How small businesses can deal with low customer demand and find new clients
Together with the public health crisis and human toll caused by COVID-19, small business owners the world over face daunting business challenges. The disruption of temporary closures and the cash crunch that has affected Main Street threaten not only the individual businesses but the also livelihood of millions of workers employed by small businesses. Effectively addressing these problems cannot be done in a piece-meal manner. A strategic and systematic approach is needed, and we have begun the discussion in Part 1 of this series.
In continuing the analysis, we look at the rapid shift in customer demand brought about by border closures, movement curbs and quarantine orders. Needless to say, business owners have been thrown for a loop with these changes as demand is at the very core of why do business in the first place. Largely depending on which industry you are in, the pandemic may have either collapsed demand for your services or increased it.
And as the new year begins, with economies reopening, the vaccines now available as well as spikes in infection rates and the new strain of COVID-19, how in the world can small business owners approach the unknown nature of upcoming demand? How can they find new customers?
Be where your customers are
Most especially if you have been in business for a while, you may have seen the availability of your regular patrons as a given. And then the pandemic hit. They may still want what you offer, but lockdown measures have prohibited them from buying from you. As the months roll by and new habits were formed, so could the preferences of your reliable customer base.
In your business recovery plan, it is essential to level with your target customers. Call it market research, it is primarily being where they are with the goal of understanding what it is that they are looking for and willing to pay for during this time. We offer products and services based on a set of assumptions, for instance, that households need on-demand cleaning services, that working mothers would pay for as much for childcare. Those assumptions could have very well changed over the last 10 months and it is imperative for you, the business owner, to have a full grasp of what this new reality is.
One distinct thing about small businesses is that they tend to stay very close to the fabric of their immediate communities. It is a strength that should be capitalized on, in a sense going upstream against the current of isolation and anxiety over what lies ahead. Practical ways such as calling or messaging customers for a chat, engaging with them via social media or meeting with them outdoors — safely distanced — will not only carry a compassionate human touch but will also provide insight that would help the business.
Let your market know your story
Each person has a story to tell about how the pandemic has upended their life. Same goes for each and every business. Your business’ COVID-19 story is something that your audience should know.
Clear and earnest appraisal of how your business is faring would reconnect you with your target market but could also provide updated actionable information. Because of the almost instantaneous nature of lockdown orders, your patrons might be unsure as to whether you are even open for business. If you have modified your service offerings, your clients have to know how they can still avail of them.
Storytelling has always been at the center of effective and memorable marketing. Marie Rosecrans SVP of Essentials and SMB Marketing at Salesforce posits that to deliver a great story, business owners should (1) think about what matters, (2) relate to their audience, (3) spark emotion and (4) take the audience on a journey. If you are running a private tutorial company, this may look like sharing on Instagram a profile series of your tutors, talking about their expertise, but also how the pandemic has affected them. You ensure that the tone fits your audience. And in this story series, you ensure to constantly communicate that you have made available a tutorial format completely done online, enabling continuity in instruction whatever the quarantine orders might look like.
Simplify the path to purchase
Finally, to unlock demand once again, you have to make it easy for your customers to buy. After getting drawn into your business story, knowing that you are very much in business and goes into considering a purchase, the call to action must be obvious and the way to do it, simple to do.
E-commerce websites have made it incredibly effortless to get a hold of products on sale. It is a bit tricky for services with a different fulfilment process including coordinating schedules, managing your employees, ensuring the high quality of service and the seamless and secure payment process. But new tools and platforms have made it more convenient for small service businesses to make their offerings available at the tap of a button.
Supertap provides the buy button for services. Small businesses owners can create a free listing on the app and this activates their services to be made available on-demand. Their employees get access to their own app and receive notifications for services requests, chat with customers and get rated to ensure quality service. Through Supertap, real-time ordering, video consultation, online payments are made convenient, enabling customer interest to turn into purchase action easily.
Many aspects of doing business will remain predictable as we continue to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. People’s behaviors have been changed through the health policies mandated to protect public safety. But through community involvement, fresh market research and a clear and easy purchase process, your business can potentially crack the unknowns of new demand. We are under no illusion that through simply following these guidelines, the business can immediately enjoy an uptick in revenue. However, along with the same diligence that has since allowed you to pull through, you could position yourself on the right track to recovery.
This article was originally published on Medium.