Most entrepreneurs would likely agree that 2020 has been an exceptionally tough year for business revenue. First, the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the world. On top of that, the wildfires currently affecting the West Coast of the United States are so widespread and intense that the smoke reached Northern Europe.
These emergencies and other prolonged crises make it difficult for businesses to recover, even if the people running them are ready to try anything necessary to stay afloat.
Now is the time to think creatively and adjust to the marketplace’s new challenges in the best ways you can. Here are five practical tips to help you add to your bottom line in trying times:
1. Pivot Your Business Model to Align With the New Challenges
One effective way to keep revenue coming in is to assess whether you could focus on a new business model that works with the current emergency. Have the circumstances put certain items in short supply that your company could manufacture? Perhaps the crisis restricted societal behaviors and made people look for different ways to get what you provide.
Take the example of Hollow Creek Distillery in South Carolina. The owners received a call from the state’s Department of Transportation about pivoting to make hand sanitizer to meet COVID-19 needs. They agreed, and representatives from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) contacted them by phone about making the formula. The company sent out its first order in a matter of days. Within two weeks, the company prepared 2,200 gallons of the product.
Some publicans in Ireland acted similarly during the coronavirus. Their establishments closed in mid-March and are not yet allowed to reopen unless they serve substantial meals — the usual fare of chips and nuts don’t count. However, several pubs in Dublin thought outside the box and started offering drink delivery services. Some tempted people with pre-mixed cocktails to quench the thirsts of those not in the mood for pints.
Before shifting your business to meet new needs, ensure there is a genuine demand and that you can address it in a relatively short time. In these two examples, the enterprises can go back to their normal without enduring a major undertaking. Also, check that your new idea falls in line with local stipulations for running a business. Irish pubs could not serve people on-site, so this new approach made sense and did not break the government’s rules.
It’s also worth asking people about any unmet needs you might fill. They’ll probably bring up some less-obvious ones that hadn’t crossed your mind. Customers will also appreciate that you took the time to connect with them and listen to what they have to say.
2. Make Your Customers Willing and Eager to Stick Around
Prolonged emergencies put many people in difficult scenarios that cause them to reevaluate their budgets. Unfortunately, that means businesses often lose customers. You can help your bottom line by going above and beyond to remind them why it’s worthwhile to keep giving you their patronage.
A 2019 survey examined the top factors that drive people’s loyalty to a business. The results showed that product quality came out on top, with 74% of respondents mentioning it. Value for money and product consistency were next, making up 66% and 65%. Then, 56% said customer service influenced their loyalty.
An extended emergency is an excellent time to examine the aspects that are within your control and could make people stay with your company when they might otherwise leave. The study above also found that loyal customers will recommend brands to their friends and family 86% of the time, thereby driving business revenue. Sometimes, you don’t need to change your products or services to keep people interested in continuing their support.
The key is to remind them what makes your business stand out. Maybe your enterprise sells produce boxes from local farms. You could tweak your product descriptions to mention how many items come in each box or remind people they can fill out a form to specify their preferences for the contents when possible. Those things show that you want to give consumers value for money and provide them with consistently enjoyable experiences.
You could also highlight what people miss by not doing business with you. Birchbox — a beauty subscription box brand — gives people a preview of what’s coming in the next month’s shipment before letting them proceed with cancellation requests. Seeing those perks could make customers realize they don’t want to stop subscribing after all.
3. Move to a Temporary Location
Businesses often deal with emergencies that primarily affect particular regions or states. For example, if your company is in a hurricane-prone area, multiple storms could hit during one season and curb your efforts to keep operating. Californian wildfires burned nearly 1 million acres in seven days. That’s more than triple the acreage burned during a typical whole fire season, equalling an area larger than Rhode Island.
Provided you have the license to do it, the best decision may be to temporarily operate the business elsewhere until conditions improve. The reason for relocating is not always due to environmental disasters, though. Some moving companies in New York City report at least double the business now compared to last year. COVID-19 pushed people to move out and seek opportunities elsewhere.
