12 tips to help your business spring into fall

Ah, fall. The temperatures are finally dropping, leaves changing, kids back in school — and the holidays are approaching all too fast. Are you ready for this hectic time of year?

fall leavesHere are a few tips to get the engine revving, get your bank balance into a healthier state and better prepare you for the holiday rush.

  1. Hit the festival circuit. Fall festivals — why bother, right? That’s just a lot of people milling around. Milling around, spending money and making mental notes to visit friendly businesses. And chances are good that organizations in your area host a fall fair or Oktoberfest. Find out how to obtain a booth or sponsor the event in a way that doesn’t blow your budget.
  2. Celebrate innovative holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday dedicated to small businesses, get a fair amount of press, while Columbus Day has been de-emphasized of late. But what about National Gumbo Day, Oct. 12? National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day, Oct. 21? National Nut Day, Oct. 22? National Mole Day and TV Talk Show Host Day, both Oct. 23? World Pasta Day, Oct. 25? That’s just five days in October. There are many, many more wacky and legit holidays to make your business stand out in fun and social media-friendly ways.
  3. Host socially conscious parties. Customers like to buy from businesses that give back. How easy is it to create a Facebook invite and ask all your customers to bring in one good-as-new item for the charity of your choice? Just make sure to steer away from politics or get too strident, or you’ll alienate all but die-hards. Or how about a “can-do” event? Email customers offering a discount when they bring in canned and other nonperishable food items to donate to a local food pantry.
  4. Get cozy with the media. Colder weather promotes coziness — why not get cozy with the media, too? Your local TV and radio stations, newspapers, magazine and podcasts are perennially hungry for feel-good local stories and stories with a local angle. Pitch them seasonal stories that relate to your business, like a fall fashion update if you own a boutique, pumpkin spice if a brewery, pumpkin cupcakes if a bakery and so forth.
  5. Check that list. Go back and check your existing client base. Add the contacts you’ve made during the summer and haven’t added yet while you’re at it, too. These are the existing or potential clients who already know you and like you. Now reach out to see if they need to replace or replenish a product they bought from you. Consider offering a small incentive, such as a preferred-customer price or bonus if they buy more than one item or refer you to a friend. Referrals are golden.
  6. Prepare for cooler days ahead. Fall foliage is beautiful, but not when leaves clog your gutters. Cooler temperatures are nice, too, until you have to fork over more for the heating bill. Here are 20 ways to save money through energy efficiency this fall. And don’t forget to replace your furnace filter and have that furnace cleaned and inspected.
  7. Get back to the basics. Business networking basics, that is. Networking can be relegated to the back burner in summer, but now is the time to dust off those cards you’ve been shoving in the drawer and give them a closer look and put conferences, seminars and other events back on your schedule. Then consider: Are these individuals, businesses and events in your line of business? If not, could they be helpful? If not, drop them and continue with what and who works for you.
  8. Review your business plan. Dust off and review that business plan. Don’t have one? Contact your local MO SBTDC counselor today. This is the roadmap to where you are now and where you want to go, even if that’s modest, sustainable growth or even retirement in a few years. Revisit your budget and trim unnecessary expenses and subscriptions, too. Reevaluating your business plan annually will help you run your business and better reflect your goals and aspirations. After all, you can’t get there if you don’t know where you’re going in the first place.
  9. Review your SEO, too. SEO? What’s that? If you don’t know, it’s probably a good idea to find out from the experts at the MO SBTDC. If you already employ search engine optimization strategy, think about adding or subtracting. Covering the basics is essential, sure, but new, unexpected words and phrases are also key to success in SEO (and business in general). Take the road less traveled. Take a chance! If, for instance, you sell cupcakes, try adding phrases like “dangerous,” “illegal” or “naughty.” Will it work? You’ll be able to tell soon enough if you’ve attracted more business.
  10. Remind customers you’re in the cold weather business, too. If you sell coffee or tea, food (think soup), clothing (sweaters), hardware (heaters, snow shovels), farm or home supplies, now is a good time to remind customers you’re there for them during the cold months ahead. Even landscapers, pond owners and car washers can make this transition to fall, with raking, leaf-blowing and fall seeding; cutting back the water plants that went nuts during the summer and cleaning the filters; more weather-resistant car waxes and so forth.
  11. Set a push goal. A what? A push goal is a task or group of tasks that ensure you reach your financial goals. These are the things you have to do to move your business forward and earn more revenue. And only you know what that is — networking more to get more business, 20 percent more sales calls, larger inventory, more physical space. Regardless of what it is, write it down and set aside an hour or so every week to push that push goal closer to reality.
    (A word on financial goals: Without revenue, what is a business but a hobby? Determine how much you want to generate per month and set a weekly goal. If you don’t have financial goals, contact the MO SBTDC.)
  12. Get back into shape. No, not business shape, physical shape. Many of us get fit during the summer, but the shorter days, increased darkness and cold encourage us to burrow into the comforter, rip open a bag or two of junk food and watch way too much Netflix or Hulu. So get back to the gym, yoga class, running trail or indoor pool. Extra physical stamina translates to increased mental stamina, too.