There is no getting around it. Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economic engine. At a micro-level, they power local communities and stimulate and sustain regional growth. At the macro-level, they are the lifeblood of our national supply chain and provide the product and service sectors with what is needed to drive our broader economy.
Until March of this year, according to the Small Business Administration, small businesses employed nearly 50 percent of the country’s 160 million workers and were responsible for roughly 45 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
But, in the past three months, everything has changed. A recent Main Street America survey found that potentially 7.5 million of the 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S. may shutter permanently as a result of the pandemic recession. According to experts around the globe, it may take years for small businesses to recover to pre-recession levels. The small business engine is sputtering, growth has come to a halt and the broader economy is in peril.
The facts are what they are. The challenge now is to survive your way out of the current environment and prepare for what may come in the not too distant future.
The U.S. Marines are trained to improvise, adapt and overcome any logistical or military obstacle in whatever situation they face. The leading marketing technology, digital marketing, UX design, and web app development consultancies like Integrity live by a similar code. The difference? We are trained to innovate and adapt to overcome any business obstacle, no matter our clients' situations.
During times like these, with business disruption running rampant, small businesses would be better positioned to bounce back with a marketing technology company like Integrity in their foxhole.
So, where to start? If Integrity were supporting your business, our deployment would focus on how you are making decisions, interacting with your customers, leveraging martech, guaranteeing infrastructure preparedness and making sensible investment choices. We would work with you to prepare for what’s ahead, forecasting obstacles and opportunities to optimize your business.
Right now, a sense of urgency is paramount, but making informed business decisions is critical to survivability during these turbulent times.
By utilizing a business intelligence (BI) platform and data analytics to audit, organize and activate important data points, you will be better equipped to field questions from your team, manage supply chain pressure points and analyze information that will aid in formulating financial or human resource plans.
Small businesses have the choice of an array of software options that are useful right out of the box or ones that can be customized based on specific needs. The most popular and highly rated BI tools include Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, Sisense, Zoho and Domo. Fortunately, the world of software as a service (SaaS) is now well-positioned and ready for business owners who need to address any variety of operational complexities or satisfy different levels of technical sophistication.
In the end, any BI tooling is just a piece of the puzzle, not the final solution to your business challenges. Arming yourself with a partner like Integrity will help make a connection between data and action. Integrity’s team of business consultants, data analysts and subject matter experts will anticipate customer behaviors, identify inefficiencies, sustain productivity and stabilize the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and post-pandemic recession.
During the era of stay-at-home orders, social distancing and fear of the unknown, small businesses will need to reinvent their customers’ user experience to stay relevant and keep customers engaged as well as healthy. The goal is to create an extension of the business or brand online that, until now, may have been more tangible or intimate. Small businesses will need to create a better digital version of themselves to adapt to these rapidly changing conditions.
So, what does this mean?
What we’re suggesting goes far beyond simply updating your website or refreshing email templates. What we’re advocating for digs into the DNA of how your brand interacts with prospects, customers and related constituencies. This reinvention may come in any degree of improvement in the following areas:
If you are a company that has always relied on a salesperson’s Rolodex to keep up with customers or have tried to maintain your business data in spreadsheets, your reinvention could come in the form of a cloud-based customer relationship management tool. Tools like Hubspot, Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce can equip business owners with the ability to make stakeholder interactions more meaningful, personal and valuable.
For some, awareness will be vital to the sustainability of your small business. Federal, state and local pandemic-based guidelines have created confusion in the marketplace, and meeting the challenge requires organized and nimble communications. Maximizing email and text delivery services by utilizing tools such as Constant Contact and MailChimp — or within more enterprise-level platforms like Pardot and Marketo — will allow your business to send targeted content to segmented customer and prospect groups to communicate what they want, when they want it, in the medium in which they want to receive it.
The fact remains, for everyone: a small business's digital footprint must be used like the sign in the window that tells customers that they’re open for business. Whether it is an integrated strategy with social media, the use of web ads, targeted landing pages and microsites, or simply creating meaningful communications with customers, small businesses need to find ways to be more available and useful than their larger competitors.
On the other side of this crisis, we will find a positive correlation between customer retention and brand loyalty for companies who were the most relevant, empathetic, honest and communicative.
The pandemic has and will continue to reshape how small businesses approach and use technology to support back of house operations and front-of-house sales. The events of the past few months have fully exposed many warts found in small businesses' physical hardware as well as the systems and platforms that are housed within them.
The ever-changing need to integrate ERP and data warehouses, track inventory, report statistical analysis, manage eCommerce, and support payment processing will require businesses to leverage technology like they never had in the past.
Each company has its own technical challenges, and it’s not uncommon for small businesses to have a disorganized or undocumented technology footprint full of technical debt.
By utilizing martech in an efficient way and creating opportunities to inject more modern solutions, any business, small or large, will be better prepared for future turbulence.
A byproduct of this pandemic will manifest itself in how small businesses start to rethink everything. For those pushed to the limit, it will require a survive-and-advance mentality. The physical and financial toll created by this recession will force many to plan no further than tomorrow, next week or next month. For those who had the wherewithal to come out intact, there are still very important decisions to be made.
It is possible to take what we have learned to start preparing for the recovery and the next challenge that lies ahead. Every small business will need to balance investment vs. priorities vs. impact vs. effort, timelines and organizational limitations.
Many will decide it is better to pay now. The healthy and strong will be able to put together logical plans to attack the internal anchors that almost sunk them. They will be able to be more thoughtful and purposeful. They will make a plan, execute it and be fully optimized and ready.
Companies that do not have that luxury will play on the side of “pay me later.” They will brute force solutions, potentially plugging leaks as they find them, and hope for the best if — and when — the next wave comes.
Either approach will likely work. But, just like the old adage about the haves and the have nots, as the economic engine begins to wake from its three-month slumber the differing degrees of innovation, adaptation and abilities to overcome will determine the future success of small businesses all over America.
No matter what happens next, technology will continue to evolve, and the longer small businesses wait to get in the game and stay current, the more costly it will be to get started in the first place. There has never been a better time to set up your business for future success.
If you are a small business that needs help navigating the new normal and are looking for a business consultancy that can attack your organization's problems with precision and expertise, take the first step by partnering with Integrity. Contact our web consulting company today.
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