Life is tough for business owners right now. Covid, the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis, the death of the Queen – the landscape around us is continuously changing and it can be hard to process it all. It’s understandable that you’re feeling emotionally heavy right now.
So as Autumn begins and narratives of recession swirl all around us, it’s important to keep this in mind – customers are still spending money. This month alone I’ve spent £720 on a painter and decorator for our house and around £100 on birthday gifts for friends and family. All of this money was spent with small and local businesses (shout out to The Present Tree – my sister-in-law loved her cherry tree).
Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m on a spending spree (quite the opposite). This example simply illustrates that although most of us will be spending cautiously in the coming months, we still plan to pay for products and services.
The world will continue to change around us, and it’s up to us as business owners to grow strong roots that will help us weather the storm. So what can we do to survive (and grow) in times of crisis?
Review your sales data
When life gets tough its very easy (and understandable) to panic. Personally, when I have tough days in business (we all do) it helps to look at my sales data and assess what is happening behind the scenes. I encourage my clients to do this monthly, but if you haven’t checked behind the scenes lately I suggest you do so now.
Look at what is selling well in your business and what is not. Is there a product that is selling more than others? Or a service that has been in demand lately? How can you promote bestsellers in your marketing to bring in more sales? During autumn/winter when people are looking for Christmas gifts, bundle a few products together to make higher sales.
When times feel tough it can be difficult to escape gloomy thoughts but revisiting past inspiration and exploring new forms of creative expression can help us move forward.
In her latest newsletter Fiona Humberstone (The Brand Stylist) said:
“One thing I’ve learned about navigating uncertain times is that keeping my focus in the inspiration zone, rather than letting fear or overwhelm take over, is not just important for my own wellbeing, it’s fundamental to the commercial success of my business too. For me, that looks like daily connection to nature and the seasons; leaning in to my creativity and booking in exciting things that take me out of my day to day and spark my inspiration…staying creative and inspired is fundamental to our businesses and it needs nurturing.”
Talk to your customers
Take a moment to be vulnerable and communicate with your customers to tell them what you are going through. Compassionate marketing is very important. This means you are aware of how your customers are feeling in times of crisis, but also how you are feeling as an individual and as a business owner. Place an emphasis on how you are genuinely trying to help your customers. Remember there’s nothing wrong with selling, but sensitively consider the timing any scheduled emails you have going out to your email list. Acknowledge any challenging situations that are currently happening.
Run a free survey or competition, talk to your customers at markets, fairs and events, ask for replies to your email newsletter. Talking to your customers as often as possible helps to keep your finger on the pulse of what they want to see from you. Keep showing up for your customers and most importantly remind them you’re still in business.
Have a clear marketing strategy
Look at what social media channels are converting at the highest rate for your business. Focus your marketing efforts on these rather than spreading your attention across multiple platforms. Have a clear marketing system in place that covers SEO, blog content, email marketing and (of course) PR, to attract as many potential customers as possible to your business.
Quieter times are also a great opportunity to optimise your website. Make sure your website is updated, check any broken links, register with Google Business Profile so you can link it with Google Maps if you have a high street business. Encourage your customers to leave Google reviews on there (which help with rankings) and look at where your website traffic is coming from. As fellow business owners for backlinks from their website to yours (and return the favour).
Improve your business processes
When times are tough it can be hard to stay motivated. List out tasks that need to be completed over the coming weeks and months. This activity will help to ease a busy mind and help you to simply show up and complete a few small tasks each day. Make sure you are focussing on tasks that will drive your business forwards (rather than spending hours faffing about in Canva).
If your budget allows for outsourcing something which isn’t within your skillset, consider hiring someone (even on a temporary basis) so you can focus your attention on areas of your business where you can shine. Above all make sure your payment and invoicing systems are rock solid. Know exactly what money is coming in and out at any given time, and always use minimum payment terms on invoices.
Support other small brands
Think about how you are spending your own money, and vote with your pounds to support our local shops, creatives and other independent businesses. Lean on other business owners – share a cup of tea or have a conversation online, and share in that wonderful feeling of community that can boost our outlook during tough times.
Around Christmas people are still looking to buy gifts, even during a recession, so providing gift ideas at different price points is a great way to secure sales. Spread your own Christmas shopping out across the autumn / winter months. Small businesses will be grateful for any early Christmas gift purchases you make. Above all, try to show up and serve your customers during tough times, but don’t suffer in silence.