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MyOwnBusiness Institute

Adapting in the Midst of Change

OBJECTIVE:

It is common for businesses to experience a crisis, whether natural disaster, economic downturn, or health emergency like COVID-19. Small business owners have to quickly adapt to changes in the marketplace, and, more specifically, in their own personal marketplace. So what should small business owners focus on in order to pivot their business during a challenging time? In this session we discuss three key areas to consider: Communication, Community, and Delivery.

Image of several airplanes flying together and one changing direction
  • Number One: Communication
    • Customers want to hear from you
    • Build trust through relationships
  • Number Two: Community
    • Use social media to connect
    • Shift focus to engagement
    • Encourage return visits to your site
  • Number Three: Delivery
    • Think outside the box
    • Establish client loyalty
  • Summary

Communication is always essential. When so many things are in flux, your customers want to hear from people and businesses that matter to them. As a small business owner, you have the unique advantage of knowing your clients and having a personal relationship with them. Now is a great time to get out your email list, and let your customers know how you are acknowledging and responding to the change, but more importantly, it’s a chance to check in with them and see how they’re doing. Remember trust is built through relationships.

 

Example:

A bookseller in Michigan owns a small store with a very regular “older clientele.” She knows this particular group of clients is not active on social media and yet, they are regular readers. Understanding the technological limitations of her clients, she contacted them via phone and email to check in on them, and rather than expecting them to go to her website to order books, she simply took photos of new items and books that she was receiving and sent them by email so they could see what was available in the store. Customers are able to order these items via email by replying with what they want. The store owner is able to reach her clients in a very personal way, further developing their loyalty to her and vice versa.

Over time, you have likely established a community around your business, accompanied by a social media presence. Use social media to connect with your community. However, shift your focus from an outward push - offering goods and services - to engagement. Use this time to ask your followers to send some information to you! Maybe something fun like a social media poll? What are you doing to stay sane during this “shelter in place” mandate? Perhaps an easier question like “What is bringing you joy right now?” 

Asking your community to post pictures or share a story of what they are doing engages them and gives them something to look forward to. The idea is to keep them coming back to your site, further developing your relationship with them. As a small business owner, you have the ability to foster a relationship with your clients in a very personal, unique way. It is worth your time.

Are you able to deliver your product the same way you always have? Likely not. Is there another way you can get your product or service to your customers? Challenge yourself to think outside the “box.” How might you maintain some type of revenue even though you might not be able to perform your service or deliver your product?  

Example:

A nearby auto shop has started selling oil changes in “packs” at a reduced price. So the customer is able to buy several oil changes at a time, to be used now and in the future. This business owner gets the revenue now, and has the opportunity to sell other services during future visits. By drawing the customer back several times, the business owner has the opportunity to establish client loyalty.

Small businesses are in a unique position to foster relationships with their clients, and during a time of change, and perhaps isolation as with COVID-19, these connections are increasingly important. By focusing and really spending some time thinking about ways to pivot how you think about Communication, Community, and Delivery, you can Quickly Adapt your Business in the midst of sudden changes your business may face.

For a quick reference guide on ways to impact your business from this session, download the Adapting in the Midst of Change Take-A-Ways infographic. 

Adapting in the Midst of Change session © Shannon Zettler, former co-owner of Zettler Pro Hockey, and SCU Ciocca Center staff member