The weather is suddenly cooler. Leaves are changing color. Halloween decorations fill store shelves. Suddenly, business is picking up in your small business. Welcome to Fall—for many small businesses, the busiest, most hectic, and important time of the year. How will you make the most of Fall in your small business?
Fall is the time when your clients and customers are ready to once again pay attention to work—and to you and your products or services. It’s the time for meeting new and old customers at trade shows, conferences, and conventions. Retailers start stocking up for the holidays, and consumers are more likely to make big purchases or home improvements now.
How can you take the greatest advantage of this potentially fruitful time of year to make certain you increase your revenues and end 2017 on a high note, especially when you may already feel overwhelmed or undermotivated?
- Start working on holiday sales. If your business depends on the Christmas season, it’s time for you to go to work with a vengeance. If you sell to retailers, go out there and get orders. If you sell to consumers, start working on your holiday buys and merchandising. If you provide a service that’s in great demand during the holidays, start working on your marketing. Customers are already making plans. These next three months are absolutely critical to the survival of your company all year long.
- Attend or exhibit at a trade show or conference. In my business, our largest source of new customers, including our largest customers, comes from people we meet at industry conferences. Trade shows bring together a lot of highly targeted customers in one place, and most of those who attend conferences or trade shows are looking for new solutions and open to hearing about your product or services. There’s a trade show for every industry—there’s almost certainly one attended by your target customers. Check the website of the Trade Show News Network or find a long list of associations at my website, www.planningshop.com/associations.
- Summer businesses—build a reserve. Phew! You just finished your busy season; you’re ready to relax and reward yourself. Don’t buy that flat panel TV just yet, even if it is football season. Start by putting money away in two accounts—a reserve account for slow months and a tax account, just for the IRS. Next, get a good contact management program and enter the info of all your summer customers. Make sure they hear from you now (“Thank you for your recent business”) and a few times over the next few months.
- Stay on top of suppliers. Fall isn’t only about you—your suppliers and vendors are also extremely busy this time of year too. Make sure you communicate with your suppliers regularly so that you can insure your inventory and raw materials are there when you need them. And be sure to pay their bills on time, so they’ll fill your orders.
- Develop an annual business plan and/or marketing plan. If Fall isn’t your busiest season, it’s a great time for planning for 2018. Get your staff (if you have one) out of the office or warehouse and think strategically about ways to grow your business and the steps you need to take. Even if you work alone, create a simple plan for 2018. Remind yourself of your long-term goals. Why do you want to own your own business? Financial security? Time flexibility? Ability to use your skills? Remember and recommit to those goals.
- Take Action. Taking action—almost any action—helps re-motivate you. So TODAY, do at least one thing that moves you forward this Fall. Call one new prospect or an old one you’ve been meaning to reconnect with. Make a lunch date with a potential referral source. Fix one business issue that’s been nagging you for a while. Sit down and come up with some marketing ideas.
I know it’s hard to get back to working hard when you’d still like it to be summer, still want to be on the beach. But Fall’s the time to make the money so you can afford that beach vacation next year, so start selling.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2017
This article originally ran in USA Today on September 27, 2017