If you think in terms of seasonality and counter-seasonal selling, does your business have a normal seasonality? Something that you know and can plan for? It’s important to look at that. Look at your history. See if there are peaks and cycles that you might not even be aware of.
If it’s random, if it seems to go in peaks and cycles, try to figure out why that might be the case. If you look at certain types of clients that do business with you in certain times of year, that might be a good clue in terms of what kind of counter-seasonal business you might want to look at.
David: Hi, and welcome to the podcast. In today’s episode, co-host Jay McFarland and I will be discussing counter-seasonal selling. Welcome back, Jay.
Jay: Thank you so much, David. You can have those booming months and then all of a sudden the bottom drops out and are you ready for it? Do you have a plan? And can you even survive it? And I think this is where a lot of companies fall down. And they don’t survive it. Because they’re not ready for the ebb and flow that comes with most businesses.
David: Yeah. And you just raised a great point, which is the fact that there are some businesses where you just don’t even know what that seasonality is likely to be.
It just sort of comes and goes in waves, like nausea. You know, you’re just not quite sure if it’s going to be a good month, is it going to be a bad month? And there are a lot of businesses that are like that. Because if you are not structuring your business to be able to proactively attract the prospects and clients you need, it’s bound to be feast and famine. And it’s hard to even think in terms of counter-seasonal if you don’t even know what your seasonal business is, right?
If it’s just sort of random and it’s up and down and all over the place and you don’t know what’s causing it? As crazy as it sounds, there are a lot of businesses that are in exactly that situation. They get people who come in in a particular week or a particular month, “wow, we had a great month,” and the next month they don’t.
And if they’re not doing something proactive to ensure that that happens, that is very likely to continue to happen.
Jay: Yeah, it’s exactly right. And it’s really hard, especially in your first couple of years, you know, some you can track. Like, I had a restaurant in a college town and we knew that, at the end of the college semester, we were going to be empty and we had to figure out how to survive that.
But we could track that and we knew. But a lot of other companies, you may not know. It could be based on the stock market, it could be economically driven. There may not be any rhyme or reason for it. And so having plans and systems to watch for it, to pivot, we’ve talked a lot about pivoting in these podcasts. Having a pivot planned is so important.
David: Yeah. It could be a pandemic, right? We’ve all gone through that. Like who saw that coming, right? And that did a lot of businesses in, some because they were literally shut. They were forced to close down. Some of them were able to make it through, or they were able to pivot and get things done, and others just went out of business.
But in terms of this topic, I was originally thinking of it in terms of the situation you described where if you’ve got a seasonal restaurant and you know that the students aren’t going to be there, and as a result, you’re going to have some lean months over the summer, it’s easier to plan for that.
I was also thinking of it in terms of how, in my promotional products business, we did a lot of work with public television stations and they would have pledge drives three times a year.
They would have a pretty large one in January, they would have a really large one in March, and then they would have another one that wasn’t quite as big in August. So during those times of year, we knew that we were going to have a bunch of business coming in over a certain period of time. And we also knew that when that wasn’t going on, we were going to have to figure something out. We were going to have to supplement.
And that was the first time that I really even thought in terms of counter-seasonal business. Because each business has its own seasons. It has its own cycles. And if you don’t take the time to consider that or think about it, you might not even realize it. It’s like, “oh wow, we’re just having some slow months.”
But in terms of being able to make that happen, it reminds me of an old Zig Ziegler quote where he said, “don’t look for your ship to come in if you haven’t sent one out.” And I thought that is just brilliant. It’s a very old reference, it’s a dated reference, but wow, it’s still is every bit as relevant.
If you’re not doing something to create demand for the products and services you’re offering or for even people to express interest in the products and services that you’re offering, then it’s really unlikely that that’s going to happen. Reactivity is not a benefit to most business owners. And so if you’re just sort of waiting for things to happen, you can be waiting a really long time.
Jay: Yeah, you’ve made some really great points there. You know, not knowing what your seasonality is going to be. Not knowing what other industries have seasonality. Because I think that would be a great point. You talked about public broadcasting. You know when theirs is. Well, are there other industries that have seasonality? What kind of research can you do and find those? And if you can stagger those along, then that would be great.
But we’ve also talked about building a database, having data. And if you’re taking advantage of that database, and maybe during your busiest time instead of just taking orders, you’ve got somebody else who’s sending out a massive marketing campaign that is going to kick in right at the end of your public broadcasting telethons.
Then, again, you’re not being reactive, like you said. You’re being proactive because you know that’s coming. Let’s get things in that pipeline now instead of waiting till it’s dead around here and twiddling our thumbs saying, “what are we going to do now?”
David: Yeah, exactly. You don’t want to be planting the seeds at the end of the harvest.
Oops. I just banged the table here. But, I get so excited with this stuff. But I think it’s the case for a lot of businesses where we know that there are things we could and should be doing. In a lot of cases we kind of know what we should do, but we might not know how to do it. And that’s why I feel like the work that we do with our clients is so helpful.
Sometimes just to get a different set of eyes on a problem or a different thought process. To be able to talk to somebody else who’s been through the situation that you’re going through. And it may not be an apples and apples comparison, but so many times I’m having conversations with clients and they’re talking about something that they’re struggling with in their business.
And very often there’s something that I can relate, either something that I dealt with myself in my own business or something that one of my other clients was dealing with.
And once you can pin it down and you can identify what is that problem, what is that bottleneck, it becomes a whole lot easier to be able to come up with solutions to fix it.
