A Message from Your Director (July 2014)

Summer is finally here! While most of us welcome the season with open arms, there are a variety of variables that some business owners must contend with, such as school schedules, the economy, the weather, politics, road construction, and competition, to name a few. All of these forces could have a negative effect on businesses, especially if your target market is college students, for example. Successful business owners know that the key is to stay ahead of the curve; being able to adapt to changing market conditions will ensure that the tough times are not detrimental to your business. Here are some tips for increasing sales during your slower months:

One way to increase sales and bring new customers to your sales base is by adding new, complementary products and services. A great place to start is reviewing the definition of your business. A surprisingly simple way to build a list of new products or services is to ask your customers what else they might buy from you if your business sold it. A few friendly conversations with customers and staff will likely get you more information than thousands of dollars spent on professional customer surveys. Be sure to ask how much they would want to buy and how often to get a sense of whether the demand would be great enough to warrant the additional costs of building up this area of your business. Be sure that your staff is knowledgeable as well; they should be having these conversations too, not only to gain insight in to what your customers need but to properly explain your current offerings to them also.

Another option is to explore new market niches – look for alternative customers that may use your product for something other than what you originally intended. Find an unmet need in your industry – is there something you keep hearing your customers ask for that you don’t have? It sounds obvious, but customers will tell you what they want if you will only take the time to listen. And the good news is that if you can find a way to fill that need, breakout sales are virtually guaranteed.

Use the Internet to sell your goods or to promote your services. Many small businesses limit their sales reach and distribution to on-site, over-the-counter sales, but e-commerce can enhance your market reach, customer base and sales volume. In addition to the standard brick-and-mortar sales front, consider selling from a website, from an online storefront, a blog or from a printed catalog.

Align Your Products and Services With Popular Values and Trends. You may be able to align your company brand, products and services with local festivals, sports teams, known tourism sites, etc., to piggyback on their advertising, promotions and branding. This type of branding can enhance the reputation and credibility of your firm and hype your sales.

There are many ways to adapt, invigorate and position a small business for a breakout to the next level of sales growth and profitability; it takes owner vigilance, awareness and creativity. It also tends to be the fun part of the business as well as its best chance for continued growth and success. In the business world, the only constant is change. Adaptation and delivery will certainly lead to greater prosperity.

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