If 2020 were a person, it would have the most difficult personality you’ve ever encountered. All but essential businesses have struggled to profit this year due to a looming recession and global pandemic. Figuring out how to make money and stay afloat requires creativity and determination.
A recent fact sheet from the Small Business Administration (SBA) showed a 27% decline in new business applications over last year. The reduction in startups is good and bad news. People are feeling uncertain about the economy, but it also means companies already in existence have less emerging competition. Even though small operations are some of the first impacted by considerable shifts in the economy, they also have an opportunity to come out on top.
People are well aware their local merchants are struggling, and they want to see them succeed. The last thing the public wants is a landscape littered with failed companies and a lack of resources when the current situation is over. If you want to guarantee a business profit by the end of 2020, there are some steps you can take now to protect your investment.
1. Cut Costs
One of the obvious first things to do when times are tough is to cut any costs you can. Start by looking at your fixed expenses, such as rent, business insurance and employee wages. You may not be able to cut any of these, but you can try.
Talk to your landlord about a temporary rent reduction. If you are in a strip mall, perhaps you could move to a smaller, less expensive space without breaking your lease. Talk to your insurance agent about how to reduce your premiums and get quotes from other companies. Cut any employees you don’t need.
Next, look at flexible costs. How can you reduce your energy and water bills? Look for less expensive suppliers and services. Cut corners where you can. A few dollars here and there add up when you’re struggling.
2. Let People Know You’re Open
For weeks on end, nearly everything in the United States shut down. People still aren’t sure what stores and restaurants are open and which ones aren’t. Adding a beautiful yard sign or banner in front of your store is an inexpensive way to advertise your new hours or that you’re open again.
Make sure you update your website and social media pages with any new hours. Post regular updates about what you’re doing to ensure customers’ and employees’ safety.
3. Rethink Your Strategy
Perhaps you’ve always offered a specific product. Now is the time to reflect and think about what people buy when times are tough. Is there something related you can provide that might sell better in the current climate?
One example of this shift in thinking is apparent from companies such as automakers and MyPillow. They began making personal protective equipment. First, they made additional items for those on the front lines in hospitals. Now, they also give to their employees and also sell to the general public. What do people need that you can make or inventory?
4. Adjust Your Management Style
Traditional leaders tell their employees what to do and then expect follow-through. You’ll gain the trust and support of your workers much more effectively if you use a modern approach. Treat them like the human beings they are. Provide input into new processes. Make sure they understand why you’ve made any changes and it’s for everyone’s benefit in the long term.
Your employees are on the front lines. They see what techniques work with customers and what falls flat, and their contribution can make or break your business.
5. Host Virtual Events
Local companies often bring in new customers by hosting or attending local events. Street fairs and networking opportunities are commonplace for small business presence. Unfortunately, most such occurrences have been postponed for the foreseeable future. One way of combating this is by hosting your own events online.
Think about what you can do on a smaller scale to generate buzz and drum up new business. Create a live video stream offering advice related to your industry. Offer an online class. Start a community group and answer customer questions. Host a virtual party and give out promotional prizes, which you mail to your customers.
6. Start a Street Team
Enlist top employees and customers and start a street team. Your elite group of promoters loves your product and your brand. They’re willing to talk to others about why they love you, so ask them to promote you online and with those they know.
See if any of them are willing to let you wrap their vehicle. Offer incentives for doing so. Make sure you know them well, and they aren’t out driving like a maniac or cussing people out in public. You want your representatives to reflect your brand values, so poor behavior is a big no-no.
7. Use Downtime to Build Relationships
If you’re still closed or working under reduced hours, use the time to reach out to customers. Pick up the phone and call them to see how they’re doing. Let them know you miss seeing them in the store, and you’re thinking about them.
Send handwritten letters to people. Prep birthday flyers. Create a video to post on your social media, letting your customers know what you’ve been doing during the downtime. Have you remodeled portions of your store? Maybe you’ve been researching the industry. Share all those little tidbits on what you’re doing with your extra hours.
8. Focus on Holiday Sales
Many businesses see the most profit during the holiday shopping season. Think ahead now for ways to secure buyers from November through December. How can you make their gift-giving easy? Could you ship presents directly to the recipients and include gift wrapping and a nice note? Figure out what makes customers’ lives easier, and you’ll be a step ahead of the competition.
Now isn’t the time to make huge investments or big changes in your business model. Stick with what you know works while adding essential services that make the most sense, such as free delivery or curbside pickup. Companies must survive all types of challenges. 2020 may present a few more hurdles than an average year, but with determination and effort, you’ll make it through.
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