Normally this time of year we write about lessons learned from the previous 12 months and goal-setting for the coming year. That feels a bit lackluster as 2020 comes to a close – a year that was (and still is) challenging for so many, both personally and professionally. A recent survey by the US Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index and MetLife finds that “half (50%) of small businesses see operating for a year or less in the current business climate before having to permanently close.”
In addition, 62 percent of respondents fear the worst is yet to come in terms of economic impacts from the pandemic. What does this mean to you and me? The pivoting we started in March and April, likely isn’t stopping anytime soon. Anyone who is still in business this December has already implemented a Plan B, and many of us also fired up Plans C, D and E.
Whether you refined your message and customer base, added an entirely new line of services, or are hanging on by a thread – there are still plenty of challenges and opportunities ahead. In the midst of all the gloom and doom, here are a few bright spots we see for nimble businesses owners during the pandemic.
Communicating – Consumers and even B2B buyers are using alternate forms of communicating with businesses and brands, and there are more ways to interact with your customers and target customers than ever. If you’re not already doing so, now is the time to ramp up social media instant messaging, SMS texting and website chat tools. You may not have the staff to do it all, but at a minimum, use the tools your customers are using.
Reviews – Online reviews are important for both search results and credibility for your product, services and customer service. You can’t make everyone happy all the time, but you can be sure that people see you are paying attention to reviews, and responding. Be sure to reply to reviews – particularly the bad ones. How you handle negative situations can often win new over new business. It’s a chance to show you are listening, and that you care.
Be Flexible – Customers are living in a constantly changing environment, with lots of unknowns. They have to adapt rapidly, from kids attending virtual school to jobs that can’t be worked remotely. The more flexible you can be – extended hours, weekend appointments, etc. – the more likely you will attract new customers, repeat business and referrals. Look for ways to say “we can make that happen,” instead of “no.”
Acquire or Merge – When economic troubles hit a region or industry, it sadly means some businesses can’t weather the storm. This may create opportunities to acquire a competitor, a vendor or a complementary business. If your company has a questionable future, consider if it’s time to explore a strategic partnership or merger with another firm, if you are running out of options.
Even in the midst of a global pandemic, there are opportunities and, lots of things to be thankful for. We hope these suggestions are helpful, and wish you and yours a very prosperous New Year.