The customer buying pattern for your small to medium business (SME) really does depend on two factors; what you sell and when it's required. In 2002 I ran a very large financial brokerage which specialised in selling mortgages and loans. I spent a lot of time tracking people's buying patterns across the week, and analysing which marketing messages worked best and when. This taught me to adapt my marketing to suit how and what made my customers buy our products.
Learn from the best
Even though we're small businesses owners we don't have to spend lots of money to learn from the best. The big business players watch the weather and consumer buying trends, and are prepared to act fast.
How often are we bombarded with DIY deals around Easter and Bank Holiday? This is because businesses know that these are the times when customers are most likely to spend their extra spare time on home improvements.
If the big businesses are proactive in responding to the weather and seasonal events, then why can't us smaller ones do this too?
The key is to be prepared and plan in advance. I use the quieter times in my business to plan my future marketing and sales activity, ensuring that I have the lead-in time to make it work. Each year I forward plan the 'aspiration' campaigns to be delivered in January and September, as I know my marketing has a better impact in these months than in the summer months.
Listen to your business
Understanding your customer buying trends and purchasing triggers is no guessing game, and you need to learn to listen to your business. I believe that any business can give you the answers to selling more; you just have to dig deep to find them.
To track the basics of how or what makes your customers buy I would do the following:
Breakdown per month how many leads you received
Breakdown per month how many sales were done
Breakdown per month what service or product you sold
Breakdown in detail the above what marketing source generated the above activity
Assess external factors, time of year, weather, unusual influences
Analyse the information to understand your trends
Act on the facts you get.
The only time I will tell you to be reactive
Even I admit I am like a broken record sometimes when I say "Be proactive not reactive", but when it comes to changes in the weather or seasonal sales opportunities you have to seize the moment and act. An example of this is the current good weather. All commercial UK based holiday companies have acted and pushed out amazing deals to entice people to stay with them in the UK. The really clever companies have dropped their base cost to win the business, but then focused on upselling to recoup the customer secondary spend. As a result European holiday sales are down by 20% so far this summer.
Read the news, watch the weather and keep your finger on the pulse and then most importantly ACT. You know when Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day are, so why aren't you using them as a sales opportunity? Tailored marketing around seasonal campaigns work even in a business to business sales world.
Cash flow is king
Cash flow will make or break your business so track it.
Ensure you know the peaks and troughs in your business and what factors affect your cash flow.
When the sun shines the phones stop ringing because everyone runs outside to spend. When it snows people can't get to work and projects can't be fulfilled. Knowing your sales activity, pipeline business and cash flow forecast is key. I plan in May and June for the lack of cash flow in August; that way my customer's buying cycles don't affect my business. Ensure you know your business well enough to do the same.
Rain or shine, one fact is for sure: the seasons and weather have an impact on us as consumers so it will affect your business.
I'm off to the beach.