Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Quit Singing the “Business is Slow” Blues

For some businesses, December is the busiest month of their year. For others, the slowest. Regardless of when your “slow” period is, utilize the time wisely.

Here are a few tips on building a consistent flow of business throughout the year.
When someone first uses your service, send some type of a follow up to him or her. This can be done via email or USPS. Since email is becoming so commonplace, you may want to consider an actual letter or card in order to stand out from the crowd. Do this when appropriate.

Additionally, if you have a slump in business take that time to call clients/customers in your database. Recently I stopped into a pet store I get my supplies from and have my dogs groomed at. The groomer was frustrated because several people had made appointments for that day and didn’t show up. What her customers may not realize is that if they don’t show, she doesn’t make money. I asked if there was a system in place to assure a higher rate of people showing. As I suspected, there wasn’t.

My suggestions were as follows:
1. Require a 50% deposit when the person makes the appointment. No shows forfeit the deposit. It will only take once before people realize they need to be certain when setting the appointment. A simple explanation to someone who is doesn’t want to put a deposit down should take care of the situation. If someone refuses to put down a deposit you may not want to do business with them. It is about setting appropriate business boundaries.

2. After the appointment, send a thank you card to the pet – of course addressed to the c/o the owner. This is not a common practice so the groomer will suddenly become someone who cares about your pet rather than someone who simply grooms the pet. And by sending the card to the pet you add a pinch of humor and difference in a way that the owner may show his or her friends because it is so unique.

3. When business is slow, pull out the past and current client list. Get on the phone and let people know that the holiday season tends to fill up rapidly. A dialogue such as, “Hi Mary, I notice that Max is due for a grooming. We tend to get very busy this time of year and I want to make sure you are able to get an appointment. Let’s go ahead and book you for one right now? Great, let me go ahead and get your credit card number so we can take care of your deposit on that. Thanks and see you on _____.

4. Each day, spend a few minutes going through the booked appointments for the following few days and make a quick call to remind people of their pet’s appointment. You will be amazed at how this will reduce the no shows.
You say you don’t have a pet store and grooming services. No problem. Think about what you just read and how it might apply to your business.

In these changing times, it is up to you to be as flexible and creative as possible. Instead of singing the “Business is Slow” blues, take advantage of slow times to keep in touch with your customers and clients. You will be amazed at the results.

Kathleen Gage
The Street Smarts Speaker and Author

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