Here we are, in week three of a national lockdown, where jimjams have become a new body part, where eating Doritos for breakfast is entirely acceptable and where the kids are donning grass skirts and wielding homemade weapons, demanding marshmallows and pizza and the death of school forever. It’s like Lord of the Flies around here.
Our new reality is starting to become more routine, but one of these days, you’re gonna have to remove that nasty old hoodie (take note, self) and put on a grown-up shirt. One of these days, life will go back to normal, and when it does, will you be ready? Will your business be ready?
Many of the small businesses we hear from are frantically treading water, trying to stay afloat, hoping they can ride out the storm and survive without irreparable damage. Some have quickly diversified to offer new products or services during these tough times. Others perhaps aren’t in a sector that’s easily diversified, or have had to furlough all their staff so they have no manpower. Some, sadly, have already folded under the pressure. Whatever situation you find yourself in, when COVID-19 finally goes the hell away (and what a glorious day that will be), it may very well be the perfect time for a relaunch.
Whether you have oodles of free time or are busier than ever, you should already be thinking about your post-pandemic plans, and putting a strategy in place to take advantage of the economic rebuild when it starts to happen. How can you make up for lost sales? What services and products will people be buying again? What pain points can you relieve for businesses or consumers? How will you survive the unyielding pyjama withdrawal when you find yourself back at the office? These are all questions you need to answer (well, maybe not that last one), and organising a relaunch is a great way to get you ready for when things start looking up.
Here are some ideas to help you get your relaunch plans in place.
Pretend you’re just starting your business
Remember those early days, staying up all night making plans, coming up with ideas, sorting out your finances (admit it, it used to excite you), dreaming about the glorious, fabulous future you were creating for yourself?
If you’re up for it, why not start over? Go back to square one. Spread out on your dining room table with your laptop, a notepad and pen, books, magazines and copious amounts of Dairy Milk. Open that old ‘Business Ideas’ spreadsheet and let your mind go wild. Get back in touch with what made you want to start in the first place – only this time, you have so much more knowledge about your industry, you’ll be able to start in a much better position.
Some questions to answer, just like the good ol’ days:
- What products/services do you offer, and are they needed?
- What is your USP (unique selling proposition)?
- What are your reasons for going into business for yourself?
- Do you provide a better solution than your competitors?
- How will you finance your business?
- What help/staff do you need?
- What is your pricing strategy?
- How will you stay ahead of the curve in your industry?
- What are your plans for growth (local, national, international)?
- What will your plans be in case of an economic downturn (ahem, like an unexpected virus starting with ‘C’)?
- How will you get new customers?
Hone in on your target market
Speaking of that last bullet point up there, who is your ideal customer, and how will you reach them? Don’t be satisfied with identifying your market as ‘young people with disposable incomes’ – you need to find out the gory details. Where do they live (don’t be all creepy and find out their actual addresses, we’re talking about what towns/cities or types of houses)? What do they do for a living? How much money do they make? What’s their gender? What media do they get information from (newspapers, social media, online news sources, lifestyle magazines, gossip sites, blogs)? Do they like going out on Friday night? What are their hobbies? Who already spends with you, and what are they like?
Once you decide who your ideal customer is, you need to figure out how to reach them. Online advertising? Direct mail? Social media? Phone calls? Old fashioned door drops? After deciding the best way to reach them, take some coronavirus-downtime to get learning! Udemy is a great place to start for marketing courses – there’s a course for everything, from cold emailing to Google Ads, and from SEO to writing compelling copy.
Brush up on your reading
Most of us are finding we have a bit more time on our hands these days. Although it’s tempting to fill every spare minute with all the things, please, for the love of all that is good, calm down, and take some time to learn. No matter how successful you are, no matter how busy, you’re never so amazing or so frenzied that you should stop learning. In our humble opinion, this is one of the major players in business owner burnout – being so busy with ‘stuff’ that you forget to grow personally or professionally. Even 10 minutes every evening before bed could help you in ways you can’t imagine, prepping you for a business relaunch when this pandemic is over. Have a look at our Top 10 Business Books for our recommendations.
Get your ducks in a row
Staff structure, accounting and bookkeeping, marketing strategies, growth plans – all stuff that’s easily forgotten about when you’re stuck ‘in’ your business, with no time to work ‘on’ it. To have a successful relaunch, you first need to know where you’re going, and that’s not possible unless you get all your ducks in a row.
Here’s what we suggest you should do to make sure you’re completely organised for a business boost when things get back to normal:
- Create a staff structure map for what you envisage your business to be. The map should include every employee you hope to have when you’d consider your business to be a complete success. Start at the top (you), and write down every role you hope to fill. Then, for each role, write the names of your current employees who can fill those rolls, until you can employ more people. This map will help you stay the course in terms of where you want your business to be. Do an online image search for ‘staff structure map’ for some ideas.
