How to Diversify your Business during Crisis
By: Meaghan Malinowski, digital & content marketing strategist
When it’s business as usual, running your business comes naturally. You know what you need to do and how you need to do it. But what happens when society presents a new set of challenges to your daily operations?
From stay-at-home mandates, to community health concerns, we are all trying to figure out how to adapt to a new, more distant, business environment. To sum it up, we are having to make major changes to continue to make progress both as a business and as a community.
The biggest opportunity that any business owner can capitalize on right now is diversifying your business strategy with digital tools. These tools allow us to follow the distance mandates that have been put in place, while still allowing us to fulfill our essential duties to our communities.
How to successfully implement distant business practices
Before we give you ideas on what process you can add to your operation, there are five things that you need to do to make implementing any new business process easy and successful.
- Have a clear goal in mind. What are you trying to accomplish with your new process? Having a clear goal up front will help you determine the best way to use your resources (time, labor, money, etc) to achieve it.
- Write out the full process and who is in charge of each step. This is where good record-keeping will come into play. Have a step by step process to make sure you know who needs to be doing what to make the process efficient. Think about it like you would an assembly line: what comes first, second, and so on.
- Assess risk to mitigate what you can. Think about what added safety measures, like insurance, will be needed. Will you need to spend more on packaging supplies, labor or transportation? Take time to measure risk vs. reward.
- Be willing to pivot and change the process as you go. We don’t always get it right the first time and that’s okay. When you notice something isn’t working, pause and reflect on why it’s not working or what obstacle is getting in the way. There is likely another solution that is just as easy to implement
- Be ready to communicate to your customers or stakeholders. How will your new process affect your customers? How can you communicate this new change to them? A great place to start is updating your website, your most popular social media profile and sending an email (if you have them).
Now that you know how to successfully add a new process to your business, here are some ideas for diversifying your business strategy during this unprecedented time.
How to Add Pick Up/Delivery Services to Your Sales Funnel
One of the most popular ways to continue serving your customers when they can’t come into your store is to add a pick up and/or delivery option to your sales process. Consider your current staffing situation. You’ll need someone to take orders, package them, and process payments. If you choose to offer delivery services, determine how far you’re willing to travel physically to make a sale while protecting your profit margin. It may be helpful to set up specific delivery days and set a cutoff time for delivery orders. That way, you can pack everything up one time and plan out the most efficient route to make deliveries.
Ways to take pick up/delivery orders:
- In Person - If you continue to remain open to the public, consider implementing a “1 in 1 out” policy and mark off an appropriate area for people to form a line to wait safely with lots of space.
- Phone – Depending on how busy you are, it may be best to have one person managing the phone at all times or purchasing a phone system with multiple lines.
- Email – Consider creating a new email address to have customers use to place orders.
- Online form – Use a free tool like Google Forms to create an order form for your business. Don’t forget to gather contact information!
- Online Store – Shopify is a popular online store-building website that allows you to create products and take orders online. Take a look at our friends at Orr’s market to see a great example of an online market store.
Create new products or package them differently
Some challenges will present a new opportunity for your business’ product or service offerings. With schools being closed, many parents are facing the challenge of trying to find new ways to engage their children. To provide a solution, some local bakeries have started to offer unassembled pastry kits for at home decoration – ultimately the same product, but giving parents a way to involve the children in snack time. Another challenge to acknowledge is customers trying to minimize time shopping inside a store. Outside of offering pick up or delivery orders, you could try creating bundles of items that are commonly purchased all together to facilitate quick and easy shopping trips. Your customers will appreciate the thought!
Sell Online Gift Certificates
Your customers want to be able to help support you in a time of need. If you’re not able to stay open for sales, or even if you are, consider offering gift card sales online. If you have a website that will allow you to add this feature, great, but if not, websites like Eventbrite are easy to use tools that allow you to make sales online and track them later with reports. Customers will walk away with a receipt in their email inbox for their purchase that they can redeem when you physically open later.
Engage with your Audience on a New Level
With so many at home and with an abundance of downtime, now is a great time to start experimenting with different digital strategies like video production and creating content for social media. Try going Live on Facebook or Instagram to give your followers a behind the scenes look at your business and to update them on how you’re operating. You can also use this time to create content around your products and services like tutorials, “how to’s” and tips and tricks. Don’t be afraid to ask your followers what they want to see more of – they’ll tell you!
If you’re looking for a real life example of this, check out our friends at Local Homestead Products. They have started putting out educational videos for kids and make daily updates on how customers can purchase from them. Always strive to provide authenticity and value with your updates: educational, informational or creating an emotional connection.
Create New Partnerships
Networking with other businesses can sometimes fall to the wayside when it’s business as usual, but during challenging times many are more open to new ideas and want to help one another succeed. Try to think of another local business that may be experiencing similar struggles as you and reach out to them to see how you could work together.
As an example, our friends at Butler’s Orchard have created an online store for pick up orders, but are also selling milk from Deliteful Dairy, meat from Cherry Hill Farm and other products from local farms.
Remember, change in business is inevitable. Sometimes it’s for the short-term and sometimes it’s for the long-term, but one way or another our businesses must evolve to meet our customer’s needs. We won’t always succeed the first time around, but don’t let that stop you from taking your business to the next level.