Albert Einstein said, “In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity.”
Despite all the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, cyclical changes in the economy are normal, and humans have been dealing with great crises for many years. If the past is any indication, we will get through this, and there’s still an opportunity for business growth.
To help you grow your business during a crisis, GetApp looked at how existing leadership is dealing with the pandemic, as well as business owners who survived the last recession.
In GetApp’s June 2020 survey of 577 business owners*, we found that 52% of owners feel very confident their business model changes will be effective in mitigating the financial impact of COVID-19—but one out of four businesses report they estimate decreased revenue. *See the survey methodology at the bottom of this piece
Business owners are incredibly resilient and optimistic. Despite the fear of decreased revenue, business owners are still pivoting their businesses, or changing their business models. In fact, over 97% of businesses we surveyed say they are reinventing themselves due to COVID-19, which means they are continuing to be incredibly creative despite obstacles and major uncertainty.
To add some more context to those numbers, we reached out to a business owner who started his business right after the ‘08 recession to see what advice he has for small-business owners.
Abhi Lokesh is the CEO of Fracture, a company that makes custom glass prints. Lokesh started his company in ‘09 while the effects of the ‘08 recession were still in full swing, so he’s no stranger to navigating these waters. Lokesh has proved that his business specializing in digital prints on glass is anything but fragile.
We've taken Lokesh's advice and combined it with an adapted strategy from Gartner (full content available to Gartner clients) on how to grow your business during a downturn—read on to find out how to examine, evaluate, and elevate in order to help your business grow.
One of the first things to do when a major event strikes is to examine your brand messaging and adjust it for your target audience in the current climate.
Lokesh says this willingness to revisit and examine your previous goals and then adapt and evolve is a crucial skill for the small-business owner weathering a crisis. It’s not the time to be hesitant about trying new things.
“When it’s your company’s life that’s on the line, every option has to be on the table and you’ve got to be flexible enough to act on whichever option works,” Lokesh says.
If you're still proceeding with business-as-usual email newsletter content, it may feel tone-deaf to your customers. It’s important to strike a good balance between being empathetic to your target customer but still keeping your brand voice and adding to the conversation naturally.
For example, Gap, Inc., which owns Athleta and Banana Republic, tried something new with their messaging during the pandemic by sending an email promotion where they mixed and matched Athleta yoga pants with tops from Banana Republic. They realized their target audience was making a lot of video calls for work and it was an on-brand, approachable, and even humorous way to adjust messaging to speak to the situation without being overly dramatic or dire about the pandemic.
Another key business area to evaluate during a crisis is your financials, including traditional marketing, media, and online marketing spend. Many businesses previously had large budgets for event marketing, like conferences. This should be one of the first things to get cut and reallocated to digital marketing efforts such as social media, email marketing, and content marketing.
Lokesh says one of the ways to evaluate opportunities is to go through all your finances, including media spend, with a fine-toothed comb to learn what is absolutely necessary for your business profits, and what’s simply a luxury.
“Ensure you understand every element of your company’s cash flow,” Lokesh says.
If you haven’t already done an audit or reviewed your analytics software to determine the ROI of your various marketing channels, there’s no time like the present. You really want to understand what’s crucial to your bottom line, and then make adjustments from there. An analytics platform can help you measure and report on your top performing marketing channels so you can continue what's working and stop doing what's not.
After examining your messaging and making tweaks, and evaluating ways to adjust spend, it’s time to put it all together and figure out which messages to promote and where to allocate promotion dollars. For instance, if you know your customers are spending more time on social media since they’re not able to be physically social, you might consider a social media marketing campaign to target both existing and new customers.
Remember the businesses we surveyed that added a new online delivery channel or virtual service? It’s great they were able to pivot so quickly, but now they need to communicate those changes to customers if they want viable revenue channels. It may be worth putting paid dollars behind those messages, either through social media ads or an email marketing campaign.
An analytics platform can help you understand which marketing channels are providing the most ROI for your business.
Social media is an important customer communication tool. Having a platform can help you monitor your calendar of scheduled posts. This is essential for quickly changing messaging in the event of a crisis or unexpected event so your pre-planned posts don’t come off as insensitive or off-base.
In the same vein, an email marketing platform can really help elevate your brand messaging to customers. You can send push messaging to let them know how you’re responding in a crisis and let them know when you’re adding new customer options as part of your business model pivot.
We may be in an unprecedented economic downturn, but that doesn’t mean business owners can’t still grow their business.
"CEOs shouldn’t see this [current economic climate] as an obstacle—instead, the wise ones should see this as an opportunity to focus on their financial sustainability and infuse their operations with strong business fundamentals that can help them stand out amongst the crowd,” Lokesh says.
By critically examining and evaluating existing messaging and strategies, and then elevating the appropriate new strategies, small-business owners can grow their companies, no matter the economic conditions.
Methodology: The business model survey referenced in this article was conducted by GetApp from June 18 to June 23, 2020 among 577 respondents who reported executive leadership roles at small businesses with 500 or fewer employees.
Note: This article is intended to inform our readers about business-related concerns in the United States. It is in no way intended to provide financial advice or to endorse a specific course of action. For advice on your specific situation, consult your accountant or financial consultant.