The global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is going into its second year now, and millions of small and large businesses are feeling the squeeze. Some had no choice but to furlough or lay off millions of employees or shut down operations indefinitely. In fact, 9 million U.S. small businesses may shut down this year if stimulus runs out before circumstances improve.
The businesses that survive and emerge from this worldwide disaster will have learned to adapt to drastic market changes. They’ll come up with strategies to stay afloat during unexpected, turbulent times.
But a worldwide pandemic isn’t the only kind of disaster businesses need to prepare for. In fact, “disasters” don’t even have to be natural disasters. They may include a variety of cash flow interruptions, technological corruptions or failures, and even internal scandals.
It’s in every business owner’s interest to withstand any and all “disasters.” In this article, let’s discuss some of the strategies we have seen our clients and business partners use to make their businesses more resilient.
Contribute to the community
Helping your community can serve the dual purpose of bettering your neighborhood as well as enhancing your public image. After all, clients tend to trust businesses that demonstrate care for their community.
For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed small business owners purchase and donate medical supplies to health care facilities in their local neighborhoods. We also saw cafes and restaurants donate food to local shelters and health care facilities.
Many consumers find corporate citizenship important and are more likely to support brands that contribute in a thoughtful and meaningful way to the community at large. According to McKinsey, 65% of Generation Z consumers learn the origins of a product or service before making a purchase, while 80% refuse to buy goods from companies involved in scandals
Of course, the companies that serve their community interests best also benefit financially from greater community involvement, which could translate to lower employee turnover rates and more lead generation and sales.
Takeaway: Younger consumers care much more about a brand’s background and message when considering a purchase. They are more likely to buy from or do business with companies they consider trustworthy, dependable, and impact-oriented. They are less likely to associate with companies that are mired in scandals.
Focus on customer service
Even during these financially turbulent times, we have seen many of our clients reach out to their customers and focus on delivering high-quality customer service. Effective customer service can increase customer loyalty, lead to higher sales, and boost your public and/or brand image within your community.
During the COVID-19 pandemic last year, many of our clients sent out reassuring newsletters outlining how their businesses were combatting the virus and explaining the various ways they were still able to support their customers. Other clients provided generous discounts, waived fees, and even offered free services for their customers.
Long story short, at-risk companies that remained resilient and survived the pandemic are often the same ones that took the time to address customer concerns and help mitigate fears and anxieties. Now that most work and research is conducted online, positive ratings and reviews provide a tangible, measurable competitive advantage.
Takeaway: In our remote work, digital-first era, companies that provide excellent customer service will retain their customers. They’ll also enjoy online, word-of-mouth marketing from a growing list of satisfied customer reviews.
Continue marketing, no matter what
Conventional wisdom would tell you to spend less on marketing and advertising when times are tough. But in our experience, marketing your services at a time when business is slower than usual can be actually much more cost-efficient in the long run.
During New York State’s State of Emergency Order mandating restaurants, bars, and cafes to close their doors to the public, for example, some businesses launched new marketing campaigns that emphasized how they were following best practices for social distancing, hygienic product packaging, and efficient delivery.
Engaging consistently with leads and customers on social media can also lead to positive results. While this strategy may not be as consistently ROI-positive as paid advertising on the right channels, any business owner can do it for free.
After all, during financially unstable times, not all businesses will bother maintaining their social media presence or marketing their services online. As a result, whichever advertisements and social media accounts remain running may stand out more.
Takeaway: With an increased effort to genuinely address customer concerns, answer questions, or engage in conversations digitally, businesses can reach a much wider audience. You don’t have to rely on ads, either. For the budget-conscious small business owner, social media marketing is 100% free.
Generate multiple streams of income
Many businesses with only one source of income found themselves struggling throughout the course of the pandemic. Without diversified revenue streams, these businesses began to fail and they eventually closed their doors. Without more than one source of revenue, they were over-invested in a single point of failure.
That’s why offering multiple products and services, becoming vertically integrated, or even advertising on multiple channels can make your business much more resilient. By maintaining multiple revenue streams, a business owner may mitigate “portfolio risk” in the same way an investor does.
Sometimes, diversifying revenue streams is as simple as offering more products and services. During the pandemic, many clinics began meeting with patients via telemedicine solutions. Auto repair shops began offering remote repair and pick-up services. And all restaurant owners that stayed in business are now offering online orders and delivery.
Another long-term approach to diversifying your revenue is by implementing passive income streams. Many of the most popular passive income streams rely on advertising revenue or referral partnerships. Spending time and resources on building up helpful business connections and partnerships within your community can have many positive results in the long run.
Takeaway: Generating and maintaining alternative sources of income is a viable growth and risk management strategy for any business. By relying too much on a single revenue stream, a business is vulnerable to a single point of failure. Alternative and passive revenue streams mitigate this risk.