Small Business Survival Tactics for a Crisis

National and economic crises have far-reaching effects, and small businesses are especially vulnerable. If you start having doubts about your sustainability, here are some tactics you can explore to help pull your company through.

Think about the parts of your business that work and reinvent the ones that are struggling to adjust. Take a close look at what can be salvaged and then act like a new start-up to build a new, stronger business on the foundations of the old one. What would you do differently and how would the business look?

You may want to:

  • eliminate unprofitable product or service lines
  • introduce new products or services that are experiencing growth elsewhere in the market
  • change the mix of expertise on your staff (possibly by letting some go)
  • invest in new research and development

If you can identify one or more opportunities in a new target market, see if you can pivot some or all of your business to meet that demand.

Find new customers
If sales to your existing customers decline and you can’t quickly switch what you do as a business, focus on adding new customers.

  • sell online by adding an online store to your website
  • sell through third party marketplaces like Amazon or specialist industry sites
  • use social media to attract buyers
  • form strategic alliances with complementary businesses
  • start prospecting in the next street, town, city or state

Ensure all sales are profitable
Triple check costs and pricing to ensure you’re making money from each sale. Long term costs could have risen unnoticed, but if your price hasn’t moved you might be losing money on each sale.

Extra revenue that has low margin, cost overruns, extra waste or product returns aren’t going to help long term. Your sales strategy needs to concentrate on the best products and best customers, so identify your top 20 percent of customers and match them to your top 20 percent margin products.

Employ low cost marketing techniques
You may need to change the way you market if you have little money left to promote. Inexpensive ways to get your business in front of new customers includes:

  • directly contacting those customers that have not been impacted by the crisis
  • increasing your presence on social media
  • using email campaigns to your existing contact list
  • building word-of-mouth by asking customers to refer
  • using virtual meeting invites to target customers outside your normal business area of operations

Swap spending money on your marketing with spending time.

Access free resources
The small business community is nothing if not supportive. It offers a number of organizations to help your business in times of trouble. Don’t be afraid to:

  • contact your local SCORE office to find a mentor
  • lean on the Small Business Administration’s ‘find local assistance’ search on their website
  • search online for what’s happening in your industry to see if there is any specific support in your industry, like the US Department of Agriculture Grants and Loans
  • find your own state or city business development website to identify what’s available locally
  • check industry resources; chances are that all similar businesses are facing the same issues

Sell more items and try new tactics
Expand your product line by adding something new or different or a new approach to sell to customers with a trial offer, free sample, special price or extra service.

  • Is there something else you can sell to customers? Think about what else you can offer that may be a pivot from what you currently do.
  • sell a subscription-based service to create consistent monthly revenue
  • combine individual services or products into discounted bundles to earn more revenue
  • offer a temporary discount on what you already sell

Find new business models
To get through the coming months and to keep the cash coming in, consider adjusting your business model to uncover new opportunities.

  • explore selling to new segments like government, military, education or health (all robust industries) if you don’t already
  • set up a quick specialized hub to help buyers and sellers do business
  • if you have helpful or interesting content, look at web services like Google AdSense
  • sub-contract to other businesses for short-term contracts
  • sell your expertise by the hour online

If you do decide to make changes to push through your current struggles, make it a collaborative effort by including your staff, advisers, friends and family to develop your plan of action. Talk with your financial advisor and CPA to see how all of these options can affect your financial well-being.

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