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Boost briefing: Forward thinking in a crisis

Talking to customers on the phone from home MAN BANNER

Tim Smith, Boost Business Relationship Manager offers a two-pronged strategy for businesses coping in the current coronavirus crisis.

The last few weeks have seen unprecedented action in a bid to contain the COVID-19 virus. Businesses that had a very bright future a matter of weeks ago, have seen their hopes and aspirations severely challenged, if not worse. For some businesses, especially those which depend on footfall, the current circumstances are difficult, to say the least, and there is no silver bullet. However, as a Boost Business Relationship Manager, I have spoken to many business owners recently that are affected by COVID-19, where Boost has been able to help in suggesting a way forward. My strategy to these businesses offers a two-pronged approach firstly to survive through the period of lockdown and to then deploy reconstruction and resilience tactics after the restrictions have been lifted.

Strategy one: Survival through the period of lockdown

It’s understandable to be overwhelmed by the current crisis and running a small business can be a lonely affair. Therefore, for most people, contacting the various support agencies, such as Boost, can be a useful first port of call. We can’t work miracles, but we can point you in the direction of any support currently available to your business and discuss how to survive the crisis. For many businesses, not being able to meet clients can present a problem, and generating enquiries or raising awareness that you are still trading can be difficult. Many companies have websites that do not generate enquiries, either because of poor content and design, or lack of optimisation. Perhaps now is the time to upgrade and get the site to start earning its keep – websites and social media tools are great for raising awareness of your business and generating enquiries. You need to target client customers with content that is meaningful to them. Content-based marketing collateral helps to position you as an expert in your field, and begins the process of developing an online relationship prior to more direct communication. Thus it is important that you have clear messages to send and these messages focus on the needs of the client. Talk about the impact your product or service can have on their business. You will be offering one or more of the 4 following impacts:
  • I will make you money
  • I will save you money
  • I will save you time and/or
  • I will solve a problem for you
The same is true for your social media tools – maybe it’s time to rethink how your social media channels work and and how you can improve the content of your messages to attract more traffic. Emails can also be a valuable source of contacting potential clients – and their value will be even greater if backed up by a telephone call. There are many more ways to attract potential business now than ever before. If you have shied away from the digital option, maybe you need to take the plunge – it could save your business in the short term and become a useful vehicle for supporting your ‘normal’ marketing tools when things recover. Check our events page for online workshops and webinars that may help you with your digital marketing plans.

Strategy two: Reconstruction and resilience after restrictions have been lifted

Working for Boost, I am fortunate to speak to a large number of companies every year and am constantly surprised at the small number who actually have a business plan including a sales and marketing plan. The usual response is 'it’s in my head'. Now is good time to start getting it onto paper! ‘Growth’ is not an objective – learn to develop SMART objectives will then promote growth. What are the key actions that you need to perform to implement the plan and achieve your objectives? A plan that is not written down and that doesn’t address these issues isn’t a plan. It can’t be communicated and its progress can’t be measured. It’s vital that any plan is regularly reviewed and adapted to meet the ever-changing environment. There are many free-to-use business planning tools available online and offered by a range of support agencies or business organisations. For example, there’s the Business Model Canvas available from Strategyzer. At Boost we can also point you to a range of support vehicles to help you address the issues discussed above. The future is still uncertain, but we will continue to encourage all businesses in Lancashire to be thinking about how they are going to address the threats and seize the opportunities of the post COVID-19 environment in which we will all be operating. Tim Smith is an experienced business advisor having worked with SMEs for over 25 years. He specialises in strategy development and implementation, sales, marketing, and change management.

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