Marketing expert Maggie Robinson, of Smart Thinking Consultancy in Marlborough, is sharing her knowledge and experience to help small businesses focus on their longer-term planning, as well as the short-term measures they have been forced to take due to Covid-19.
With support schemes, loans and grants now available, small businesses have various levels of support available to them, and while it’s tempting to focus on what’s happening right now, Maggie says it’s just as important to think about the future.
Maggie said, “Even though everything seems a bit hectic and there is a lot of uncertainty flying around, businesses need to be proactive and communicative. The action they take now will have an impact on customer behaviour in the future, once the threat of Covid-19 has passed and we can all get back to our normal lives.
“Those who only focus on the here and now are at real risk of damaging the long-term viability of their business, at a time when many businesses are struggling already.”
Maggie’s top tips are:
Stay in touch with your customers
Keep your customers updated on what you are doing – whether you have closed down completely for now, moved to an online model or reduced your hours or capacity, make it easy for your customers to find out. The businesses most likely to retain customers once all restrictions are lifted will be those who have let their customers know what is going on.
Keep customers on side
As anxiety and stress levels are at an all-time high, customers want an easy path to your services. Any bump in the road could lead them to leave you and find a business with a smooth process instead. Go the extra mile to help your customers and see if you can modify your processes to make things easy in current circumstances.
Give it some HEART
HEART includes 5 key strategies that will help you weather the crisis and preserve the bonds you have with your customers. These are:
Humanise your company. Care about more than just profitability right now, empathise with those affected and spell out the steps you’re taking to help customers.
Educate about change. Keep customers informed about changes to your operations, including new hours, site closures, staff reductions, customer service availability, ordering options and any special offers or free services you are offering.
Assure stability. Tell customers how, despite the upheaval, you will continue to provide the things they have come to know and love – the main reasons they use your business instead of others – and that they will get the same great service/products as always.
Revolutionise your offerings. Move with the times, make changes. Offer new products or services that solve a new problem. Doing this will inject some hope and happiness into a troubled time, as they see how companies are developing ways to make their lives better.
Tackle the future. The current situation isn’t great, but it will get better. Continue to re-evaluate the changes to your operations, and while you have to comply with the government limits, go above and beyond when you can.
Whatever steps businesses take, it is key to keep letting people know that your company is taking ownership of the situation as much as possible, rather than letting the situation take ownership of you. Companies that put customers at the centre of their thoughts, and think about what customers need right now, will come out of this having strengthened their relationships with customers.
Maggie is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the highest level of membership, and has worked with international and UK-wide companies as well as many small to medium sized businesses, so has a wealth of advice to offer small businesses.
There are a limited number of free consultations for small businesses. Anyone interested in finding out more about Maggie’s work and expertise can go to www.SmartThinkingConsultancy.co.uk, or contact her directly on Maggie@SmartThinkingConsultancy.co.uk or 07920 143172.
Pictured above: Maggie Robinson, Smart Thinking Consultancy