The pandemic made 2020 a difficult year for many small businesses, as many closed permanently. But other small companies had success despite the surge in outbreaks and are hoping to build on those achievements in 2021.
How can they keep their momentum going, and what can other companies learn from their struggles to navigate the challenges of the new year?
“To stay afloat, owners adjusted on the fly and creatively found ways to change their operations,” says Chris Buitron, CEO and president of Mosquito Authority®. “Those that survived can use innovations they came up with during the pandemic to generate new opportunities and drive revenue.
“But there is a lot of uncertainty still ahead in the business world, and strategy should be a combination of honest reflection and a deep study of where your industry and audience currently are.”
Buitron has these five tips for small businesses to improve or keep their momentum going in 2021:
- Fine-tune your messaging. Research shows that effective branding is connected with a company’s authenticity, so it’s important to coordinate messaging across all channels. “Your branding is your promise to customers,” Buitron says, “so you need to make sure all of your messaging is valid, consistent and on point. Every aspect of your branding should align to show iron-clad authenticity.”
- Maximize social media marketing through storytelling. Over half of social media users research brands they’re not familiar with, and keeping their attention is the key. Buitron says storytelling about the company on social media channels resonates with customers and can create a connection that leads to customer loyalty. “It connects to authenticity and its importance to customers,” Buitron says. “Use different forms, long and short, of your company’s story – vignettes and quotes in your social media marketing, a complete version on your website. Humanize; let potential customers see the people behind the brand and the people your company has helped.”
- Emphasize customer service. Buitron notes that some companies that did well during the pandemic did so because they went the extra mile for customers. “Now take that lesson another step,” Buitron says. “People expect good customer service from a small business, which has more at stake and fewer resources than a large company. Customer service is how you hold onto them. Sometimes the customer service that has the most impact is that which provides an unexpected solution. Train your people to think outside the box and make it goal No. 1 to make customers much happier than they were before presenting you with a problem.”
- Focus on building and improving your team. “A successful company is built on the strength of its employees,” Buitron says. “Leaders need to see their people have passion for their jobs, which is essential to success in small business. If you have a great team, it can always be better, and it’s important they know that. This is no time to coast. Talk to your team leaders about gaps and opportunities. Invite discussion that promotes growth.”
- Keep adapting. “If companies big and small learned anything during the pandemic, it was about how to adapt,” Buitron says. “That concept doesn’t figure to change. Adaptability means being prepared to pivot whether you see big change coming or not. For example, a major switch to online sales by many companies was the only way they could survive. Then they learned how to offer more online services. Building on those changes, and finding creative ways to adjust to new customer demands, will continue to grow companies.”
“The pandemic made businesses think about their operations in a very in-depth way,” Buitron says. “Going forward, more small-business owners will be better positioned for success – if they really learned from what it took to survive 2020.”
Chris Buitron is CEO and president of Mosquito Authority®, a nationwide leader in mosquito control with franchises serving communities across the U.S. and Canada. Buitron has an extensive background in franchise industries. He was chief marketing officer for Senior Helpers, vice president of marketing for Direct Energy (home services division), and director of marketing for Sunoco Inc., where he supported the company’s 4,700 franchised and company-owned rental facilities across 23 states (over $15B in annual revenues).