There are no two ways about it; we’re living through some pretty sad and surreal times that almost no one alive experienced before. The spread of coronavirus put most of the world into lockdown, with uncertainty regarding when countries may return to normal or even what a new normal might look like when this is all over. Businesses, especially small businesses, struggle with decreasing or even no demand as workers and everyone else obeys stay-at-home orders in nearly every country. Many of these businesses won’t survive to see the day when countries open again. Look at Neiman Marcus, already struggling with increasing threats to retail, anticipates filing for bankruptcy this week. How will your business survive this calamity? Use the lockdown to plan your business strategy for survival.
Unless you’re a key worker, chances are you’re stuck in your own home. You can’t go out other than for essentials such as food, medication, or daily exercise. And, even when you do go out for these essentials, you must stay 6 feet (two meters) apart and, in many places, wear a facemask of some type. We miss our friends. We miss our families. We miss our jobs even and especially miss our income or face an income shortfall due to reduced hours and customers.
What’s more? All of this loss seems somewhat trivial in comparison to the many people suffering from illness, grief, or stress experience right now. Or the millions of workers in essential jobs, especially healthcare workers and first responders who face the possibility of contracting the disease or passing along to family members.
If you’re a small business owner, maybe you’re struggling with whether you’ll survive after the pandemic. You’re scared for your business, your income, and your workers. But, rather than wallowing in self-pity, it’s essential you keep your chin up and focus on the positive. Perhaps the economic pause is the time to reevaluate your life and determine whether the job you’re doing or the business you’re running is what you really want to do or whether it’s merely something you used to stay afloat financially.
With all the demands in your life, maybe your career or small business is something you didn’t give sufficient consideration before jumping into a perceived opportunity. And, many experts predict the future won’t look like it did before we all went on lockdown, bringing new challenges and opportunities. If you find yourself wondering how that future might impact you, your family, and your finances, why not use the extra time you have on your hands to kickstart a new career path. You could plan to start your own business or pivot your existing business based on your passions and the possibilities of the future! Here’s a little guidance to help you plan your business strategy.
What kind of business fits?
The first step, as you plan your business strategy, is to decide what area you want to be your business specialty. Most businesses sell one of two things: goods or services or some combination of both, such as car dealerships that sell cars and also provide repair services. Whatever good or service you choose, make sure that it’s something you’re genuinely interested in (giving your life some vocation). We spend a large proportion of our waking hours at work, and, as a small business owner, demands on your time will grow exponentially, so if you’re not doing something you love, you’ll find it hard to get up every morning to work. Yeah, I get it. No one likes everything about any business, like accounting or HR, but if you’re not passionate about crucial elements of your business, it’s likely doomed to fail.
The next criterion for determining your business type is whether you’ll make money in the business. Sure, it’ll likely take time before your business turns a profit, but a company that won’t make money, in the long run, is just a waste of money and talent. Ideally, your business should tick both of these boxes.
When it comes to profit potential, we divide businesses into lifestyle businesses and growth businesses. Lifestyle businesses simply replace the owners’ income, and that’s a value to the owners. Growth businesses, on the other hand, are designed to grow over time and expand beyond the owners’ labor. Not only do growth businesses provide value to the owners, but they also fuel the nation’s economy because most new employment comes from this type of business and, ultimately, provide value to investors when they succeed. Both are great options, so consider carefully which type of business interests you.
Nowadays, businesses face intense competition. So, come up with a good or service that fills a hole in the market (offering consumers something completely new) or that provides a better or cheaper version of something that already exists as the cornerstone as you plan your business strategy. Dynamically different business models offer the potential for immense profits. Consider businesses like Uber and Airbnb, which turned the business model for the taxi and hotel industries, respectively, on their heads. The value of these companies for the economy, in terms of increased employment and investor returns, is enormous.
Develop a brand
Once you know what you want to sell or specialize in, you need to come up with a brand. A brand helps consumers recognize your business and will help establish your business as a dominant player within your chosen marketplace if done correctly.
Some elements of branding are visual symbols, such as the brand name, logo, color scheme (John Deere’s shade of green is considered so critical for branding that they patented it), and a general aesthetic that appeals to your target demographic as well as positioning your brand within the marketplace.
Sure, you might be able to take pictures of your products on your iPhone for free or have your nephew create an image on Canva. But a product photographer or designer produces much higher quality images that are much more appealing to your customers. They have the equipment, the skills, and the know-how when it comes to making your brand shine. So, invest in their services. You’re likely to get a much more polished outcome!
Other elements of branding are equally, if not more important. These include consumer attitudes toward the brand, especially those in your target market, brand messaging, and cumulative consumer satisfaction.
Know your target market
Seeing as we’ve just mentioned “target market”, let’s focus on that for a moment.
Generally, a business is more successful if it focuses on one or several groups of consumers–called a target market. That’s because you can use messaging, images, and other elements for promoting your brand that are most meaningful to this particular market. Thus, a product positioned for younger consumers will use youthful models and images that resonate with younger consumers, bright colors, and media channels, such as YouTube, that attract this market.
Thus, you need to know your target market. Get to know them by conducting market research, which is even more accessible in the digital age when everyone posts their preferences and personality on social media. See what brands they shop and identify common elements in the brands appealing to them. Understand how much disposable income they generally have and how they apportion that income. Find out where they spend their free time and consequently where you should advertise. Take a look at who they follow on social media, so you know which influencers are likely effective collaborators. The better you know your audience, the better you can cater to them, and the more sales you’ll likely make.
Set up your website
Having a website is essential in the modern-day market. People spend increasing amounts of time and money online. Consumers like the convenience of shopping online, even if they don’t buy products there. They want to shop where they please without going out of their way to a traditional brick and mortar store. They like having parcels delivered to them in the post – straight to their front door.
Your website is now virtually your store. It’s a space where you introduce your brand, showcase your products, entice buyers, generate sales, and make a lot of your income. Consequently, it’s worth a fair amount of investment. Make sure to collaborate with a competent web designer and web developer who create the site of your dreams. You should also engage with IT outsourcing to ensure your tech is up and running at all times, keeping your website afloat without glitches or errors.
Manufacture quality products
You’ll need something to sell, whether it’s online or through a brick and mortar store. Even if you offer a service, you’ll need physical products to support your business. Running a business entails a few steps, especially if you’re planning for custom or bespoke good to promote your business. This includes product design, product development, and then manufacturing itself.
Now, as a start-up, you’ll find better success by outsourcing your manufacturing process, which means someone else absorbs the often enormous fixed costs necessary and provides flexibility if you need to change the quantity manufactured or elements of design. You can also reduce costs in other phases of product development and even design using new digital tools such as CAD (computer-aided design), rapid prototyping, and 3D printing.
Use social media and other low-cost promotional tools
Craft social media profiles for your business, which a low-cost promotional tool as you plan your business strategy. The most popular options tend to be Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but Pinterest, Snapchat, and international platforms are more effective with specific target markets! Once you have profiles, post content to the platforms consistently to emphasize your branding. Running campaigns on social media using influencers, advertising, and competitions are inexpensive tools to boost brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.
Sure, we’re living through hard times. But try to make something positive with all the extra time you have on your hands. Hopefully, the above information can help you to kick start your own business and thrive in your career once this whole situation blows over!
Need marketing help to plan your business strategy?
We welcome the opportunity to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE with our data-driven, results-oriented marketing strategies. Sign up for our FREE newsletter, get the 1st chapter of our book on digital marketing analytics – FREE, or contact us for more information on hiring us.
Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.