How to thrive during your slow season

Tips for optimizing products, events and marketing

When you’re a seasonal small business owner, your busy season needs to be successful enough to sustain you during your slower months. Even if you’re satisfied with the revenue gained during that busy time of year, having an offseason plan in place is needed in order to stay relevant and keep your revenue steady.

Last week we spoke with Stephen Jones, owner of the family run businesses Cherry Farm Creamery and Sun ‘N Air Golf Center, to find out how he and his family handle the less-busy months. We were impressed with the creative ways the Jones family markets and promotes both businesses during their offseason to keep the buzz going and to continue to generate revenue to support them financially.

Below are some unique ways to keep your business thriving during your slow season; Cherry Farm Creamery incorporates these elements from October to March, which leaves Stephen amazed at how well an ice cream shop can thrive even when it’s snowing!

Generate word of mouth marketing with giveaways.

If customers don’t need your product or service during a certain time of year, you can find a way to get them to want it anyways. Cherry Farm Creamery has a partnership with a local radio station where they give away a free ice cream cake every weekday during the winter, which makes their products desirable.

“…with a little planning and creativity, many “seasonal” businesses can thrive year round.”

Tweak your products to be seasonally relevant.

The creamery comes up with seasonal ice cream flavors, which gets customers coming in even when it’s cold out. Having a limited-time product motivates customers to get it before it’s gone. For instance, Pumpkin Oreo in the fall is a big hit! Stephen also owns a Golf Center and, while both the range and course are closed during the winter, the Pro Shop remains open. In order to keep sales flowing, the family has to adjust their advertising to focus on a new product mix – in this case, yearly practice plans and sales on golf equipment.

Host an event.

If you have a brick and mortar, hosting an event is a great way to attract foot traffic during slow months and, even if you’re an e-commerce, partnering with a charitable organization will make your business top of mind during the time it usually isn’t.” Cherry Farm Creamery is very successful with their Ice Cream for Breakfast event, which takes place the first Saturday of February. They open early and have a special breakfast menu that incorporates ice cream, like bacon ice cream on waffles. “Not only does the menu attract a large line (even in the snow!), but half the proceeds go to a difference charity every year, which also motivates people to attend.

“If you have a brick and mortar, hosting an event is a great way to attract foot traffic during slow months.”

Go where your customers are during the offseason.

If your customers aren’t coming to you, you need to be creative. Cherry Farm Creamery created a close relationship with the local schools so that they often have a presence at school fundraising events—and kids are their top customers! They also do off-site catering during the winter months, bringing their delicious ice cream to their customers who may not want to wait out in the New England winters.

Host a contest to get customers excited about your small business any time of the year.

If your contest can get people excited about your product and benefit your community, it’s a win-win scenario. To raise money for the local schools, the creamery holds a competition where the students can create their own flavor of ice cream and vote. The winning flavor is available at the creamery for two weeks, and half of the profits go back to the school.

These are just a few things that work for the Joneses, but with a little planning and creativity, many “seasonal” businesses can thrive year round.