The pandemic is a wrecking ball to the American economy and with it came many new changes to everyday life, particularly on how consumers spend their money and time. The positive consequences have led consumers to deepen their relationships with their local communities while focusing where to spend their money. This new reality sets the stage for small businesses to rise up and develop strategies to differentiate from big box companies, particularly as they look ahead to generating sales during the holidays and the new year.
As a small business, thinking about how to provide a better service is a great business practice. Today, having a digital presence is the bare minimum to be discovered by your potential customers. As the pandemic ravaged the retail and restaurant sectors, having a solid marketing plan with thoughtful e-commerce strategies will help, but it is not everything a small business needs to succeed.
Here are five helpful strategies to differentiate your small business during COVID-19.
Strategy #1: Understand your customer’s budget and offer alternative pricing options. The power of choice can make your customer feel empowered. Think about your product and services like a menu at a fast food restaurant: Can you offer small, medium and large choices? Can you offer a payment plan? Can you waive certain fees? The easiest way to research this for your own business is to pay close attention to how your customer currently buys from you. Listen to their budget concerns and how they express their thoughts about your prices. You could potentially increase your revenue by providing a tiered approach to your products and services.
Strategy #2: Focus on customer service. Excellent customer service is a signature mark of a great company. It is also the thing that can kill your revenue if it is not at the top of your list. There is no silver bullet approach to great customers service; however, there are fundamental behaviors your small business should practice to stand out from your competitors. Behaviors like keeping your word, being on time with appointments and deliveries, as well as a courteousness and a helpful attitude will likely keep your customers buzzing about your business for a long time.
Strategy #3: Do not be afraid to change your product or service to solve a problem. The times we are in require every small business to analyze how it currently provides a solution to its customers’ problems. Can you provide a more sustainable approach to your product or service? Can you eliminate unnecessary features and create new ones? Can your customers be without your product or service and, if so, what do they do then? These are some difficult questions to answer, but they can lead you to meet new demands and evolve with an ever-changing market.
Strategy #4: Always find ways to innovate in your industry. As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. It does not matter what industry you work in, innovation can always be accomplished by constantly listening to the needs of your customers. Utilize technology to help you discover new ways to deliver your services or products. A crisis creates the right conditions to solve problems in new ways by tapping into your creativity. In some cases, a small business may need to pivot industries or market segments, and that is okay.
Strategy #5: Be the expert – walk the talk. Now, more than ever, customers are relying on knowledgeable professionals and information to make good decisions. If you consider yourself an expert in any area, make sure your customers know that. You will want to include important information about your expertise on your website, like your educational credentials, associations, memberships, awards and any other key points to communicate you are a credible source. Beyond that, a great referral network of customers can also demonstrate your expertise.
Standing out from the crowd simply requires you to focus on a quality experience and attention to your market needs. Also, think of yourself as a consumer and reflect on your own shopping preferences. Implementing these strategies into your marketing plan is required for as long as you want to stay in business. The good news is they only require you to be more aware.
EDGAR RAFAEL OLIVO is a bilingual business educator, economic advisor and contributor for several media outlets. He’s a nonprofit executive who is passionate about education. He is certified in finance and data analytics and holds a business degree from Arizona State University.
Para la versión en español de este artículo, haga clic aquí.