Adapting Your Business to the New Normal
According to a recent Paychex survey1, small and mid-sized businesses are optimistic despite the challenges they’ve faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, as of mid-June, company leaders reported feeling resilient — placing themselves at 75 on a resilience scale of 1 to 100 and saying that they believe the worst is behind for their business.
However, one thing business leaders realize is the importance of adjusting their business models in the COVID-19 era; some companies will change what they sell, while others will modify their marketing or modes of delivery.
Four Ways to Adapt Your Business Model
A quick inventory of the skills, machinery, materials, and other assets at your disposal can spark ideas for innovative ways to use them now, and going forward. In short, flexibility and ingenuity are business assets you should not overlook.
If your business is looking to pivot in this “new normal,” consider the following prompts to devise ways your business can adapt.
Take advantage of abundance
Your business may have an oversupply of assets as demand shifts. For example, a food service company may find its trucks and drivers idled when restaurants and schools close. In this case, you could reach out to farmers or food wholesalers to transport their goods to retailers. That way, suppliers can get their product to market, retailers can replenish their shelves faster, and the company can keep revenues flowing and drivers on staff.
You might also consider evolving your business further. For example, the food service company mentioned above might shift from transporting produce to creating boxes of produce and selling them online. This entails selling direct to consumers — and though it may require a different promotion strategy, big changes in business conditions require big responses.
Address people’s current and future needs
Like so much else, priorities have changed during the past few months; what your customers may have needed pre-pandemic might be much lower on their priority list now. Predicting future needs is easiest when you brainstorm with others. Connect with industry peers, suppliers, and partners to tap into any trends they might be seeing. Their insights can help spark ideas. For example, small groups of florists and floral farmers could connect to share ideas for quickly and safely delivering inventory and finished bouquets around important holidays.
Consider creating a digital version of your offering
The internet is proving to be a savior for many businesses. Selling products on an e-commerce site is an obvious opportunity, but service businesses are doing it, too. Trainers and salons have received a lot of attention for moving sessions online, and creative thinking can help you move the most tangible experiences online as well — even something as sensory as wine tasting. For example, a company known for hosting wine tasting events in bars, restaurants, and hotels took a huge hit with the implementation of social distancing. But, using creative thinking, it now delivers wines to customers’ homes and provides online videos of the company’s founder/sommelier to teach customers about wine.
Create a new path to your offering
With businesses and consumers cutting back on expenditures, lowering barriers to purchase has become vital. Some ways of doing this are practical, such as providing curbside pickup and delivery. Others entail repackaging, bundling, or remarketing existing offerings in ways that address our new normal. For example, some bakeries are making up part of their lost revenue by selling DIY bread-making kits. And, some furniture companies, seeing a decline in demand for console tables and occasional chairs, now market them as desks and chairs for home offices — products for which demand has increased.
Six New Ways to Bring Customers Back
As businesses reopen, retool, and reinvent themselves, maintaining customer relationships and having enough buyers to operate profitably is top of mind for many business owners. In fact, one-third of small and midsized businesses (SMBs) cited this as a priority in the recent Paychex survey.
According to the survey, email, word of mouth, and phone calls are the leading tactics SMBs are currently using to bring customers back through their doors. Fast-growing companies — those projecting a growth of 10% or higher this year — say they’re also focused on revising their sales and marketing strategies to sell more.
Additionally, SMBs say they’ll rely more on technology going forward, to work together and serve customers. In fact, fast-growing companies in the Paychex survey said they are committed to using more technology than ever before.
To attract customers back to your business, consider these approaches to raise your profile, strengthen relationships with existing customers, and communicate that you’re a go-to resource for their needs.
If you operate a brick-and-mortar business, it’s never been more important to use visual communication to indicate that you’re open and ready to serve customers. Large signage that prospects, customers, suppliers, and partners can see as they pass by your business helps emphasize this fact and quickly spread the word. Banners, A-frame signs, yard signs, and hanging signs are good large-scale tools. Magnetic car signs on company vehicles can spread your message even further. And, you don’t have to wait until your business is officially open to start spreading the word; use signage ahead of reopening to build momentum. Plenty of places, such as Staples, do quick-turn or same-day printing for these items.
Build your safety brand
Do you now require your office visitors to wear masks? Are no more than five people allowed in your store at any one time? Are you implementing contactless payment options and curbside drop-off to minimize personal contact? How often are you cleaning your waiting rooms? Keep customers up to date on your safety efforts by prominently displaying your practices in store and on facility signage, on your website, and in social media posts that reinforce your commitment to safety.
You may also consider letting customers know of the internal safety protocols you’ve implemented to keep your team healthy. Customers want to do business with responsible organizations that treat their employees right; in fact, 90% of consumers in a recent survey said that how well a company treats employees — in good times and bad — is important to them.
Send regular emails or texts
If you haven’t been regularly contacting your customers via email or text messages, consider it now. Your goal should be to provide customers with relevant information, and to make sure they’re aware that you’re up and running. Beyond simply alerting people that you’re open, you can use emails to encourage purchases by offering discounts, giving incentives for referrals, providing notice of restocked items, or introducing new products and services.
In addition to emailing customers, email your partners, suppliers, and vendors. They have a vested interest in your success, and can help spread the word that you’re open for business once again. However, be sure that you’re minding privacy laws, and only send communications to people who have given you permission to do so.
Update your online presence
If you’ve reopened your showrooms, shops, or sales offices, post any relevant changes to your operations on your website. Since so many business relationships start with search, also consider updating your Google listing, and any profiles on other business sites, to encourage existing and potential buyers to shop with you. The keywords people use to find companies may have evolved, too. Consider adding important adjectives, such as “safe” and “clean” to your site, so you address current concerns. Some towns, industry groups, and others are promoting lists of businesses that are open. These lists are often something as simple as a Google document or spreadsheet created and shared via community apps or through other means. Ask your local business or industry group if one exists. If not, consider creating one yourself.
One-quarter of SMBs are increasing social media use to stay visible and viable. If you use social media for your business, double down on it now. LinkedIn is ideal for keeping clients and vendors updated regarding changes to operations, manufacturing capacity, delivery and receiving protocols, and more. Retailers and other consumer-facing companies, on the other hand, can use platforms like Twitter and Facebook to update customers about hours or other service changes. Instagram, if it fits your target profile, is a great way for your business to tap into the power of visual messages. Images of your newest items, your team hard at work, or happy customers may help encourage business.
Recognize VIP customers
Make a special point of reaching out to your best clients with a personal email or a phone call, not only to update them on your company’s status, but also to see if there are any other ways you can assist them during this time. Listening, after all, is a key element of communication, and your efforts to help them will reinforce your business’s value to them. What’s more, hearing their needs and concerns can provide you with ideas for new, relevant offerings and services.
Of businesses that closed due to COVID-19, 44% in the Paychex survey said reopening has gone as expected, as of mid-June, and 12% said it’s proceeding even better than they’d hoped.
1 Paychex survey of 300 U.S. owners of businesses with 2 to 500 employees. Wave 1 was fielded April 17-20; Wave 2, April 24-27; Wave 3, May 1-4; Wave 4, May 15-17; Wave 5, June 12-15. Each survey has a +/-5.66% margin of error.