product demonstrations, free product samples, prize drawings, etc. Here, at the Bavarian Inn Lodge, we plan special events all year long and provide a full range of amenities and activities so that guests don’t even need to leave the building. Even on the slowest evenings, “the show must go on,” so our nightly entertainment continues uninterrupted, year-round.
- If your business takes customers outdoors, provide comfort and safety features that allow them to fully enjoy their surroundings. For example, we installed heated walkways around our property as well as at our nearby Frankenmuth River Place Shops complex so that guests can walk safely around our venues regardless of the weather with no snow or ice. We also provide free shuttle service to the shops and the nearby Bavarian Inn Restaurant if they prefer a ride.
- Tailor your marketing efforts to potential customers who enjoy off-season experiences, like people who prefer to avoid crowds. Much like many home improvement companies, why not offer special off-season pricing if it makes sense for your business?
Finally, keep fishing new streams to find new customers. Become savvy with social media networks that attract potential customers, and never stop learning about the latest sales and marketing techniques that might work for your business. Keep looking for new ideas that work for you and soon you’ll be enjoying better business during your traditional “slow season. “
Judy Zehnder Keller is president of the Bavarian Inn Lodge and Convention Center in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Nestled along the Cass River in one of Michigan’s top tourist locations – Frankenmuth – the Lodge has 360 European-themed guest rooms, including whirlpool and family suites, four indoor pools, three whirlpools, two water slides, a miniature golf course, two gift shops, two lounges and two restaurants — all under one roof. In addition to being president of the lodge, Judy is also president of the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, Frankenmuth Gift Shop and Frankenmuth Motel. She is recognized statewide for her leadership in promoting tourism in Michigan.