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Smart things to tackle during the off-season

Suddenly you discover that the phones don't make as much noise as they usually do and that business is getting really slow. Don't panic. It's called summer. Keep on reading because this is important.

Summer is the best time for planning.

This is when you have your best chance to create big changes for the fall. Listen here:

I know that summer is for reflection and rest - and that's absolutely right. You need to rest. But you usually have enough time to spend in the sun and enjoy yourself and  start planning for the fall- And it's in this environment, without the daily routines, that you can create real changes.

I spend my summers on an island and every year it's time for the obligatory trip to different places that sell handicrafts, pottery, rugs, art and stuff. Every year I walk around like a question mark and wonder what shop owners and artists have devoted the winter to because they are selling the exact same things every year. Why haven't they come up with new, exciting stuff to surprise the summer guests with? Why haven't they invented new things, new things to sell to all of us who are doing our usual rounds around the island with money to spend? Why are we are greeted with glass boxes with a frozen ice cream from last year and the same tired crafts stuff – the quality is good, sure, but it's nothing that shocks or gives us something to talk about. We watch, nod and leave quietly.  Have they have prepared anything to dazzle us with? No, they haven't.

But you have, haven't you? For you, summer is your time to think and to be bold and creative. It's now time to start working on the stuff that you will present to your customers this fall. Now is the time to forge plans that make your customers cheeks rosy. It's now you have your free time to think until your ears turn red. What exactly can you come up with that will make your customers continue to choose your business even in autumn and beyond? What?

In practical terms, do the following:
• Buy a memory stick, right now. It's easy to pick up while enjoying a barbecue or when you're riding your bike to the beach. Keep it in your pocket. Always? Always!

• What would make your customers happy? Can you do it? Your job is to come up with five things that you can do quickly and cheaply.

• Print all the pages of your website and collect them in a binder. Go through them when you get tired of the detective novels you carry in your luggage. Read while sitting on the beach. And when you read - pretend that you are a customer and that you have different objectives with your visit to our website. One wants to buy, the other wants to contact you, the third wants to cooperate, the fourth is extremely impatient (everyone is impatient!) How does it work? What needs to change?

• Surf the web on a rainy day and list the names of 100 people who need to know that your business exists. Prepare a letter to send them when you return to your office.

• Think about your collaborations. Where are the gaps? What things do you hate to do at work? How could you make it more fun to handle those tasks in the fall?

• Go through all your customer communications, proposals, sales letters, brochures and presentation materials. Boring? You bet, but it's revealing. You will be surprised by how much that is no longer working or just dull and dilatory.

• What is it that always makes you feel guilty? What is it that you never have time to do? Do it in the summer when the pressure is lower. You will be ridiculously proud of it in September.

• Find out which of your business contacts that work when you work. Invite them for lunch.

• Contact all competitors and be sure to get all their materials. Read about them online. You have time to do it now and you will see things you don't have time to discover otherwise.
Slam! Bam! Suddenly you've taken care of everything that has been giving you a headache for ignoring, but now you can meet the fall with new energy and lots of new plans.

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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