Pause & Plan: Marketing Agency Soshal’s Tips for Business Owners
As part of our series aimed at helping businesses prepare for the re-opening of the economy, we asked Dave Hale, co-founder of Ottawa-based digital design and marketing agencies Soshal and Craft & Crew, for his input on what businesses need to focus on to make it through the coming months.
How have businesses been reacting to the dramatic change brought about by COVID-19?
Most businesses are scrambling trying to plug as many holes in the bucket as possible but they are running out of fingers. As hard as it is to do, we are recommending that now, more than ever, business leaders take a brief pause and focus on their values and core competencies before committing to their next steps.
We have seen examples of businesses leaping into a brand new product or service area in a search for cash. A good example is a small retail store or bar starting to sell groceries. But these dramatic shifts rarely pay off in the long run and take time and energy that could have been used in a more valuable way.
Consumers have a lot of good will towards their local businesses these days. Should that be part of the plan for small businesses moving forward?
You can’t rely on the clients supporting you just because you are a local business. We have seen companies come up with completely new offerings overnight that have generated great initial results, thanks to their local community and loyal clients. But that initial boost created a false sense of security. Sales soon dropped off as customers moved to support another local business in need. If a company’s new service or product doesn’t generate long-term interest and value, then it is unlikely to be a short or medium term solution.
What can you do if your business simply cannot offer its usual services or products?
As much as possible, try to stay in your lane and stick to your core competencies. And if you do need to pivot, make sure it makes sense. We’ve been helping one client who has been in that exact situation. They spent some time thinking about where their strengths were, they were able to come up with an alternative offering centered around their core competencies and that was consistent with their brand reputation in the market. The response was instant and has been generating sustained demand.
What would you recommend for businesses that are doing OK, but could be doing better?
If you are lucky enough to have multiple revenue streams, now is the time to double down on the area that is working and helping your business. Put all your resources there and abandon the ones that are failing or struggling right now. We’ve worked with clients that have actually managed to generate dramatic increases in revenue in their most profitable areas in the past few months because they started putting all their resources to work in targeted areas. It was a business decision that should have been made earlier, and COVID-19 has helped them focus.
Any final words of advice for business leaders trying to figure out their next steps?
Even with a carefully considered business and marketing plan, it is important to set reasonable expectations, including knowing what financial resources you are going to need to make it a success in the coming months.