Small businesses industrywide entered the coronavirus pandemic "with low financial resilience," according to a new survey by McKinsey. Businesses operating in the arts, entertainment, and recreation, as well as those in accommodation and food services, may only return to their 2019 levels of output after 2025, the consulting firm estimates.
If you're a small business owner surveying the new normal, start by trying "to understand within your industry the stay-at-home economy," says Elma Beganovich, co-founder of influencer marketing agency Amra & Elma. That is, understand how your industry works now that many people are staying home, and shift your activities accordingly.
"You do have to give things up, but the choices you make as to what to double down on are critically important," says entrepreneur and consultant Rachel Braun Scherl. "It's all about surviving long enough."
Here are four ways to help your business pivot and survive in the new normal.
To begin with, says Braun Scherl, consider what "the two or three most critical things that you need to be doing [are] to continue to be a sustainable business." Focus your energy on those.
Have you taken on new initiatives lately, even outside the realm of what your business typically does? Ask yourself how crucial they are to your survival. Are there activities within a production line that could be done in-house or more efficiently? Figure out how.
When it comes to spreading the word about your business, "make use of online tools" like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and more, says Beganovich. It may take some time to build the momentum and grow your follower base, but this tech costs no money and can still connect you with an audience.
"No matter what size business you are, no matter where you are located," says Beganovich, "the playing field has been leveled with social media and digital tools." Anyone can use them and create content that hits.
Real estate broker and star of Bravo's "Million Dollar Listing" Ryan Serhant uses YouTube to grow his brand and build his business. For him, YouTube is another way to engage with customers and fans. "I'm a business person," he previously told Grow, "and I have a lot of different ways of getting my message across."
Once you've decided which online platforms you want to use to market your business, "engage with your customers," says Beganovich.
There are lots of initiatives to be taken that could allow you to do so. Find a charity you want to support and let your customers know that within a given window of time, if they make a purchase, some portion of the proceeds will go toward that charity. Or have influencers in your field pose challenges where the winner gets a package of your products.
Video by Jason Armesto
"One of the big things we've been encouraging are the Q&A sessions," says Beganovich. Say you sell organic trail mix. You could create an Instagram Live event in which health experts answer viewer questions about the merits of eating trail mix or another type of food so your customers feel they're being heard.
The idea is to build a relationship with your customer base using these tools so they feel personally connected, not just to what you're doing but to the ideas and ethos behind your company.
Finally, think about the big picture. If your business offers a product that's less relevant right now, "can you find your skills and use them somewhere else?" asks Braun Scherl.
Wholesale distributor Happy Valley Meat Company had been selling meat from small Pennsylvania farms to restaurants throughout New York City. But when the coronavirus hit, restaurants were forced to close, and along with them the company's customer base.
Instead of continuing to try to sell to restaurants, Happy Valley Meat built a virtual shop using Shopify and began selling cuts directly to consumers. The store was a hit, and the company regularly sells out of its supply.
"The pivot to direct-to-consumer has honestly saved us," says company owner Dan Honig.
Figure out what is within your company's power to do outside of its typical activities, such as by reaching out to your customer base via social media to see what they're missing, and figure out how to pivot to meet today's needs.
More from Grow: