September is truly the start of a new year for small businesses here in Asheville and Hendersonville. Think about it. September is when activities begin again for the year. School starts; networking groups start up again; and people and businesses are starting to think Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. There is anticipation in the air as the local spending season begins.
This is also the time of year that local businesses must start thinking seriously about the “lean times” — winter, when we locals say we get our town back as tourists are not so plentiful and many small businesses depend on local residents to keep them going. Plan now for the months ahead with a simple strategy you can execute to attract locals to your business.
Ask yourself these questions BEFORE (as in NOW) you create a plan of action:
- What marketing did you do last winter to earn local business?
- Were the results positive or negative? Did you even measure the results?
- How much money did you spend on last winter’s marketing efforts?
- Do you know what results you need from any marketing program to turn a profit?
- Have you budgeted for winter marketing?
- Are you using your database throughout the year to communicate with your customers and prospects?
If your answers to the questions are “no” or “I don’t know”, then change your approach this year. I never understood why small local businesses did not prepare for the winter months in September or October. Winter can bring new opportunities to acquire local consumers without breaking the bank. It’s time to get creative – roll your sleeves up and heed the advice of marketing folks who can help create productive campaigns.
Here are just a few things you can do:
1) If you don’t have a customer database/list, now is the time to put it together. This is your business’ greatest asset. Never under-estimate its value.
2) If you do have a customer list, make sure it’s clean (updated) and in a simple format that you can actually USE.
3) USE IT! Seriously, you’ve already invested in these folks to get them as customers. Now is a good time to communicate with them. Give them a reward for doing business with you during this time.
4) Try a marketing program that has some continuity during these months such as a birthday program. Birthday programs (sending a promotion to someone having a birthday each month) work very well for restaurants that offer the celebrant a free entrée during the birthday month. Remember, birthdays are rarely celebrated alone — people bring the party with them. And you don’t have to give away the store….cap the amount for the entrée and make it available for 2 or even 3+ diners. This also works well for gift/indulge yourself services like massage or beauty treatments. Don’t know how to get birthday info? I can help.
5) New movers are another market that’s good for promotion. Did you know that in the last six months more than 10,000 people moved to or within the Asheville marketing area? These are folks who may not even know about your business or what you can do for them. They are great prospects. I can help you find them in your market area, too.
Look, Asheville is rich in media and marketing opportunities. But you need to know what is good for your business during a slow time.
So, have a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Do it right and you won’t look back; but most importantly, you will have a plan to survive the dreaded slow season.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”