If you plan to take your business to another place, give yourself time to figure out all the logistics. For example, you might move to a location without an existing power supply. Using an industrial generator would help you operate before getting a permanent electricity source. Each state has individual permit requirements for the load size and weight carried by a truck. You need to understand those regulations before transporting the generator.
Consider how you’ll keep existing customers in the loop, too. Inform them of the move, as well as its anticipated length, if possible. Emphasize how you’re dealing with extremely challenging circumstances and see no other solution but setting up shop elsewhere for a while. Be sure to show your gratitude for how much they’ve helped you so far and mention how important they were for getting your business to this point.
Then, let them know how they could continue supporting you in the new location. Do you have an online store with items that ship anywhere? Perhaps you could urge customers to spread the word about your relocation to anyone they know in the new place.
4. Think of Creative Ways to Reach People Where They Are
Extended emergencies often force or make people choose to alter their routines. A World Bank forecast expects the global economy to shrink by 5.2% in 2020. The organization attributed that decline to COVID-19 and its associated shutdowns. Those projected conditions would send advanced economies into the most severe recession since World War II.
Even as some sectors reopen, rises in virus cases often cause full localized lockdowns or cause businesses in specific industries to close again. Beyond that, many people choose to stay home more often, trying to save money even if the health threat is not a constant concern for them. One effective business revenue strategy is to bring your services to wherever customers are. That way, they don’t have to do anything to consider buying what you offer.
A case study of this tip in practice involved Dark Garden, a corset store with locations in New Orleans and San Francisco. Owner Autumn Adamme dealt with COVID-19, wildfires and burglary in a very short period. Her example shows how life can quickly take cruel turns and cause multiple catastrophes. The pandemic and wildfires caused substantial dips in business. The company holds an annual in-person rummage sale, but this year’s event drew a smaller crowd than usual.
Dark Garden’s team tried Instagram to reach people instead. Adamme explained, “We did a four-hour Instagram live [event] that went over really well. There were a lot of people who weren’t willing to come out in person, and they felt really included. Two weeks later, we did a two-hour Instagram live from New Orleans. People said it was so fun, and it was so nice to participate in a community.”
It’s ideal to pick a platform people already know and likely use. Many may balk if they have to download something to see your live content. A big part of coming to people wherever they are means reducing or eliminating the barriers affecting participation.
5. Use Your Knowledge to Diversify Revenue
You likely have expert knowledge in at least one area. Why not rely on it to boost your bottom line? For example, if you’re a gym owner, you could offer live online classes that help people get in shape from wherever they are. This approach’s primary advantage is that it lets you open the service to internet users from anywhere.
Don’t overlook the fact that people appreciate professional or personal development opportunities, too. Maybe you offer website-building services but are ready to branch out and host a weekend class for individuals who want easy tips for keeping their sites updated. Individuals love feeling empowered with new skills. Are you a fantastic baker or a skilled craftsperson? Share what you know with others and help them create things in their homes.
You could also help people with your know-how by supporting them through otherwise daunting situations. The aptly named website You Probably Need A Haircut charges individuals $18 to connect with a barber or hairstylist through Zoom. People must have scissors or a razor, but the presence of a professional should help them avoid aesthetic disasters.
Founder Greg Isenberg said, “A barbershop is a warm and inviting place, and we aim to re-create that in your home. People can expect friendly banter from their new barber and hand-holding throughout the cutting process.” Most of the $18 fee goes to the hair professionals, and customers can leave $5 tips.
If you’re feeling unsure about which topics would interest people most, consider posting a short list of your areas of expertise and run a social media poll to see which ones people would find most useful. Also, think about offering a mixture of one-off and longer options.
Many potential customers might want to briefly engage with your content virtually without parting with sizeable amounts of cash. That means you have a chance to impress them and prolong the relationship.
Support Your Bottom Line When Things Get Tough
Most aspiring and current business owners know the importance of saving up for emergencies that last a few months at most. However, some dire situations last much longer and cause tremendous downturns in your business revenue.
The five tips you’ve just learned should help you feel better equipped to weather those storms. As you adjust these examples to meet your needs, think about sharing your experiences with fellow entrepreneurs to help others.