Ok, so we all know that we’re slap bang in the middle of the traditional holiday season and (whilst lying on a sun-lounger, sipping an icesales chart cold drink!) I was thinking about the fact that around about now, a large proportion of people, just like me, will be away on holiday, or if they haven’t gone away, have at least taken some time off work to chill out during what has turned out to be the sunniest and warmest time of year in the UK!

What this means though is that traditionally, July and August is also often the time of year when your online business might just hit a small rocky patch… but don’t panic – the last thing I want to do is worry you, rather I want to make sure that you know that this is in fact completely normal!

Just when you think your online business couldn’t be any better you suddenly find that sales come to a standstill and your profits start dropping. And even though it does happen to every online seller, there’s still that little part of all of you that is thinking “Nooooo! Why me? What did I do wrong?”

You’ll be relieved to know that even huge businesses go through periods where they see massive profits, and then periods where they struggle to make ends meet. There isn’t a business in existence that hasn’t, to a certain extent, gone through both peaks and troughs at some point.

So what does this mean for you with your online business? Well the fact of the matter is that if, so far, you’ve only experienced the highs of big profits and successful selling, chances are you will find a dip waiting around the corner. Please don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying this to panic you, but instead to give you a little warning and to advise you as to how you can protect your online selling business to ensure that when those dips do happen you are properly prepared.

I’ve put together my own four smart rules to keep my business moving forward no matter whether I’m selling successfully or experiencing a few slow days and I’m going to share these with you today so that you can incorporate them into your own business plan in the future:

It’s not your fault!

The first time that I discovered one of my bestsellers had stopped selling I was almost ready to throw in the towel. It can be an incredibly frustrating time, especially if your trough follows quickly after the emotional high of a big peak. Fortunately I was able to move past what I now know to have been only a tiny little dip in the overall success of my business, and now I know not to beat myself up over it when things like this happen.

So, let’s consider the normal calendar year. You probably won’t be surprised to know that dieting books and exercise DVDs always sell incredibly well in January straight after the Christmas splurge, or that Christmas decorations only really sell successfully in November and December. These are quite obvious examples and not every product is so drastically seasonal, but you will commonly find that peaks and troughs in your own business are closely related to the particular season. This really isn’t your fault so there is absolutely no point in worrying about it; instead you simply need to be prepared and to understand ‘what’ you are selling to prepare yourself for whatever happens over the course of the year.

Research, research, research!

Whenever I find a new product to launch I always do lots of research using websites such as ebay and Amazon to discover how much the item is likely to sell for. That’s not the end of it though. I also schedule time on a regular basis to keep an eye on Watchcount and Google Trends, both powerful tools that let me know exactly what my prospective customers are searching for and, perhaps more importantly, when they are searching for it.

Google Trends in particular has a brilliant feature that allows you to narrow down the results by a certain time period. You could look at the search term “Paddling Pools” over the last five years for example, to see exactly when the most searches for that particular product were at the highest mark. A couple of hours spent exploring a tool like this will quickly bring your attention to any seasonal peaks and troughs amongst the products that you are selling.

You will also see trends that are not related to the time of year, but perhaps to the release of a particular product or even a celebrity endorsement. They say that knowledge is power, and when it comes to your online business the old adage certainly holds true. The more time you can dedicate to researching your particular products, the less likely you are to be thrown off course by a peak or a trough.

Diversify to multiply

Using that example from earlier – if your online shop only sells paddling pools you will make most money between the months of April and August. Likewise if your shop only sells Christmas lights then you will make the most profits between September and December! So, in order to keep your income at a constant level throughout the year you will need to diversify your selling strategy, which will have the result of multiplying your profits. If you only sell one product there is nothing to fall back on when it progresses through a natural dip, however with additional stock on your shelves you are likely to find that your items support each other, providing you with sales all the year round.

By spreading yourself out a little more you will always be protected against your main product suddenly losing popularity.

Spend or save?

Let me set the scene; you’ve just had a fantastically successful month, selling loads of stock and generating an excellent profit on each item. You’ve exceeded what you’d even dreamed of making for the month – so what next – spend or save? Well, some of that profit should certainly be invested back into your business in order to secure more stock and potentially diversify into different areas, but have you ever considered putting some of it away for a rainy day?

Only you know your own financial position and how much of your income you can afford to pop into a savings account, but by thinking about it after a successful month and saving any surplus to support yourself if a bad day or week or month should come later on is a good plan. A rainy day fund will really help to set your mind at ease too, so that even if after every other precaution is taken you find a week with little to no income you can still pay the bills.

If you are experiencing a dip in online sales right now, please don’t worry – it’s summer, it’s holiday season, the kids are off school – these are all distractions to online shoppers, so use this quieter time to make sure your title keywords and listing descriptions are tweaked to perfection (you can read more on this inside the members area of  The Source Report) and to research new products ready for September when things will get back to normal!