All companies offer a product or service. There is an opportunity to find a niche in the market and create a temporary portfolio of product offerings that is complementary to the company's mission and values and also addresses the new market trend/pressure.
Examples and ideas
- Spas/Hair salon: deliver specifically designed and personalized home spa product packages, temporarily shifting focus on the product sales aspect of the business, building on consumer insight of isolation and need for self-care.
- CPAs, creative agencies, communication agencies and other service enterprises: offer a new product centered around education, such as low-cost virtual training on QuickBooks, Excel, basic photo editing, as people will have the time/need to learn and broaden their expertise. One CPA added home budgeting tutorial videos.
- Local flower shops: hold virtual workshops on how to make spring wreaths or build a bouquet, with the insight that their target audience has time on their hands and would like to spend it meaningfully and in fun ways.
- Private financial advisors: hold paid podcast series for people interested in money movements and investments. Very pressing question in times of crisis.
- Childcare professionals who cannot physically be in a classroom: hold virtual tutorial/tutoring and animated screen time as a paid service to parents, whose kids are home during isolation times.
- Product sales: rethink the product strategy considering people are purchasing in bulk. A bulk and discounted product offering can be relevant and helpful for a customer and secure cash flow for a business owner.
- Real estate brokerage company: one company added home staging to their services because it is a hard time to move real estate and they find that perfectly prepping the property increased the chances and kept a higher offer value.
- All companies:
- Not all product needs to be completely shuffled but some items could be reimagined to be more appealing to the audience and current trends. For example, a local restaurant created a fun and positive ‘’quarantine menu’’ for pickup with funny names for each dish.
- Selling gift cards with a small discount % is a popular trend to increase cash flow for a short time.
- The business of trust… continue to provide service with a longer net payment term, hoping to capitalize on clients in the future, even if they cannot pay for services today. It will increase loyalty and appreciation with modest risk.
During the crisis access to locations has dramatically shifted. Often the service is the same, but the place of delivery and offering has shifted. There are multiple scenarios to consider:
- Utilize space to offer a new product that does not need physical access, but requires the location’s functions
If cash flow allows, renovate, update, deep clean, reorganize
Lease property for other uses
Closing completely down to preserve overhead costs.
Examples and ideas
- Restaurants: Closed to the public, but still able to provide curbside delivery, pick up options and home delivery via its own driver or GrubHub/UberEats.
- Lease out unutilized space that can be used for people who want to work remotely, but away from home.
- Offer a Zoom or Skype meeting to address clients in a continuous professional manner.
- Counselors, therapists and service agencies: Offer virtual/online counseling to bridge gaps and offer consistency for patients instead of office visits.
- Yoga studios: Offer online streamed yoga and meditation classes.
- Music school: Provide lessons through Skype or Zoom.
- Take orders via online and phone.
- Plan for the future: Local coffee shop with savings started to renovate the current space to curate an elevated customer experience and re-envision the use, preparing to come back stronger than ever/ahead of local competition, when the market picks up again.
As a small business owner, the hardest decision is to let people go in a time of hardship. Before reaching that decision, there are some options.
- refocus employees to adapt to new service offering
- offer employees temporarily reduced wages
- enable employees to take sick or temporary leave.
People’s talents can be utilized in the most surprising ways and a good, loyal, well-informed team can carry a company through the crisis. Also, there will be new talent freed up in the job market to add to the team. Continue focusing on creating and supporting transparency in company culture which will help any company out on top after the crisis is over.
Examples and ideas
- CEO of a local small business agreed to take a salary cut to preserve the staff on board, enabling business sustainability.
- A local SME company retrained its customer service staff from to focus solely on proactive sales.
- One product sales company started to recruit ad mobilize stay at home/quarantined moms for affiliate marketing, providing them a special code and a generous % of each sale they make on behalf of the brand. People are now looking to make more cash from the safety of their homes!
- A local NH company with a strong social presence and social following started to utilize volunteers to do some job functions they could no longer afford to pay, in the hope that the business will stay afloat and they can return to paid employees.
It is hard to think of promotions in a time of crisis as one of the most important factors for staying in business. Unfortunately, in most cases promotional and advertising budgets are the first items to get cut from tight budgets. For example, if there was a change in pricing, product offering or accessing the product or service, customers need to know about it.
Paid promotion is not the only option, and there are organic efforts that will also get some part of the job done, but it takes a lot more time to reach a bigger or more relevant audience. If the business’ competition cuts promotion, take the opportunity to gain future market share, trust, and recognition among the targeted audience.
