How Small Businesses Are Handling A New Economy

coronavirus industry impact small business covid-19 impact new economy

The new economy caused by recent health, political, and financial events is a challenging one for entrepreneurs everywhere. We recently surveyed 100 small businesses about how they have managed during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. As the lockdown eases and more employees head back to the office, we were interested in investigating the challenges small businesses have faced due to the Coronavirus pandemic, what they have been doing over lockdown to develop their business, any upskilling they have done, the technology they have used over this time, and what their plans and outlook for the future are. 

We found that nearly 80% of small business owners said Covid-19 has had a negative impact on their business, yet 90% are feeling positive for the future. 100% of respondents have been using lockdown to build their business, with the majority focusing on marketing, connecting with customers, and upskilling. Over 70% have upskilled during the lockdown - with search engine optimization, social media, learning a new language, and data analytics as the most common new skills to learn. 

The types of businesses surveyed are as follows. The businesses surveyed were from a mixture of industries, but the most common sectors were B2B services (28%), beauty, health and wellness (18%), retail (18%), software/ tech (7%), and travel (5%). Challenges faced The most common challenges to businesses were fewer sales (54%), followed by having to reschedule product launches and events (54%), struggling to pay staff and business costs (18%), and affecting investment opportunities (18%). 

Business activities All respondents surveyed said they had used their time under Coronavirus lockdown productively to grow their business. Unsurprisingly, the majority have stated focusing on what they can offer online, and building up their digital marketing strategies, with creating new content (88%) and online offers (60%), holding or attending online events (60%), connecting with customers (57%), and upskilling (55%) as the most common things to do over lock down. 

Some stated they have had some positive outcomes as a result of Covid-19, including an increase in online sales, having more time to focus on marketing, growth in their mailing list, learning new things, new product launches, and getting to know their customers better. The most common new skills for people to develop were learning SEO (25%), social media (13%), learning a new language (3.2%), data skills (3.2%), and PR (3.2%). 

Using technology Technology has played a crucial role in business success over this time. Zoom, WhatsApp, and email were the most common ways to communicate with staff, and social media marketing, email marketing, web conferencing, and having an online website or store were the most beneficial forms of technology. The majority have used lockdown to update their website, with 60% tweaking their current site and 25% building a new one. Advice for small businesses Despite the difficulties faced, 90% responded that they had either a very positive or quite positive outlook for the future of their business. We asked respondents to give advice to other small businesses during this time. These are the most common things that were mentioned: 

Pivot and prioritize Prioritizing what your business is good at and knowing what works was mentioned by several respondents: Joseph Hagen from Streamline PR said: “Use this time to sharpen what you are already good at”. Similarly, Dennis Vu of Ringblaze said: “Focus on your strengths, don't experiment too much. Do more of what works for you in terms of customer acquisition and focus on that. For us, that has been email marketing and we've doubled down on it.” Sara Price from Coaching Service Actually said: “Get the balance right between cutting costs and investing in the future. See this as an opportunity to engage, build trust and loyalty.” 

Test new things and be agile Others said that now is the best time to be agile, and develop and test new things on your audience, particularly in a time of uncertainty. Lottie Boreham of BOOST&Co said: “Agility is key, things are moving so quickly all the time that you need to keep an eye on the news and trends, and respond fast.” Similarly, Michaela Thomas from The Thomas Connection stated: “Take a step back and strategize, to use your time wisely. Test out new offers on your existing customer base, tweak them, and then do an imperfect first round.” Kim Allcott of Allcott Associates LLP commented: “Look for opportunities that are unique to the situation". 

We are making the most of the lockdown period by providing free building advice from the company partners” Reach out and get to know your customers The importance of knowing and understanding your customers and their needs cropped up a lot in the advice given by businesses. Businesses can use lock-down to really focus on building customer retention strategies. . 

“It might seem counterintuitive but really lock down your niche, define your absolute ideal customer the one you are perfect for. Think about them and their current challenge. If you were in their shoes what would you be looking for right now? Then make sure your product or service clearly talks to that solution. We make the mistake of talking about us when we need to be talking about and to our customers.” said Kim-Adele Platts of Executive Coaching Jon Davis of tech company Medius commented: “From a B2B perspective, I think it is important to maintain contact with your customers and let them understand that you are there to help and support them through this challenging period. So whether that's producing helpful content to navigate the crisis, or reassuring clients services are at their disposal to help cope, it's important to open dialogue early and to continue talking to your client.” 

Calypso Rose of online store, Indytute said: “Talk and make connections with your customers. Find out what they want you to do to help their situation. Use this time to create content that is good for now and for the future as this period of time won’t be forever.” Focus on Marketing In times of economic downturns, companies often have to make cuts. Often, it is the marketing and advertising budget that is cut. However, many respondents pointed to the continued importance of getting your marketing right. Web designer, Julia Ferrari said: “People are more open than ever to have online conversations, use their social media, and connect with new people. Developing a good and effective website is more important than ever.” “Step back from trying to grow right now and think 'what conversations can I start now that could mature into a potential client-conversation in 8-10 months’ time?'. Lockdown is a great opportunity to work on long-term marketing projects.” said Joe Binder of WOAW branding agency. 

Chris Abrams of Abrams Insurance Solutions commented: “A good website is key. Make it your personal brand. Showcase testimonials from clients to build trust and show you know what you are doing. Use technology (video conference and screen-shares) to interact and present to clients. Strangers are getting more comfortable with doing business online. Show your face and provide solutions to their problems. If you don't have expertise or need help in a certain area, find a virtual assistant. We use assistants to help with blog writing, creating graphics, and CRM management. 

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the market for the foreseeable future, and may even cause permanent changes to the economy. 

Keep reading Social Selling Entrepreneur for additional insight on marketing your business and surviving as an entrepreneur in a tough economy.

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