In tough economic times, many companies adapt by switching to a survival strategy, but when recovery comes, this strategy may not position them well for growth. If you are a small business owner, it may be time to reposition your business by taking a fresh look at key areas like marketing and operations. It is always a good idea for small business owners to periodically go back and re-examine the basics of the business, and here are a few places to start:
• Be your customer. Take a good look at your business through the eyes of your customers. Look at everything: the physical appearance of the office, the greeting your customers receive, even the website. Put yourself in your customers’ position and see what they see. Do they find what they are looking for; do they get the information they need and in the way that they want it? Sometimes the changes made to weather tough economic times result in lessened customer service. Reassess by thinking like your customers.
• Reinforce your brand. When you started your business, you had a mission — the reason your business exists — and an image you wanted to project for your business. Have that mission and image changed? Do the activities, products and services, and messages you send your customers still reinforce the brand, or image, that you intend? Take a new look at your marketing materials and your website. Do they all support your mission and project the right image for your business as it is now?
• Redefine what makes you special. Re-examine your competitive advantage — the thing you do better or differently than anyone else. Have new competitors entered your market, and is your advantage still an advantage? Maybe you need to make some adjustments in your marketing strategy to reflect changes in the market and competition. As your competitors change their products and services, they may be competing head-to-head with you. Find and reinforce the reason customers should choose you.
• Stick to what you do best. What products or services provide the majority of your revenue? Think about what your company does best, and how that has changed in the last few years. Make sure that you haven’t gotten away from your core competencies. Some of the most successful small businesses are the ones that focus on one or two niche products, services, or markets and cover them very well. They know that they can partner with or hire others to do the things that aren’t their specialty. Core competencies apply to personnel, too: are your key employees still in the jobs they do best? Are you?
• Make lemonade. Smart companies don’t just weather storms, they learn from them. Instead of doing damage control, examine how you can take the lessons you’ve learned in recent times and turn them into new revenue streams. Ask yourself if there is something you can do to turn a difficult situation into an opportunity to expand into new markets or gain new customers. If you have lost customers in recent years, look at the reasons you lost them. Are there relationships you can rebuild or new partnerships or collaborations you can pursue? Always remember to look at problems as opportunities and ask yourself: “How can I turn this into an advantage for my business?” In tough economic times and the subsequent recovery, the most successful companies are always the ones that adapt best.
Alisa Kirk is the Area Director of the Clayton State University SBDC. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.