We’ve all enjoyed the fireworks and had our cookouts, and that could only mean one thing — we’re officially halfway through 2016. Yikes! As the year flies by, it’s a good time to evaluate the strength of your business and ask yourself, are you where you want to be? Are you meeting your sales goals and on target for the rest of the year?
If not, you could be in a dreaded sales slump. Have you had a bad few days or a week or two? That’s not necessarily a slump. It all depends on the nature of your business, of course, but, in general, a slump is defined as a consistent decrease in progress or performance over a certain period of time.
If you do believe your business’s sales are in a steady decline, the first rule is don’t panic! It can be helpful to think of it as a growth opportunity, and not just in revenue. There’s a clear message from a slide in sales…something needs to shift. It doesn’t necessarily mean a dramatic change, sometimes simply a change in perspective. Your challenge as a business owner is to expand your perspective and engage in a thorough evaluation of your strategies and goals. The good news is that with a sales slump, there are several key areas to consider that can help swing things back in a positive direction.
Keep at It
A knee jerk reaction may be to give your sales efforts a rest. And why not, you might think, if your methods aren’t producing. It’s important to fight the psychological tendency to give up when things aren’t going your way. By limiting your outreach to potential customers, you very simply limit your chances of making a sale. Your sales strategy worked for you in the past and, in all likelihood, it will work again. There may be circumstances beyond your control that have caused a temporary sales slump.
The worst thing to do would be to slow down and move out of the customers’ focus. We all know there are countless other competitors that would be happy to steal their attention. If possible, actually mix things up and increase your customer targeting. In the very least, maintain customer engagement at consistent levels. That way, you are primed to take advantage of the eventual upturn.
Specifically, this means keeping up with your advertising and customer communication. If you regularly send out email blasts, maintain steady contact. Maybe your customer base has increased to a sizable level that is too challenging to manage. Consider a contact management service like Constant Contact to help with targeting and consistent delivery. If your customers are used to receiving your coupons in the mail, now’s the time to make sure they still arrive on schedule at expected or improved discount levels.
Listen to Your Customer
Keeping at it doesn’t have to mean keeping it the same. Very often a downturn affords you the opportunity for a much needed reevaluation and shift in strategy. First and foremost, listen to your customer. What are the changing trends in your industry? Be sure to follow publications that report on consumer trends for your area of business. More importantly, listen directly to your own customers. Provide easy ways for them to give feedback and submit business reviews. If you own a restaurant, are tastes changing? Should you adjust your menu a bit and focus your advertising efforts on the new items? For those in the home improvement industry, are homeowners cutting back on the scale of their remodeling projects? Maybe you need to decrease the levels where you offer discounts. In the auto repair industry, it’s important that your coupons reflect current trends in car technology.
Listening also means having an open ear to any complaints. Does customer service need to improve? Do you need to expand your product line or services? And once you address the negatives, shout out the changes and improvements through email and direct mail announcements. Accompany this with discounted offers that really help to get the customers’ attention and convince them to give you another chance.
Shift Your Marketing Strategy
A positive shift can also be channeled through your mix of marketing efforts. If you’re focusing all of your energy on social media, it’s probably time change things up. Not all customers are active on Facebook and Twitter. And if they are, they’re bombarded with countless posts, embedded news stories, and advertisements. In fact, social media users are more likely to spend time reading posts by friends and family versus businesses that they follow. So a sales slump could mean a good time to add something different like Direct Mail to your marketing mix. Direct mail allows you the opportunity to target your specific customer in the area immediately surrounding your business. Don’t wait for them to find you! Find them, and then do a fantastic job of convincing them of your value through strong discounted offers and specific calls to action.
A downturn in sales undoubtedly causes concern and worry about the bottom line. Questions might arise about the level of your advertising budget. In the short term, you might consider lower cost advertising options. Caution! This doesn’t mean reducing your marketing efforts, since that could spell disaster in a slump. Instead the goal is to reduce your costs by pursuing less expensive marketing vehicles. Billboards, television ads, and special events are all extremely costly. Much more economical options are solo direct mail, targeted shared mail, and email campaigns. Reducing your marketing costs also has the psychological benefit of turning down the stress level associated with the slump in sales. By controlling your stress level, you’re in a much better place to face new challenges that come your way. You will also be better able to enjoy the inevitable upturn that a strong marketing strategy is sure to bring.