Winter is coming (if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, anyway). And you need not own a ski lodge to feel the effects of the off-season. Many businesses see a slump during a certain time of year, whether it’s because customers leave the house less or have reduced need for a particular product (sunscreen!). But, even if your startup is seasonal, this isn’t a time to hibernate. Here’s how to thrive during your down time.
Now is the perfect time to crowdsource for customer feedback. As the summer ends, reach out to past customers, whether it’s through social media, email or in person at focus groups. Use this window to really sieve through their praise and constructive criticism, so you can adjust and improve your product for its peak season. Now’s the time to stockpile user-generated content, whether it’s written testimonials or images of your product in action. Offer an incentive or prize for customer feedback – it’s a good way to move last season’s stock if you have excess.
“As content specialist Arthur Piccio points out, even changing something as simple as your social media share icons can be effective.”
Remember, it’s not winter everywhere! How can you sell your product to the areas of the world that are in sunshine and what is the best way for you to deliver it, either physically or virtually. An Australian yoga studio, for example, could create an online yoga portal with a virtual training program that enables people in the UK to get an ‘Aussie bikini body’ for their summertime. It could be a good time to change the settings on your Ebay or Etsy store so that you can accept international sales. Check the International Post Guide for postal restrictions in each country.
Think outside the box, pivot and morph! Is there a way you can adapt your product to attract a cold-weather customer? During a cold spell, the gelato brand Messina released a “Sticken to my date” butterscotch gelato mixed with sticky date pudding. At Christmas, they created a “Stuff the turkey” flavour that combined apple, sage and brioche. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but it caused a buzz on social media and the novelty factor attracted eager customers to try it (and Instagram it).
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Change your colour palette
We all associate certain colours with different seasons – red for Christmas, burnt orange for autumn and bright yellow for summer. If you want your product to appear more relevant, it can pay to adjust your marketing content, packaging and website style sheet accordingly. Why do you think Starbucks’ red cups are so successful? Be conservative when it comes to packaging. In 2011, Hersheys took a profit-hit after overestimating demand for Halloween-themed candy. As content specialist Arthur Piccio points out, even changing something as simple as your social media share icons can be effective.
Use social media to remind customers what they’re missing. During a summer season, Nike Snowboarding launched its ‘Get Laced up’ TV advert, which aimed to capture the “itch” of waiting for the snow season. As part of the campaign, they encouraged fans to share stories about what gets them excited for the winter. It could be as simple as a meme. “That feeling when there’s only five weeks until snow season.” Now is the time to run teasers about plans or products you have in the pipeline. During “shoulder season”, set up a pre-order option, so customers can purchase your latest range early.
Embrace the ebb
Accept that not every company can be “evergreen”. In fact, there are benefits to off-season, for a founder and their team members. Encourage staff to take annual leave during this period, schedule research trips, brainstorming sessions and networking opportunities. A research paper from the Department of Economics at Princeton University found that salespeople will often adjust their effort levels according to the seasonality of their business, saving their maximum effort for those periods in which profitability is known to be highest. Rest, rejuvenate and have faith in your startup to blossom when spring comes around.
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