- Organise your books, once and for all. Of all the responsibilities of a business owner, this one just might be the most neglected. You’re either thinking you can do it yourself (but then don’t have the time), it’s a waste of money to have someone else do them (oh, but it’s not), or you just ignore them (yikes). Having tidy books not only gives you peace of mind, but can actually save you money in the long run. Have a listen to this podcast to find out more about why having a good accountant and bookkeeper should be a priority.
- Get a marketing strategy in place. The internet is chock fulla templates and examples of mighty fine marketing strategies, so get a-lookin’!
- Focus on growth. Where do you want to be this time next year? And the year after? Get your growth plans written down, and be as specific as possible. Put goals in place for turnover, profit, staff, product launches, number of customers or sales, office space or premises, the lot. Once they’re written down, keep looking at it and adding to it all the time, and stick with the plan!
Do market research
Keeping up with the Jones’ doesn’t just mean having a more voluminous hanging basket than your neighbours. It pertains to business too. If you’re going to keep up with the Jones’ in a business sense, you need to do your market research to know what you’re competing against.
Market research is a two-fold process: first, find out about your competitors and what they offer, and second, find out what your customers want. The former can be quite fun – it’s best to do some role playing and pretend to be a customer. Get in touch with your competitors and grill them about what they offer, their pricing, and get a general sense of what they’re doing. Then your job is to create a better experience for your own customers.
Speaking of customers, you need to find out what they want (primary research). You can start by asking them to complete a survey, asking what their favourite products or services are, what drives them to buy from you and what they’d suggest for improvement. Then, move onto secondary research, which is digging around the catacombs of the internet for published statistics, surveys and information about your sector to find out more about buying trends, demographics and sales data from your industry. Once you have this info, you’ll have a much clearer picture of what to concentrate on for your relaunch.
Spruce up your website
How often do you go on a business website and think, ‘What the actual… how do they get any clients with this monstrosity?’ I hope I wasn’t talking about your website, but if I was, I’m totally not sorry. Get on it! Your website is one of the most important marketing tools you have, and often it’s the first (and sometimes only) impression your prospective customers will have of you.
Check out this list of the Top 50 Worst Websites – does yours resemble any of those? If so, sort it out, man. At least go to Wix or Squarespace and use one of their nice templates, or even better, hire a professional. For inspiration, check out this list of 27 Inspiring Small Business Websites. Having a business relaunch just wouldn’t be the same without a fancy, revamped online presence.
Ask for testimonials
Not only will positive feedback help you from falling into a pit of despair, collecting reviews is a great tool for analysing your business, and then using the good’uns to win new clients. Plaster reviews on your new, fancy website (see above), use them in marketing materials or join an online review community like Trustpilot. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews, and then ask again. Use them when planning your relaunch to concentrate on your good bits and improve the bad.
Plan a relaunch party
Bring on the party! I can’t think of a better time to throw a relaunch party than when this pandemic is over. People will be desperate to get together – imagine sunshine, drinks, canapés and the company of actual people!
After you’ve done all the behind-the-scenes work to get your business in order for a relaunch, get a party scheduled. Send out invitations after the stay-at-home restrictions have begun to lift, promoting your get-together with a huge ‘You’re invited to the relaunch party for Your Business Name Here!’. Explain on your invites that it’s a celebration of small business and new beginnings – invitees will love the positivity and prospect of getting together to support you, and network for themselves.
Have a daytime garden party, or an evening cocktail do. Put on a celebratory breakfast, or a mini festival at a local park. Wait until a bit later in the year and throw a fancy-dress Halloween relaunch. The options are endless.
Or, even better, get together with other small businesses in your area to plan a joint relaunch party. After the coronavirus crisis is over, let’s start as we mean to go on: by supporting our fellow small businesses.
Do some soul searching
As you know all too well, running a business can give you the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. This coronavirus thing has forced us to take a step back and reconsider, well, pretty much everything. If nothing else, it’s giving us time to reflect, decide what’s important and make some long overdue changes in our lives.
The thought of a relaunch might awaken the sleeping entrepreneur inside you; it could be just what you need to fall in love with your business all over again. Or, the idea of a relaunch might be on par with watching reruns of Geordie Shore on repeat for all of eternity.
The ups and downs of small business ownership are unrelenting, and after years of doing the same thing, are you still passionate about it? Do you still love what you do? Are you still as excited about your business as you were when you first launched?
If the answer is yes, bring on the relaunch! With a little planning, you could take this opportunity for a fresh start, rekindle your passion and grow your business like there’s no tomorrow.
If you’re not sure, or if the answer is flat-out no, maybe it’s time to move on. Take this time to reevaluate your interests, what makes you happy and possibly take a new direction – whether that’s getting some help (a mentor, consultant or business partner), starting something completely new, or even digging out your dusty CV to look for a ‘normal’ job. Whatever you decide, there’s no wrong answer; this is your one life – do what fulfils you.