Businesses large and small are feeling the impact of this global pandemic. Here are seven strategies to strengthen your startup during times of economic uncertainty.
If you began running your startup pre-pandemic, things might have been looking pretty good for you. However, with the pandemic (and the quarantines that came with it), you most likely felt a wave of panic rush over you.
If you've managed to survive thus far, you're probably well aware that things may never be the same for your business. And you understand the need to think outside the box to strengthen your position in the marketplace and continue your success during these troubling times.
Rest assured there are options to boost your business in any situation. These best practices are more important than ever to poise your business for success and form a loyal customer base in the wake of COVID-19.
1. Get creative with lead generation.
In current times, e-commerce has become the go-to channel for customers. This gives marketers an opportunity to reach a massive customer base through online channels. Brands that don't get their digital strategies right risk losing out on the lion's share of customers.
Any smart marketer will tell you it's not wise to depend on only one source of advertising for lead generation. You may have been able to get away with taking a risk pre-pandemic and may have even been doing very well. But it is certain to be a different story post-pandemic.
For businesses, it's at least five times more expensive to acquire new customers than retain existing ones. The COVID-19 crisis has created a highly competitive marketplace where every brand is vying for customer attention more than ever, and retaining customers is a clear growth strategy brands should adopt. After all, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60% to 70%, while the probability of selling to a new customer is 5% to 20%.
As a business owner, you are probably aware of the necessity of a continuous supply of fresh new leads. Diversifying your marketing to different media outlets is a way to protect yourself as we approach this new normal.
2. Rethink your business infrastructure.
Your business model must be streamlined for smooth operation and customer satisfaction. How is your current business model going to function moving forward?
For example, many businesses were strictly opposed to remote working conditions prior to the outbreak of the virus. As the world went into quarantine, businesses were practically forced to give in and experiment with some sort of remote working environment. This environment is likely to remain as quarantines begin to lift.
Ask yourself what has changed in your business due to the pandemic. More importantly, will these changes need to be permanent?
3. Take time to build an audience.
Plenty of businesses and startups are aware of the need to collect leads and follow up on a regular basis. But this is far from what is meant by "build an audience."
Building an audience is all about engagement, not just following up to make the sale. This strategy was rising in popularity before COVID-19 and has become downright necessary since.
In times of uncertainty, people are more hesitant to spend their money. Building an audience allows you to engage with prospects in a low-pressure environment. You can take time to increase awareness of particular problems in your niche, get vital feedback from prospective clients in real time, and ultimately position yourself and your business as a leader and trusted source.
4. Become a beacon of joyful distraction.
This goes hand in hand with building an audience and generating leads. The nature of quarantine leads to people searching for new ways to be entertained. You can be that source of entertainment.
Obviously, how this looks for your business will depend on your niche. Just remember, the more familiar you are with your customers' problems and thought processes, the easier it will be to provide them a joyful distraction while increasing your lead generation.
5. Take advantage of low advertising costs.
In the wake of the pandemic, we've seen price drops on many things. It's a normal response for goods and services to come down in price when the average consumer is tightening up their budget.
The good news for startups, especially those looking to up their marketing game, is that paid advertising is one of the services that has seen a decrease in price.
As far as cost goes, right now really is the best time to advertise. However, you can't just throw money at an advertising campaign and expect it to work. Increased ad spending does not mean increased results. You still need to be smart about your advertising and carefully plan your message-to-market strategy. Smart marketers are adjusting their messages to better suit the market during this time of quarantine. [Read related article: 6 Ways to Amp Up Your Marketing and PR in the Age of COVID-19]
6. Reposition your brand.
Branding is a never-ending process for any business. From the moment you open the doors to decades down the road, your every advertisement, customer interaction and visual image will reflect on your brand.
Branding is essentially a form of marketing in which you seek a uniform message to instill in the minds of the public when they think of your business. It's up to you to portray that message effectively and consistently.
Take this time of reformation to consider your brand. Most likely, you will require some repositioning, but that could be as simple as redesigning your logo or revisiting your PR and publicity efforts. Just keep in mind as you adjust your marketing and prospect engagement strategies that your branding may also change.
As more small businesses adapt to the digital movement to improve their marketing efforts, giving each customer a personalized experience becomes even more critical. The more people relate to and trust your brand's digital presence, the better the conversion. Smart startup teams have innovated and even benefited from the situation by offering unique digital experiences to potential buyers.
Embracing the new social media culture and increasing the variety of digital channels for customer support has enabled companies to maintain their relationships with customers and keep them loyal. Although the current economic crisis may improve eventually, you should still be aware of the changes it has sparked in customer psychology, purchasing preferences and general behavior. With digital adoption on the rise, small businesses must harness the potential of digital channels and increase it with the latest customer engagement strategies.
7. Reorganize business capital.
With all these potential changes to consider for your startup during these times, your finances will play a foundational role in implementation. Whether you are looking to raise capital through crowdsourcing (such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe) or seeking more traditional means, such as venture capital or a small business loan, it will require some serious thought.
You need to make responsible financial decisions in any business climate, of course. But during this time of COVID-19, it's critical to allocate your funding to the proper resources to ensure the longevity of your company. [Read related article: How to Build a Cash Runway in Economic Downturns]