3 Ways to Maintain Growth Despite a Down Economy
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
Is there a way to not only survive a bad situation but turn it into a good one? There absolutely is – plenty of organizations are already doing it. Targeting expansion during an economic slowdown doesn’t exactly follow conventional wisdom, but it’s exactly what the world’s most successful companies have learned to do.
Some businesses, like Amazon, DoorDash, and Zoom, were lucky enough to be naturally poised to take advantage of the current, pandemic-driven recession. Others, like Spotify, have managed to do it via quick thinking.
While we all wish that a bit of normalcy would appear on the horizon, the uncertainty we face doesn’t mean we can’t still grow our businesses. For leaders – whether corporate executives or solitary startup owners – that growth has to start with a mindset of perseverance. Even more so than in “normal” times, you have to want the bar to move and be willing for the challenges it will present.
If you’ve got the appetite for growth but are struggling with where to begin, here are three growth drivers to get you thinking.
1. Customer obsession
It’s not just businesses that are struggling right now -- it’s everyone. Taking the empathy route into the mind of your customer can allow you to get a glimpse of the challenges they’re facing, and looking at the data can show how their needs have evolved in parallel with a world in flux. For example, people are eating out less but shopping from home more. And when they shop online, they’re buying more items in a single checkout but checking out less frequently. Brand trustworthiness has become more important, and discretionary purchases are on the decline.
These are just some of the ways that consumer behavior has changed. Staying abreast of such changes and combining critical observations with empathy allows you to consider how it might be possible to configure your lineup of products or services in a way that will boost sales and grow the bottom line.
2. Increased ease of access
Access is a two-way street. It’s crucial to think about not only how well customers can access your business but also how you can access your customers (or potential customers). In the case of the former, “digital transformation” is still the name of the game. Is your company active in the digital sphere and capable of doing business online? If you’ve put off building social media profiles for your brand or setting up e-commerce capabilities, there has never been a more important time to fix that.
Accessing your customer is the often-overlooked flipside to the digital paradigm. How much is it costing you to deliver your product or service today? Analyze the economics in your business and see if you could trade some margin to increase your marketing spend. If your service addresses customers’ needs better than their incumbent provider (and if those providers have not evolved), now might be a good time to go on the offensive and steal market share. When it comes to physical goods, improving customer access might be as simple as finding distribution partners that are closer to your customers and, from there, building a distribution network that substantially lowers costs.
3. Brave tactics in a strange world
Attention is one of the toughest things to gain right now. For that reason, growth requires shedding the fear of taking a different angle. Fortunately, different doesn’t always have to mean unique, and one way to find such an angle is to look at what’s working for other companies, maybe even in other industries. It might work for you, too.
Some grocers and retailers are offering pre-opening hours for seniors and at-risk populations during the COVID crisis. A number of companies are offering unprecedented free trials and other sales promotions. This food distributor that used to service restaurants pivoted to “contact-free” delivery of groceries to consumers instead. Failing is okay, but trying is everything. It will take being bold in order to break through the clutter.
Growth is, by nature, a struggle. The above ideas may help ease the growing pains, and those with the drive to see the process through will inevitably stumble on many other successful tactics.
Entrepreneurs and business leaders can look at one another as nodes on a network of people who are all facing the same challenges. The knowledge exists out there, as does the help. But we have to be willing to ask for it, and that can be as simple as reaching out to your local chamber of commerce or finding inspiration from peers on LinkedIn.
Above all, the priority when targeting growth should be to take action now. Ideas can always be tossed or iterated on when something doesn’t work. In the meantime, every passing moment is a missed opportunity.