Is your business less-than-jiving? Have you started talking to inanimate objects? Does the local barista look annoyed when you approach him (yet again) for an extended chat?

If you can’t remember the last time you sent a quote, every inquiry ghosts you, the only emails or calls you receive are from family and friends, and a full day’s work looks like a solid day’s research, then it’s time to get moving.

It might be the economy. It might be the weather. Or maybe you’re relying on telepathy to market your business. Here’s what to do when business is slow.

Write a short-list of warm leads

Pull out the last five quotations you sent and recall the last five conversations you had with a prospect or potential prospect. Do some research and make some notes on them, focusing on what you can see that you could help them with.

Not all leads are created equal. Here’s how to prioritise your list of people to approach:

  1. Current paying clients – can you pitch them for additional work?
  2. Past clients – what do they need? What do they want? How can you lighten their load and help their achieve their targets?
  3. Past proposals/quotations – just because someone once said no, or ghosted you, doesn’t mean they’re a dead-end. Reopen the conversation. Pick up the phone.
  4. People you know – past colleagues, acquaintances, random ‘friendlies’. Start a conversation.
  5. Everyone else. It’s not impossible, but it’s certainly harder to get people to take you seriously if you’ve never met them before.

Now it’s time to pitch!

(Here’s the important part), pick up the phone! Every single time I pick up the phone, something results. It may not immediately translate into new paid work, but it often leads to an introduction to someone who needs my help.

Before you pick up the phone, make sure you’re in the right frame of mind. Play some music. Dress well (especially if you work from home). Eat or drink something that will put you in a good mood. (But beware this doesn’t turn into procrastination! This process of cultivating the state of mind you’re after shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.)

Focus on the money, honey

Before you get dramatic and do a major pivot, rebrand or burn everything down, stop. Breathe. And ask yourself, what are people already paying you for? What are people asking for? 

If it feels easy to make money doing a particular thing, it’s likely because it’s a natural strength of yours. This is a great time to revisit and rewrite your website sales pages.

Making money doesn’t have to be hard. Consider raising your prices (yes, even when business is slow), look at how you can better position your business to attract your perfect-fit clients, and more effectively communicate the value of what your business offers.

Write a shortlist of dream clients

Who would you absolutely love to work for?

Many businesses rely on word-of-mouth recommendations to generate new business, but this can backfire if your marketing is attracting a particular type of person that’s not a good fit for your business. For example, if you want to be targeting small business but you’re currently doing an excellent job servicing large corporate clients, then these corporate clients will likely refer more corporate clients to you.

Writing and targeting a short-list of dream clients means you’re not only pitching for your ideal clients and the likelihood of interesting, rewarding work, you’re also increasing the likelihood that word-of-mouth recommendations will attract further, similar ideal clients.

Write a short-list of desirable skills

As a professional trainer and business coach, it may seem strange for me to say that people can get totally preoccupied with up-skilling and waste time learning things that aren’t strictly necessary to their business.

Instead of focusing on learning a completely new skill, it’s far more effective to focus on making incremental improvements to your existing skills and strengths. Getting better at the process of running a business, marketing and developing new business opportunities is part-and-parcel of doing your “thing”.

While you may hope to outsource business development and marketing, you need to be competent enough in these two essential skills before you’ll make enough money to afford to outsource these.

Take self-care seriously

It’s easy to get into a funk and it can be difficult to get out. When you lose your business mojo, your attitude can be hard to disguise and you risk putting off potential clients (and existing clients!).

You need to take your self-care seriously, which means taking weekends, knocking off work at a reasonable hour and not letting your work creep into your leisure time. When business is slow it’s especially important to keep your attitude buoyant. Your attitude is a big asset in your business. Treat it accordingly.

Refresh your website

Does your website make it hard for people to do business with you?

  • Is your contact page form working? Are all website forms working?
  • Are your contact details in the footer of the website, possibly the header, definitely on the contact page and possibly scattered throughout your website?
  • Does your homepage make it clear, simple and obvious what it is you do, in plain English?
  • Does your homepage make it clear, simple and obvious who you do it for? Have you named your specific ideal client group?
  • Is it time to update your homepage images to better reflect your ideal client group?
  • Does each of your services pages have its own dedicated web page that spells out the process and invites people to make contact?

Plan for your future success

Planning is best done when business is slow. Look ahead for the next 12 months and map out the structure of your year. Put in your holidays first (including school holidays if you have kids or if your target market is influenced by school holidays).

Map out a new service package, a new offering or a new event that specifically designed to attract the particular ideal client that your business is focused on. Ensure that it’s either premium priced, with a healthy profit margin, or designed to naturally lead into your higher-priced services.

Create a mini marketing plan for this new thing and get busy marketing it.

When your business is busy, you have little time for business development or planning. Although you may feel panicked when business is slow, you’ll feel grateful for the time you invest now, when you’re busy in future.

Slow periods in business are a gift: to refocus your attention, keep relationships going, prioritise what’s important, improve your attitude and set up optimum conditions for success.

Use this gift.