It’s no secret that the industry has been deathly quiet so far in 2019. Whatever the cause, the flood of work that is usually hitting movers by now is more like a trickle, and some areas are still waiting even for that! That’s why we thought we’d get our heads together and do a quick brainstorm on ways to keep your head above water when times are tough.
Some of these tricks may be old news to the more proactive movers out there, but if they can help even a handful of people, then we’ll be happy. Basically, they all break down into two main concepts – you need to make more money and spend less money. But how?
MAKE MORE MONEY
First things first – use this downtime to make sure you really do understand your overheads and know what your absolute minimum hourly or daily prices should be. Check that you are factoring in all of your costs, such as office staff, software, packing materials, advertising and training for example. Then add a profit margin, and NEVER drop below this figure. It may be painful to lose work to the operators who are running around busily making a loss, but in the long term it will hurt you more to play that game. Even we at The Movers & Storers Show are wary of discounting. We would rather have empty stands than sell them at a loss, as it sets up unrealistic expectations for your customers, and can start arguments when people realise they have all paid different amounts. Don’t do it.
Are you maximising your potential profit on the customers you already have? Take a long hard look at your charging structure, and consider if you’re being a bit too soft on your existing clients? For example, do you charge extra for key waits? Are you charging enough for difficult access? Or for multi-day moves? Do you charge for getting rid of their unwanted items? It’s all very well having these fees in your terms and conditions, but if you’re letting people off paying them on the day, you’re missing an opportunity.
Cross-sell and keep yourself in your customers’ minds. If you’ve been in this industry for a while, then you will have built up a database of past customers by now. If you have permission to contact them on file, then you could put together an email newsletter once every six or twelve months and send them interesting articles and special offers (you can do this with free online programmes such as Mailchimp and Emailblaster). Even if they aren’t looking to move again any time soon, they may need a bit of storage. Often people think storage is expensive, so telling them the prices up front may change their minds. If nothing else, they may have a friend or relative who is moving and seeing your name again may prompt a recommendation.
Check out the competition. What are the big guys doing? Times are tough for everyone across the board, but the bigger, more established companies have a good track record of weathering the highs and lows, so is there anything you can learn from them? Whilst you have time on your hands, doing an analysis of your competition may spark some great money-making ideas.
SPEND LESS MONEY
Look at your assets with fresh eyes, and see if you are hanging on to anything unnecessarily. Is there a vehicle in the yard that barely turns a tyre all year? Is your warehouse oversized for your needs? Look at selling assets and sub-letting space where possible to bring in some extra cash, but make sure you aren’t going to leave yourself short when things get busy again.
Refocus your energy on your advertising. Whilst it’s tempting to slash your marketing budget when things are quiet, you should only do so if you’re going to put other advertising methods into place which you’re sure will be equally effective. This might be a good time to experiment, so from Facebook and TwentyCi to Google Ads and the local paper, do some research and try new things. Some marketing can be very low cost indeed, such as dropping letters into local houses with ‘For Sale’ signs – but do make sure your letters have perfect spelling and grammar and are signed by hand. For some free publicity, why not think of a good PR story (charity skydive, offering free storage for a local good cause, celebrating a business anniversary etc) and create a press release with pictures, then send it to your local paper. Get customers to leave reviews in order to enhance your online presence and be seen by more people, and ensure your Google My Business and social media accounts are all up to date, and show all your correct contact details.
Make sure you are visible. If your depot is in an area that gets plenty of passing traffic, ensure your signage is prominent and eye-catching. PVC banners are very cheap, so this doesn’t need to be expensive. Alternatively, use your vehicles as mobile billboards and park them in high footfall areas such as near local schools or shops (make sure they are spotlessly clean first though).
Do you really need that agency? If you’re currently using a third party to manage your online advertising, yet you or someone in your team has an aptitude for it, why not try handling it yourself? There are lots of online tutorials out there for people who have got the time to learn. Monitor your results carefully though, and if your ads aren’t performing as well as the agency ads, go back to them before too long.
Shop around with your suppliers. You could be paying over the odds for anything from office paper to diesel, and it’s easy to check with a few clicks of a mouse or a few phone calls. However, if you have a great relationship with a supplier, tread carefully. It’s usually not worth upsetting that for the sake of a few pounds. Talk to them though, and see if there is anything they can suggest that will help you to cut costs through this difficult period i.e. swapping from branded to unbranded materials for a while.
Whilst we wouldn’t advocate cutting your workforce in anything other than a downright crisis, it is a good idea to ensure your team is as lean as possible. Some companies get through the busy times using freelancers and agency staff, whilst others insist on only employing full time, highly skilled drivers and porters all year round. Everyone has a different approach, and that’s fine. However, use this quiet time to consider training up your team members in different areas of the business for maximum flexibility – does one of your porters have the potential to be a surveyor, or is one of your drivers great with office work? You won’t know if you don’t ask, and a multi-tasking workforce could save you money in the future.
Hopefully there will have been an idea or two in here that you found interesting, and may be able to apply to your own company. Either way, we wish you lots of luck and hope that the enquiries start flooding in very soon.