If it weren’t for Valentine’s Day, February would probably be the slowest month of the business year.  Be it for chocolates, greeting cards or roses, the spike in seasonal business brought on by love-struck punters anywhere is enough for any business owner to stand to attention. But with the peaks come the troughs, and as we head away from Valentine’s Day you can bet that interest in said wares is going to slump. With the right strategy and planning however, these low periods are nothing to fear.

Whether you’re a restauranteur, tech start-up or jeweller, here’s five lessons we can learn from Valentine’s Day about tapping into, and profiting from seasonal business.

Managing cash flow as a seasonal business

If your business relies strongly on one season to turn its main profit, you’re going to need a strategy to manage your cash flow during the remainder of the business year. For instance, movie theatres typically see spikes in business around summer and winter, where they create different budgets to reflect the different demand for their services. This may include hiring less staff, strategic timing of new releases and special offers. Not to mention specifically around Valentine’s Day, where the amount of people out on date nights is at an all-time high.

Planning is key

You’ll need to be able to consider the amount of profit you’re expected to turn during your ‘on’ season, against your potential losses during your ‘off’ season. To do this, you’ll need to dip your toes into the world of financial forecasting, and get a rough idea of the money coming in versus to money going out. Things like overheads, staff, suppliers, product pricing, and advertising will all need to be taken into account, and kept a close eye on as you go forward.

Ask yourself

is it viable that the profit I’ll turn will be able to counter the loss in the ‘off’ season? And, if not, what measures can I take to reduce my losses in off-peak times? This is where knowledge of your audience, sharp strategy, and some creative marketing can step in and help.

Keep an eye on your audience in the off-season

Too many seasonal businesses make the mistake of ignoring their audience once peak season is over. When you run a seasonal business, the thing that ties your audience together is that they have a specific need for whatever product or service you provide. For instance, if you run a greeting card business you know that come Valentine’s Day, you’re targeting a consumer base who has a shared need to express their feelings to the object of their affections. You think about them in terms of this firstly and foremostly, and then might segment them further into age groups, gender or location. But if you’d like to still make some money in the off season, you’re going to need to take a closer look at their habits, needs, and concerns.

Things to ask yourself

What other sorts of things do they like doing when they aren’t trying to impress someone on Valentine’s Day? Are they interested in films during other times of the year, and will they need greeting cards for other holidays, too? Do they buy expensive presents for their valentines, and will they be likely to continue buying luxury items once the holiday is over? The more specific you get, the easier it will be to come up with new campaigns, products or services to target them with. And this can be the push to get you through off-peak trading times.

Finding your target audience can be a long process…

…but if you do it right, you’ve got yourself a strong base for all future marketing activity. After all, how can you communicate with your audience if you don’t know who you’re talking to?

Find your product’s universal appeal

Once you know what your audience is about, consider what your business actually does and how it may remain relevant during other times of the year. Consider a chocolatier, for example. They will obviously experience a spike in sales come Valentine’s Day, but chocolate remains delicious all year round. With some clever marketing and audience insights, they might easily make campaigns or run promotions to encourage people to indulge at different times of the year. Why not make seasonal specials based on availability of ingredients, such as pumpkin spice truffles for Halloween? Or perhaps consumer research has revealed that your audience is concerned about their health, and would rather buy high-quality dark chocolate than a rich block of milk chocolate?

With a bit of creativity…

…there’s always room to expand your product range based on the resources you have on hand. Take a look at your suppliers, research, and finances, and consider where you might go next: if your business specifically sells Valentine’s related gifts, look for gaps in your market and have a think how you might be able to expand that range into other sorts of gifts, be it homewares, jewellery, or food products, in order to fill it.

Don’t force it

When you rely so keenly on a specific period that already carries a ready-made personality, it’s only too easy to slip into cliché. We see plenty of big brands try to piggy-back off Valentine’s Day hype, and can’t help but stifle a snigger when we see their campaigns come together. How could we forget Ikea’s offer to give babies due to be born on November 14th, nine months after Valentine’s Day, a free crib?

Be careful…

This always, invariably, comes across as inattentive to your customer’s real needs, and as far too sales-y. Don’t force your business down people’s throats by leaning solely on their existing feelings towards something like Valentine’s Day: tailor those ideas to work for your business, rather than the other way around. For example, how does your audience’s specific understanding and expectations of Valentine’s Day feed into what you are able to offer them?

Say you’re a florist…

The link between flowers and affection is obvious, but instead of relying on the audience’s understanding of it, be proactive and let them know how your flowers, specifically, will help them express their feelings for their valentine. You might do this by pointing out the particular quality of your flowers, or selling them in unique bouquets that have been specifically put together by your brand.

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