The novel coronavirus has completely altered the way we do business. It doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon, even with the vaccines rolling out across America. As such, many entrepreneurs are anxious about how to cope with this new business landscape.
So what steps can business leaders—especially those looking to scale up this year—take to keep up? Here are 7 things to keep in mind.
1. Enhance Your Digital Strategy
The pandemic has caused a major change in our purchasing behaviors. The US Census Bureau reported $209.5 billion in e-commerce retail sales for Q3 in 2020, roughly 36.7% more compared to last year’s data for the same period. It’s clear that customers have started to shift more towards online transactions.
Businesses will need to follow suit to survive, as we’ve previously noted in our article on ‘Post-Pandemic Digital Strategies’.
2. Maximize Your Social Media Presence
Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram not only give you ad space that’s practically free, but they also let you interact directly with customers. Take this chance to humanize your brand, harvest feedback, and identify opportunities for improvement. Using these platforms effectively will help you build a loyal customer base, while also drumming up engagement for your business.
3. Provide Value in Your Online Content
Consumers are put off by hard sells, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. Instead of the usual obvious advertisements, try looking for marketing angles that will address a need or a problem. Informative and relatable content is more shareable on social media too, making it likelier to reach a larger audience.
4. Invest in Your Employees
According to business guru Verne Harnish, more important than the “what” of a company is the task of scaling up the “who.”
Indeed, investing in employees is vital for companies that are looking to grow. This entails training, upskilling and nurturing a work culture that recognizes the value of each worker. It can be costly, but you’ll be rewarded when you find yourself surrounded by people who share the same goals and vision for your business. Furthermore, it increases your brand’s reputation, helping to attract top talent. For starters, take a look at some of the policies from companies like Hilton or Ultimate Software—both highly regarded as great workplaces—and see how you can apply the same employee-centric principles for your own team.
5. Make the Most Out of Local Resources
Due, in part, to place branding, some states are better than others when it comes to supporting local businesses. For instance, thanks to Fairfax County’s efforts to curate their brand online, the local government’s Twitter account has earned hundreds of thousands of followers—something businesses in Virginia can leverage for marketing opportunities. The same can be said of places that have leaned into their unique identities, such as the re-emerging tech hub of St. Louis in Missouri, whose rebranding ended up bolstering the local economy.
States can also provide infrastructure for local entrepreneurs by offering financial aid, or expediting certain business application processes. For example, forming an LLC here in Georgia is a simple task that will set you back around $100 to $145. Applying online makes it even easier by cutting the processing time by half. And you can view the requirements on the Georgia Secretary of State’s licensing page. Additionally, some states like Florida also have programs like the Black Business Loan Program which lend money to minority-owned businesses to help them stay afloat. Take into consideration the various resources available in your area to help you scale up.
6. Consider Outsourcing
For larger businesses with growing operations, consider outsourcing some of your workload. This means farming out some of the repetitive, day-to-day tasks or those jobs in which your core team doesn’t have the right skill set. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of talented professionals willing to take on these roles.
Of course, the idea of delegating tasks to strangers is daunting, which is why you’ll need to prepare a stringent hiring process to make sure you’re working with the right people. A recent article in Entrepreneur recommends looking for outsourcing referrals from friends, acquaintances, or professional organizations. Platforms like LinkedIn, oDesk, or eLance are also helpful for finding leads, with testimonials available for transparency.
7. Focus on Your Core Offerings
Innovation is never a bad thing, but it’s easy to get carried away when you have a particularly good quarter. Although it might make sense for you to try to expand your target market, you risk spreading yourself too thin, and that can harm your business as it’s scaling up. Instead, take a look at your existing products. Which ones reel in new customers? Which ones produce the most repeat referrals? Conversely, which ones provide the least returns? When you’re scaling up, it’s prudent to narrow down your focus on the services and products you know will succeed. Once you’re confident in your business position, you can then start to introduce new products and services.
There’s no denying the economic damage caused by COVID-19, and the atmosphere of uncertainty it has left in its wake. However, entrepreneurs can’t keep waiting forever to grow their business. We hope the points we’ve listed above prove useful for you as we all strive to find our footing in the post-pandemic world.