I’m sitting at a coffee shop in rural Minnesota, during one of the many snow storms that frequent the area, enjoying the solitude of the moment and drinking half a pot of coffee while I work. I came in around 10:30a and was one of only two people in the entire establishment. The lunch crowd was slim too, with only a handful of tables occupied. Now, at 4:30p, I can safely say that today was a slow day for this usually busy cafe.
So what can you do if the weather has your customers at bay? Here are a handful of suggestions.
- Consider delivery. If the customers can’t come to you, why not go to the customers. Even if the weather is bad, it isn’t always THAT bad, especially in town. Many families would love to order in a five dollar lunch box...not just pizza. And what about a hardware store delivering shovels, salt, and ice scrapers...process the credit card over the phone and take the receipt with you for the person to sign. You may have to invest in a pair of cross-country skis.
- Online engagement. Don’t underestimate online relationships. You’re probably sick of cleaning and surfing the web sounds like a welcomed distraction...but why not use that time to build your business by creating a month’s worth of tweets and Facebook posts? Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are popular web apps which allow you to pre-date your statuses and will help you use your under-performing day to create an online conversation that will ultimately lead to in person or online transactions.
- Discount deep. I was asked by a restaurant manager what the most expensive thing in his restaurant was...I guessed a bunch of different items but none were the right answer. He replied, “an empty seat”. Before surrendering the day to Mother Nature, why not offer a crazy/brave customer discount to those who made it out. If you do this on a regular basis, you may be pleasantly surprised that the store is packed every time the weather is awful.
- Charitable contributions. It’s always a win-win situation when you’re able to partner with a charitable organization in town. So why not use the time to figure out a mutual event or sale that would benefit the community and your business. Anything from having a tip jar for the humane society to hosting a facial hair extravaganza to help foster kids in the area...the possibilities are endless! It’s also well-documented that being identified as a business who gives back motivates people to patron those stores more often. Like I said, “win-win”.
As a business owner, what do you do when the weather has the customers staying home?