A good promotion that focuses on solving the pain points of the audience will likely lead to growth in subscriptions and loyalty that will spin out a business on top after a crisis or recession. There are also multiple types of promotions available, from online, CRM, digital to flyers, radio ads to asking your followers to share the news on your behalf, or even teaming or partnering with another company to optimize promotional costs. The Facebook for Business Reource Hub has some great resources. In all cases having a promotional plan in a crisis needs to be coherent and well thought out.
Examples and ideas
- Local furniture upcycle store boosted a Facebook post for $15/week about small furniture delivery to a targeted radius and specific audience, resulting in higher followership and higher sell-through.
- Yoga studio tapped into the teacher’s social following (Instagram/ Facebook) to advertise the new online classes.
- Small local shop asked volunteers to hand out flyers to announce that there will be a new service coming (grocery delivery) and they can get a discount for their first order.
- A savvy service company has been successfully collecting client’s emails to leverage their CRM with offer emails and service offers.
- A seacoast restaurant initiated a new Google AdWords campaign with a modest radius-based spending with new keywords related to the current crisis and new offering, so his site comes up top when people look for a solution.
- A local product wholesale company utilized influencer marketing, looking for influencers who want to make some money while at home or out of work, tapping into the influencer’s network, building trust behind the brand and product via ‘social approval’.
- A hardware store realized the influx in small home renovations and repair while people are quarantined. They ran half-page ads in local newspapers with a targeted message, also recognizing that there can be some bargains made by negotiating advertising costs.
If customers are not going out and therefore are not frequenting your brick and mortar store, no price point will get them in. The uncertainty in the length of time of this pandemic is not friendly to small businesses that function based on budgeting, seasonality and managing their cash flow. If you have a product that can sell in this current market, price increases are not your friend. There is life on the other side of this pandemic and customers will know who treated the public fairly and respectfully.
Try to price out ancillary products and services that can be done online or with minimal physical contact. Now is the time to price out online options, communicate with shipping companies and develop products and services that are priced fairly in the marketplace and that people might need at home while the public is housebound.
Examples and ideas
- A children’s learning center offered free local delivery for products that will keep kids learning and engaged in activities while at home. These offerings are priced the same as they are in the store. The business has tapped into an available market while schools are closed.
- A gym is offering online exercise classes that are now a part of their membership fees. This minimal investment in technology will help them since their memberships are dropping.
- A small cleaning company offers “pandemic” cleaning services for people at no extra costs. They know that they are solving a huge problem/worry for the customers and gaining new and loyal customers for after the recession is over because they stayed sensitive with their pricing and were not “taking advantage” of the situation.
During the time of social distancing, it is increasingly harder to focus on the physical evidence components of collecting customer reviews, user stories, advocacy, and buzz, but it is not impossible. Rethinking service, pricing, and promotional offers proactively during this time will bring some organic signifiers.
Examples and ideas
- Local brick and mortars now doing “fun” signage that their location is still open, as well digital signaling by telling everyone to shop local and help the local economy.
- To increase social signifiers a local car mechanic offers free oil changes for Google Reviews. New car sales will likely drop as people preserve resources and are more likely to fix their existing cars, so this is a good way to build evidence of good service after the turnaround.
- A restaurant that adapted services to curbside delivery uses a large orange standing flag outside, signaling that you can pick your favorite food up.
With the quick shift of business landscapes and changes in product and price offerings, processes are inevitably going to or be forced to change. Being able to quickly adapt and reorganize processes can mean sustainability for a business. During periods of pressure, response time and handing an influx of complaints smoothly is key.
Examples and ideas
- Small travel agency had to cancel and refund pre-booked trips for the next 5-6 months, depending on the discomfort and skittishness of the customers. To mitigate those challenges the company restructured its sales team to handle service of cancellations and complaints. They provided the team with a quick customer service training module to keep up the company’s reputation and travelers returning to them in the future.
- A new marketing planning and implementation process was accelerated for a small local product company that recognized that doing effective marketing will grow their market share over that of the local competition, who withheld marketing during the current crisis.
- A local product sales business transferred shipping responsibilities to a shipping company for a $1 per product item to cost optimize on processes, reducing shipping time and saving on overhead costs.
Contact your NH SBDC business advisor for more in-depth help or find your SBDC region and submit a request for service.
If you are a small business owner and you find time on your hands due to the crisis, or you need to expedite learning about a new topic for self-development via quality content, NH SBDC offers multiple free online classes.