Now is the time for business owners to take stock and plan ahead, writes Jennie Mc Ginn
Businesses, freelancers and creatives alike are facing an incredibly challenging time navigating the impact of coronavirus. But this also represents a unique moment to pause and reflect.
Although an enforced break, there is rarely a time in the busy year to take stock and view your business with a critical eye. Below is an actionable toolkit to help you try and find some control in the midst of this uncertainty.
Getting back to business basics
This is a great time to chart your progress against your business plan. Or start a business plan! And often, the simplest questions are the most impactful.
What are you selling?
Everyone is selling something: a product, service, skills, relationships or your own personal brand. Can you describe what you sell succinctly in 30 seconds? In a one-line bio? It’s a great exercise to explain what you’re selling in a bullet point, a paragraph, a one-pager and from the point of view of a customer explaining it to a friend.
Why are you selling it?
Can you articulate the pain point your customers are experiencing or the value you are creating for them? A product is forgettable, a brand is memorable — so can you explain why you are selling something in terms of emotions, experiences, desires and blockers?
Who are you selling it to?
It’s very easy to sell to a wide and general demographic. Or to a “friend”. But you should know your customer or audience intimately — you need to know their daily routine, their motivations, what keeps them awake at night. You need to understand where they live online. Do they consume or create? Do they engage or advocate? Aim for three deep buyer personas.
What activities do you need to undertake?
Who else is required to help build or sell your product or service? What do you out-source? Do you sell through networks, agencies, events, tradeshow, a physical store? How do you communicate with your audience? No business is an island – make sure you understand all of the various branches of your business.
What are the costs?
And how do the above impact your cost structure? Have you accurately calculated all your true costs — VAT and tax, commissions and fees? Where is the profit margin and how can you get more of it? No harm chatting to a financial advisor to get a good understanding of your financial foundations.
The Audit Intervention
This is the unsexy bit but it’s absolutely critical. Auditing your business will allow you to understand what you need to prioritise, where the opportunities are and where the weaknesses are. You need to be ruthless. You need to be critical. And you need to be thorough.
List every element of your business, both physical and digital, and start marking out of ten. For example, if you have a retail store, you might want to think about window display, merchandising, stock assortment, price point and customer service. If you have a service website, you might want to think about speed, navigation, photography, product descriptions and checkout.
Included in that is everywhere you have a digital touchpoint: social media profiles, podcasts, videos, ad campaigns — anything that represents your business or brand needs to be audited. You should audit in terms of performance and basic house-keeping. Measure against past performance or set a new baseline. Proofread all comms and make sure links work.
Planning to plan
So once you’ve figured out what’s working and what’s not, it’s time to cull elements that are under-performing and expand new opportunities. If you need a brand refresh or a website build, now is the time to do it. If you wanted to launch something new or explore a partnership, this is the ideal time to build that strategy.
Keep it focused
Make sure you have 3-5 clear and simple goals for your business and support these with 3-5 tasks.
Keep it measurable
Don’t just try to grow your social media. Aim to grow a specific channel by a specific amount over a specific period.
Keep it positive
It’s a very tough time for people. But this will pass. Try to be patient and positive and use this time to think about your business with a long-term filter.
- Review: Everything you are doing; your product, your people, your processes, your platforms, your places. That means critically assess everything you’re doing, on every channel you’re doing it on
- Spend: Now is probably the cheapest and most cost-effective time to run social media advertising campaigns, however it’s critical to ensure your comms and messaging are attuned to the wider environment
- Search: For new opportunities, partnerships, collaborations and projects. Search for new ways of doing business and new places to do business
Although this is completely unchartered territory for everyone in the business community, it is also a time to think creatively, think collaboratively and think for the community. Take back some control by using this time to reflect and strategise.
Know that if you can weather this storm and think to the future, you are ultimately building something stronger and more resilient; and you might see greater gains in the long run.
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