For many agriculture-based businesses and small business owners, the winter months equal a seasonal slow down. For most of us, this means a chance to rest from the hard work of the year, an opportunity to take stock of what worked, and look forward to the busy season ahead.
It's important to complete a few important tasks during this downtime. You'll set yourself up for success and avoid the overwhelm that comes with the warming of the thermometer and the call to be away from your office and out in the field.
Here are 11 important tasks to tackle during your off-season
1. Know your numbers: in your calendar, notebook or planner write down all your stats for your social media accounts--followers, engagement rates, and email list subscribers. Take a few moments to note which of your posts were the most popular with your audience and see if you can find a common thread or trend that made them resonate with your readers. Take stock and take notes.
2. Plan broadly for the coming year: Make notes on your calendar when some of the high points of your year hit--whether it's strawberry season, when you start selling shares of your CSA, or your farmers' market opens back up. Take note of these milestones on your calendar and then mark dates when you'll start to highlight these important seasons for your audience. You'll want to give them plenty of warning and build up enthusiasm.
3. Set some goals. Take a look at your numbers for the year and set some growth goals for the year ahead. Do you want to start an email list? Launch a blog? Put extra effort into Instagram? Host an on-farm event? Start to set some goals and write down a few steps on how you'll make them happen.
4. Set up an email newsletter and start collecting emails. As frustration builds with social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, more and more people are turning to email lists to reach their customers. And it's SMART! I can't stress enough the importance of having and building your email lists. It gives you the opportunity to communicate directly with your customers without the worry of whether or not they'll see your Facebook post in a sea of news feed updates and algorithm changes. If you've already started your email newsletter, continue to communicate with your customers. Though the frequency may slow down in the winter, don't forget to continue to communicate. They love knowing what goes on, even during the off-season. Share photographs, stories, important dates and behind the scenes peeks at what's going on--because truthfully, is there ever really an off-season? :)
5. Organize your photographs and get them ready for the season ahead. If you're anything like me, you probably have a phone full of photographs and no organizational system whatsoever. Use these slower months to organize your photos and choose your favorites, so you'll have them ready for use when things kick back into gear. FINALLY, our phones are making it much easier to organize photos into files (try organize by month, season, event or location) and even upload them to the cloud or a drive that can be accessed anywhere. One of the best gifts you can give yourself is a pool of photos to choose from when you're scheduling and posting in the busy months ahead.
6. Survey your audience. This is one of those tasks that I didn't understand the power of, until just recently. Use a simple, free service like SurveyMonkey to survey your customers and get some feedback. Are there products they loved and want more of? Are there frustrations that can be addressed? Do they really wish you were putting out a recipe book or offering tshirts with your farm logo? Now is a great time to see what your audience likes, dislikes or wants more of. Don't forget to give them an opportunity to sign up for your email list at the bottom of the survey. And remember: make the survey short + sweet, and maybe even offer an incentive for completing.
7. Update your website. Make sure calendars and dates are refreshed, photographs are new and announcements are current. Freshen up headers and about pages and make sure all links to your social media accounts are working. And don't forget to update plugins or widgets that may have become out of date.
8. Stay social. Even though the season is slow, don't disappear completely from social media. It's okay to slow down a bit, but stay consistent and don't completely disappear. Your customers still want to hear from you, even during the quiet months.
9. Create content. If you have a blog or plan to start one, now is your chance to create content. Get a stash of posts ready to go that can be published during the right season. I know from experience, that writing a blog post is very low on the to-do list, when the to-do list is a mile long.
10. Freshen up your social media profiles. Update your profile pictures or logos, freshen up your bio and give your Facebook page a nice, new cover image. Make sure all your links are working and accurate and dig in to find hashtags that you can be using with your posts.
11. Learn something new. Take a webinar or online class, attend a workshop or conference--learn something new and find a ways to grow and learn while you have a little more free time.
12. Rest. This is the most important thing on the list. Take a break. Enjoy some downtime. Do things you love. Learn something new that has nothing to do with what you do every day. Take that class you've always wanted to try or that trip you've always wanted to go on. Give yourself the opportunity to unwind and recharge so that you'll be ready and rejuvenated when it's time to get back to work.