And I think a lot of times as business owners or even as salespeople, we tend to think in terms of “what could I be doing?” You know, “how much more could I be selling? How much bigger could this business be?”
And it’s a good question to have, but a more pressing question usually is, “right now, what’s keeping me from getting there? What is the single primary obstacle that is standing in my way of this tremendous vision of the future that I’ve created?”
It’s still January. So we’re still thinking in this way in a lot of cases. So how can I get from that vision that I articulated at the very beginning of the year to be able to continue? And how can I adjust my actions so that I am furthering the cause that I’ve established in my goal-setting earlier on?
Jay: Yeah, and, we’ve talked about many times, part of that is good systems tracking, good sales tracking, knowing what your numbers are.
I’ve found it very beneficial at times. Like the month is slow. And I’m like, let me go back and see what it was last year, and I’m like, oh, it was slow then. And now I’m identifying a trend and now I can be proactive about those things. I think the other part is, and we’ve talked about this many times, if you’re not growing, you’re dying, you know, in business.
And what I’ve found sometimes is I’m looking at my schedule and I’m like, oh, it’s going to be a slow month. But all of a sudden I get two or three calls or four calls because I’m constantly growing and I have a drip campaign that’s going out and things like that. And those things came out of nowhere and suddenly what was going to be a bad month is a good month.
And so having those systems in place so that you’re not, again, just being reactive, always being proactive.
David: Yeah. And if you’ve got a drip campaign in place, then it didn’t really come out of nowhere. It came as a result of what you’ve done.
So that’s an example. You sent the ship out. You sent it out a couple of weeks ago. You might have forgotten about it, but then it comes back in. And I think that’s what’s really important for business people to just think in terms of, “Okay, what do I need to do today in order to create a sale, a week from now, two weeks from now, three weeks from now, a month from now?”
And you also raised another great point, which is if you look back at, okay, what happened last year at this time? And why was that the case? Oh, why was December or why was January so good or so bad? Why do I think that’s the case? And what can I do now to make sure it’s, I mean, it’s already January. What can I do now to ensure that I have a good February and March and April? And sort of planning it out a little bit in advance.
As business owners, as salespeople, it’s easy to become reactive. We’re constantly putting out fires, dealing with whatever’s going on in any given day. But if we can allocate just a little bit of bandwidth to sort of thinking about and planning, what am I going to do to make sure that people are able to know who I am, be able to interact with me at a time when things might not be going great, that’s going to do a whole lot to get you where you want to be.
Jay: Yeah, and I think another good point as I think about this is the importance of being on your game when you’re in-season. This can help you when you’re out of season because you see restaurants or other places not prepared. And so you go in and you have a terrible experience because they weren’t prepared for the most important part of their season, or you couldn’t get a product when you needed it, and you ordered it.
So now you may need something off-season and you’re not going to go to that place because your impression of that place when they were in-season was terrible. So it’s not just about having a plan for being out of season. You better be ready to go in-season so that you can retain those customers.
David: Yeah, absolutely. if we think back just on the things that we discussed in our few brief minutes together. If you think in terms of seasonality, does your business have a normal seasonality? Something that you know and can plan for? It’s important to look at that. Look at your history, see if there are peaks and cycles that you might not even be aware of.
If it’s random, if it seems to go in peaks and cycles, try to figure out why that might be the case. If you look at certain types of clients that do business with you in certain times of year, that might be a good clue in terms of what kind of counter-seasonal businesses you might want to look at.
So for us, with the promotional products business, one of the things we did was to say, okay, we know when the public television stations are going to be ordering. Now what are some counter-seasonal opportunities? And for us, in a lot of cases, it was trade shows. Because you can go to any sort of trade show venue and find out when they’re having shows.
And if you know that there are certain shows going on during times when you’re not selling anything or in advance of the times that you’re not selling anything, you can literally target that market, sell a whole bunch of stuff while you actually have the time to do it.
Because one of the other things that’s kind of crazy is that when you’re just relying on things to happen, sometimes you can get overwhelmed. You get overloaded cause you have so much coming in and it’s good if you can sort of spread it out and set the schedule that you want to set to make the sales you need to make.
Jay: Yeah, I think this is such a great idea that you could look at counter-seasonality as bad, or you could look at it as an opportunity, right? We have a chance now. We just weathered the storm. Now we have a chance to go out and grow. And…
Jay: because we’re not bringing in a lot of sales right now, let’s hit the trade shows. Let’s get the marketing up. Let’s go and do those things. View those things as opportunities for growth, instead of sitting around going, “all right, how are we going to pay the bills until the next telethon comes?
David: Right. And you just got the revenue from your busy season. So you can use some of that, channel some portion of that to the marketing that you want to do to generate the counter-seasonal business.
Jay: Yeah, such great points. All right, how do people find out more?
David: Well, you can go to TopSecrets.com/call. That’s TopSecrets.com/call. Schedule a call with myself or my team. We’d be happy to walk you through whatever it is you’re dealing with now, wherever your bottleneck is, if there’s a particular thing that’s in the way of where you are versus where you want to be.
We can discuss that, maybe come up with some recommendations on how you can fix it. If it makes sense for us to work together, we can discuss that as well. Either way, no charge for the call, no obligation. Happy to have the discussion.
Jay: Yeah, and sometimes just talking to somebody else, it just makes all the difference. And I hope people can tell from our podcast that sometimes it’s just one idea that you have can make all the difference in their business. David, thank you so much for joining us today.
David: Thank you, Jay.
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