Slow times for business, what to look out for and what to do.

Anyone that has ever operated any business will alway knows that there are periods when business just slows down, sales decline, and activity drops off.

There could be any number of reasons for this such as seasonal or festive changes, economic policy adjustments, a competitor entering the marketplace, other outside disruptions, or failure by managers to see what was once a winning formula no longer works.

The list is quite exhaustive and if you have ever listened to anybody that made management decisions in a business that failed, you will usually find two common traits

  1. That they will always blame outside factors or other people rather than themselves or their decisions.
  2. That they did nothing positive, proactive, to save the slide and business, instead they failed to adjust and only tried to cut running costs.

My own experience working with clients for the past 20 years has been that there is a similar pattern, one where management really failed to revisit, explore, or understand the very reasons that they were successful in the first place.

What makes a successful business:

Most leading businesses owe their success to a fresh competitive formula—their own distinct combination of strategies, relationships, processes, unique products, and company values that sets them apart from their competitors.

When their formula is successful, their business grows, employees are biting at the bit to be part of the business, customers buy in, investors dip in capitol, and competitors even copy or mirror the winning formula.

However, when times are tuff, I have noticed that most business will continue to use the same formula, no longer fresh, no longer relevant for a variety of reasons, resisting change leading to their eventual demise.

They wrongly believe that they must stick to their formula because it worked in the past.

This inaction to re-think proactively, to come up with new strategies, or a fresh formula becomes their undoing.

A very simple example is where I have spoken to many owners and managers that I know to be on struggle street about new digital marketing channels and ways to reach their target audience, only to be told “we have been operating for 30 odd years this way, we rely on local paper advertising, flyers, and so don’t need it”. 

And my reply, I guess you where rather innovative and an early adopter back then?

Point made!

And so we find that most managers of a failing business will wait and then wait a little longer to see if things pick up, fire a few employees or reduce their hours that have underperformed in this time (which is NOT great for moral and culture), purchase less or cheaper stock, stop all marketing and advertising activities and then drop their prices.

And now the end is near, culture has shifted, employees moving on, investors calling in their loans while some competitors that copied them in the first place at least have enough brains to copy another successful business.

Sure, it’s not always that simple right? The bank foreclosed, the supplier went out of business, the customer failed to pay for goods, and while these are all real and legitimate reasons for their failure much could have been avoided with an evergreen or fresh approach of re-evaluation and self awareness.

Why cut marketing and advertising?

As a marketer I am dumbfounded almost daily as to why somebody that is in charge of a failing business chooses to stop marketing or advertising.

Without enquiries, calls, and customers their is not going to be any sales activity.

Now while they obviously need to consider what changes they need to adopt to their formula, they still need customers, bums on seats, and sales to continue operating their business and to pay their loyal employees.

They need extra marketing and advertising not less, but only with a shift of channels.

For the case of small and medium size business, I can tell you that trying a new marketing channel where customers have shifted to or hang out, can turn things around pretty quickly.

In many cases this is a big part of their failing, and that is they have simply stopped  being relevant or present in their customers eyes.

What to do when Business is slow:

Increase the marketing efforts, be wise and get advice from experts that understand current ways to expose your business to more of your target audience. The digital space has truly changed the game, and levelled out the playing field and opened up business to a much larger audience like nothing ever before. You can now reach people in their lounge rooms on a local or a global scale for a fraction of what it would have cost 5 years ago. New evolving technologies allows you to video, record, create and publish content to your target audience in fast time and at minimal expense.

Are you taking full advantage of this?

Social Media:

Advertising on social media can be rather inexpensive when done correctly by experts that know their shit. As I say often, there is no good singing to an empty theatre, no matter how good or loud you sing, nobody will hear you. Social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and others are your theatre full of people, you just need to identify who your tribe is and then create the right mix of content that will resonate and connect with them..

Now couple this up with an advertising campaign to reach as many of them as possible and now you’re really signing or attracting new business.

Search Networks:

Some of your tribe may be hot right now, looking for what you offer or to find a solution to their problem. For example, if I have a leaking tap I am going to Google a plumber near me and if you are fortunate enough to have a website with rich information that delivers you enquiries you will most likely get a call.

Now if you do have a website but are not getting calls, you need to fix this and read how to here, the other alternative is to create a series of Ads, using keywords and phrases around the services you offer so that your target customers will find you, due to ads being listed at the top of the results pages in Google,

Done correctly, an Adwords campaign can deliver instant enquiries and sales for your business that can turn things around very quickly.

So think logically, be proactive and whatever you do, don’t stop your marketing efforts. Rather, you need to accelerate them and use the slow time to really think about how to improve your business.

It will pay off for you and quite possibly be the catalyst that helped save your business.

You never know, somebody may even call you an early adopter in 20 years time !!

And remember, help is only ever a phone call away.

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