When it comes to proverbial phrases, there few are as widely recognized as the classic “When life gives you lemons…” mantra. Simply put, it’s the application of an optimistic mindset to turn a sour situation into something good. In the last year and a half of the pandemic, most business owners would agree there hasn’t been a shortage of lemons. Legacy businesses closing their doors, rising unemployment and general uncertainty about the future is the bitter reality in which we live. However, many businesses have found ways to overcome the challenges of the pandemic and even thrive in an ever changing consumer landscape. In order to be best equipped for the challenges ahead, take time to explore the following ways you can reach your business’ goals this summer.
Capitalize on Community
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, new capacity limitations as well as health and sanitation requirements made day to day operations for local businesses a living nightmare. Especially for restaurants, retail stores and manufacturing, the added cost of complying with new regulations further diminished already slim margins on incoming revenue. For those still struggling to recover, it is important to consider how factors such as population density and customer proximity impacted businesses during the height of the pandemic. For example, businesses that offered curbside pick-up and were within walking or biking distance for their customers fared much better than those only accessible by car.
A study conducted by the National Main Street Center surveyed businesses to determine how the physical location of their businesses allowed customers to support them throughout the pandemic. The researchers found that of the 2000 respondents, 71% were located on commercial corridors or Main Streets, 8% existed in a remote commercial location, 5% in large office buildings, 3% in strip malls, and 2% in commercial shopping centers. Although all of the respondents reported severe economic difficulty initially, the researchers found that business owners located in areas of high population density in close proximity to their peers were able to recover quicker than more isolated counterparts. Researchers justified that remote commercial locations were the hardest to reach which resulted in less accessibility for customers who would have visited regularly. Whereas businesses which were more accessible to their customers (such as those located in commercial corridors or on Main Streets) naturally facilitated easier access to their products and services. Especially for more isolated businesses, researchers found that those who participated in local neighborhood associations, shop local programs, and chambers of commerce could more easily adapt by collaborating and sharing resources(1).
With so much uncertainty and negativity gripping the world as a result of the pandemic, there has never been a better time to share how some businesses are able to thrive. Cleaning service companies have enjoyed the substantial increase in demand for sanitizing medical and commercial facilities. Local and corporate run delivery services are creating jobs to keep up with growing needs for delivered goods. Fitness equipment companies have made at-home gym equipment more accessible, with most offering a digital interface for customers to experience workouts live or prerecorded. Gardening Suppliers have seen a renewed interest from customers that want to spend time at home growing their own fruits and vegetables. Telehealth has made healthcare at home more convenient and accessible to both providers and patients(2). The list goes on and on! It is clear that the pandemic has created winners and losers, those that are still recovering and those that are enjoying record sales. In light of these disparities, there are still many opportunities that business owners can leverage to set a foundation of growth for the future. So, whether you work in any of the mentioned industries or not, staying informed about what has worked for some may give you the insight you need to make an impact in your own business.
Planning for Growth
Let’s talk about marketing. Before you scoff at the idea of spending money on advertising, realize that some of the best ways to engage with your customers are completely free. Regularly posting on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn or writing blogs can be a very effective way of communicating a message or generating awareness. However, while social media and blog posting may not require monetary investment, it takes time and effort to consistently develop and publish content (3). For those businesses that have little time to spend on creating content themselves, there are also many low cost opportunities to facilitate sales when budgets are tight. But before you invest, consider the perspective of your customer. Who is your target audience? Where do they live? How would you like your customers to engage with your brand? All of these are questions that potential marketing partners should ask when learning about the goals of your business. For example, if you have a business that is focused on generating local awareness for women 30 years or older, you can use Facebook Social Ads to target them within a 15 mile radius of your store location. On the other hand if you are interested in selling equipment, you can use a tactic called Pay Per Click (a.k.a. Google Search) to show up at the top of the search browser when potential customers are searching for relevant keywords. The examples mentioned may seem generic, but with the right partner and the right objectives you can make a meaningful impact with a minimal budget.
In summary, there are many ways to “make lemonade” by leveraging unfavorable realities into positive business outcomes. To succeed, businesses should understand how the proximity of their customers and the density of their market areas have been affected during the pandemic. In addition, business owners should stay informed about what marketing tactics are available so they can maintain engagement with their customers. So, whether you have already started to implement changes to your strategy or are just getting started, take the time you need to make some sweet improvements to your business this summer!