There’s a funny meme circulating on Facebook. It goes like this: “That space between Christmas and New Years where you don’t know what day it is, who you are, or what you’re supposed to be doing.” We’re there, aren’t we? Most clients aren’t reaching out. Many offices are closed (ours is). It’s just a weird week, and we know that, when we head back in January, our phones won’t be ringing off the hook. The new year starts slow.
Most businesses experience a natural downtime from mid-December to mid-January. It causes a lot of anxiety among business owners, but downtime shouldn’t mean that you do nothing. If you use the slow period wisely, as I advocated over the summer, you’ll set yourself up for a very good first quarter. Here are some ways to take advantage of the post-holiday lull:
This is the perfect time to do some continuing education, learn a new skill, or finally figure out that new software. There are thousands of online offerings -- courses on web development and design, managerial economics, customer service standards, sales training, leadership, etc. -- as well as business books and industry articles. Use this time to catch up such items. Also, look ahead to next year and plan your calendar around any industry events or workshops you’ll want to attend. Make this the year you prioritize education.
Refresh your marketing materials
What was fresh and beautiful a year or so ago is familiar now -- too familiar to catch a potential client’s attention. Use the downtime this month to reassess your sales and marketing materials and identify what needs to be updated, corrected, or just revamped. Make your marketing stand out with elements like good storytelling, compelling visuals, and uncomplicated information. This way, when you reconnect with leads after the holidays, you have what you need to effectively present your business and close the deal.
Update your website
Take a hard look at your website. Does it reflect what your business is today? Or, does it reflect what it was when you first started (or first built the website)? If the latter is true, add some fresh content, update your “about us” and “staff” pages, add FAQs that may now be needed, add photos, and make sure all the pages load and links work. Have you started a blog yet? Regular blog posts refresh your content and keep your customers engaged. Make this the year you do it.
Improve your social media presence
Frequent posting to social media can feel overwhelming, particularly if you’re not familiar with certain channels. Pick one or two channels that you’re comfortable with and focus on those. Don’t waste time on channels that don’t engage your customers. We don’t gain clients from Instagram, for example (what in the world would we photograph?), so we don’t spend time there. Remember that using social media strategically isn’t about racking up followers; it’s about meeting your potential customers and clients where they are and driving them to your website.
Prepare for tax season
You knew I’d say that, right? But seriously, it’s far better for your sanity to start preparing the items we’ll ask for in advance. Now is the time to gather and organize expense receipts, mileage logs, payroll information, and other tax-related paperwork so that you aren’t scrambling at the last minute to pull it all together.
We just held a seminar on goal setting and have written several articles on the topic. Take our advice and review sales, marketing, and profit strategies, and assess what worked and what didn’t. Create your goals around what needs improvement.
Small businesses have the luxury of thanking their customers in a personalized way. Doing so keeps you top-of-mind as the year comes to a close and may even result in an end-of year sale. So take out your tent cards and pen a few handwritten notes. You’ll be amazed at what that small gesture can do.
Don’t forget to thank your employees, your contractors, your suppliers, and your personal support network of friends and family, too. It’s important to thank those who have worked hard for you and supported you during the year. They are the heart of your business and deserve to know it.
Enjoy these slow weeks but don’t let them become meaningless. True downtime for the small business owner is rare. Take advantage of it!