Does anyone know whether we are at the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? Restrictions are lifting yet cases are rising. It remains to be seen whether post-summer will see a significant rise in hospitalisations and, sadly, deaths that threaten to derail any hope of a recovery. So, with those sombre thoughts in mind, where should small businesses focus efforts Post-Covid to ensure that they put their businesses on the fast-track for growth?
This may seem an over-simplistic point to start with. What’s more, many sectors could justifiably argue that it’s easy to say and impossible to accomplish. Plenty of industries have been severely impacted by lockdown. Countless organisations, small and large, will never recover. Alongside the human cost of the past 18 months or so is the economic impact.
History shows us that things do turn around. This is the case following every downturn. Stock markets recovered 4 years after the Great Recession of 2007-08 and took a similar amount of time after the 2000s crash. Fitch Ratings expects 2021 world GDP to grow by 6.3%, How will you benefit?
Focus on Creativity
Inevitably, there are winners and losers and, with every disruption, things change. Trends shift. Adaptations become the norm. The boom in online shopping is unlikely to revert back anytime soon. Perhaps town centers will be irrevocably changed. But, that opens up more opportunities for those that want them. The residential market may benefit from the demise of department stores. John Lewis has announced plans to move into residential developments using its own real estate. This is in addition to looking outside of their own property portfolio. And, each development will have its own John Lewis mini-supermarket.
Imagination is a tough skill to cultivate. However, there will be opportunities. Coming out of this big dip, certain sectors will explode as latent demand bubbles to the surface. How are you placed to capitalise? What creative solutions can you unearth?
Focus on Technology
What has changed in your business and industry? How can you harness new technology to develop your business? There is no doubt that there has been a plethora of new solutions over the past few years. From app ordering to the use of artificial intelligence almost everywhere. Whether it’s smart glasses, smart devices or smart houses or Virtual Reality Gaming, Driverless cars or medical microchips that monitor your vital signs on your mobile, we are awash with gadgets and new technology.
These innovations are not going away anytime soon so you need to open your mind to how you can harness these to make your business more efficient, more attractive and more resilient in your particular niche.
Focus on the Customer
There has been a lot of talk about ‘pivoting’ during this recent Covid period. Some businesses have been able to switch away from their core offering to a clever alternative. This allowed them to keep going during this difficult period. For some, this will present future opportunities. For others, the opportunity may evaporate as we get back to normal. However, one thing that never goes out of fashion is customer orientation. Think about what you can do for your prospects and customers more than you think about what they can do for you.
Simply put, the more you focus on customer needs the better. Understand your audience and what drives them. Consider what challenges your customers have and how you can solve them. Understand how the downturn has affected them and what you can do to better support them. Many businesses are emerging with lower headcount through necessity. That means resourcing is more difficult. So, consider how your solutions can empower them and how you can help them overcome these difficulties.
Understanding your customer will never go out of fashion so place emphasis on them and you’ll be more able to identify the opportunities as things open up.
Focus on Positive Communication
Perhaps this is obvious. However, in the fog of indecision, and with battles that need fighting, sometimes what’s in front of us can be missed. Whilst it can be hard to be positive, especially after a tough ordeal for some, how you’re perceived is everything. That means on the phone, in emails, on LinkedIn and, hopefully, face to face. People buy people and you and your colleagues are the face of your business. So, your energy needs to shine through. In some ways, the expression ‘fake it till you make it’ springs to mind. Even if things aren’t where you’d like them to be, presenting a positive image must be a priority.
Focus on Business Development
For most organisations emerging from the gloom, new business development will be on their agenda. The first place to look should be your current customer base. They are likely to be more loyal and easier to convert. Can you sell the same or different products and services to your base that has perhaps reigned back over the past 18 months? Is there potential for significant growth amongst a segment of your core customers?
If you have developed new offerings, are your customers aware of this? And, what about new sectors and/or new prospects? There is likely to be a degree of latent demand that you can exploit with a concerted effort to develop new business.
How can you stimulate fresh leads? What channels do you need to use to drive prospects to your door? Whether content distribution of knowledge-based white papers is for you, using social media to reach your audience, or it’s traditional telemarketing you turn to, consider how best to utilise your marketing funds to generate leads and to grow your sales pipeline.
Focus on Data
Be aware that many organisations will have experienced change during the recent period. That’s likely to accelerate once government support disappears as companies have to face increased overhead. Inevitably, some of your buyers will have left their companies. Therefore, validating your customer and prospect data as part of your lead generation strategy will be essential. If you want to build your business post-Covid, that will be hard if you’re aiming at a target you can’t hit. So, spend time and resources on maximising the accuracy of your target data or you will be throwing good money after bad.
Sadly, there’s no silver bullet. We can’t waive a magic wand and make it all go away. And, some restrictions may be with us for some time. In many respects, this is finally the new normal. But, with a forecast of strong growth ahead, small businesses must focus on their own growth plans to take advantage of the opportunities that arise.