Make the Most of the Slow Season

By Jessica Chase, Evosus

Now that the holidays are over, January is the month when the pool and spa professionals take a closer look at what went well and what didn’t in the previous season. With subzero temperatures in some areas, January and February are the biggest preparation months of the year for our industry. One of the greatest challenges in a seasonal industry is finding creative ways to keep revenue flowing, staff busy and make the most of the colder months before business gets busy again.

In today’s pool and spa industry, the majority of retailers, builders and service professionals are using some type of business software to run their business. However, more often than not, these businesses are not fully utilizing all of the features the software has to offer. Take this opportunity during these first few months of the year, when the phones aren’t ringing off the hook, to learn something new within your business software, reinvent existing processes and retool your business.

Right now is the perfect time to pick up new, or new to you, software features you haven’t yet implemented, as well as touch-up, or start from scratch, processes that will help your business run smoothly when sales pick up. Here are some suggestions based on the areas of software are underutilized during the busy season due to strains on resources like time and training.

Use your customer database and marketing list tools to bring in more business by advertising an early buy discount on a pre-purchased hot tub cover or automatic pool cleaner. Consider taking a course on social media for business, create a Facebook business page and plan out a social media campaign for the year. Programs like Sprout Social make managing your social media pretty easy these days. And remember, if you are an established pool and spa business, you might not need to market to new customers, but rather to customers in your existing database. Look at the functionality in your business software and drill down into your current customers for new business. Today’s business software houses all sales and service information in one place, allowing you to communicate with customers. Find out who hasn’t purchased chemicals lately, who hasn’t had a service call or who has an older model spa. Identify the target audience, then use direct mail, email and social media to reach out and bring these people back. Think about running several different marketing campaigns to very targeted groups, and do so now, while things are slower in your store or warehouse.

Lead Tracking
Do you struggle to follow up with all of your leads when business ramps up? Do you have an easy way for your sales people to qualify and classify leads? Is there visibility and accountability in your lead tracking process? Your sales staff needs an ample supply of qualified leads so they are sure to spend time where it counts. A good lead tracking program will allow you to record communication and easily refer to it. If your lead tracking software allows you to set up automated campaigns, take some time to map out a set of action items for your sales and marketing staff to complete when a new lead is entered into your system.

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Inventory Cycle Counts
Your slow season is the perfect time to establish a schedule of routine counts by product line, aisle/bin or vendor. Cycle counts will keep your inventory accurate throughout the year and reduce the headache of doing one large count at the end of the year. While you’re at it, why not look into purchasing a memory scanner for your physical counts and to teach your staff how to use it.

Add New Products
Your company might be known as a retailer of above-ground pools, spas and chemicals, but maybe you should consider offering patio and deck furniture, BBQs fireplaces and gas stove inserts and installations. Review the reporting options within your business software and look for trends that might make you consider offering new products that line up with your current offering or smooth out the seasonality of your business. The winter months are the perfect time for employees to learn about a new product line.

If you haven’t done so in the past, this is the winter to be sure you have a flawless system to track warranty claims with manufacturers. Specialty retailers find thousands of dollars of additional cash from warranty claims with manufacturers, money that can be easily missed in the heat of the season if you don’t have a system for tracking. All warranty service work should be easily tracked within business software. Hot tub professionals routinely tell me that manually keeping track of claims always results in lost warranty revenue, both on parts and labor. Be sure you know how to run a report and plan to run a report weekly in the season.

Don’t wait — make the most of the slow season before it’s too late!

Jessica Chase is the vice president of client services at Evosus Inc., in Vancouver, Washington, a developer of business management software designed specifically for the pool and spa industry. She has been with the company for more than eight years and previously held the position of support manager. Chase has a Bachelor of Science in social sciences from Portland State University. She can be reached via email at jchase@evosus.com.