How do I Grow my Business During an Energy and Cost-of-Living Crisis?
At home, facing a cost-of-living crisis is often a case of withdrawal. We ‘tighten the purse strings’, learn to say no to ourselves when we can, do without and try as we might to pull ourselves out of old habits, at least for the time being. The wolf doesn’t have to be at the door for us to keep an eye out and make the stronghold that bit stronger.
In business, we can’t always get by on those slender means. For one thing, reducing operating costs and overhead is often much easier said than done; even in prosperous times, we’re working to minimize those expenses without loss of performance or reputation and, at the same time, bolster those margins and grow that bottom line. There is only so much ‘shaving down’ a business can do, and only so many ways to protect against a crisis like the one we’re experiencing now.
Besides, survival isn’t the ultimate goal. Fortune favours the brave, and times of economic downturn are known for being catalytic moments for businesses that make the right moves at the right time. So, how do you grow right now? How do you shift from the mindset of ‘getting by’, onto one that promises more?
1. Don’t lock yourself into a discounting cycle
What is business growth? Whether you’re in the B2B or the B2C world, growth ultimately comes down to your customers. The value and frequency of their purchases – with the most valuable customers being those who buy more, more often – and the number of valuable customers you have.
And what’s the best way to attract more and more of those valuable customers? If you’ve written ‘discounts and deals’ on your little whiteboard, then feel free to erase it and replace it with this: loyalty.
Loyal customers can be relied upon and, provided you keep working to maintain their loyalty, offer you that long-term stability the businesses need right now (and at any other point in its lifecycle). They’re also great for onboarding new customers on your behalf, since they are emotionally invested customers are far more likely to talk about your brand and recommend you to others. The Harvard Business Review talks here about one retailer who improved the entire customer experience by implementing an emotional-connection-based strategy, resulting in a 15% increase in the number of active customers and more than a 50% increase in the rate of same-store-sales growth.
True, building and maintaining loyalty, like anything worthwhile, isn’t free – it necessitates an investment of time, stakeholder buy-in and, yes, money in order to get a loyalty programme working in tandem with your workforce. But, unlike your ‘deal of the week’, the best incentive programmes for customers are scalable and long-term.
No business can afford to run unnecessary offers that bite into the margins when inflation is so high.
2. Lean into technology
Technology can’t replace a living, breathing workforce, but AI is now doing more than ever before, and it offers a fitting complement to skilled employees. In fact, some 37% of businesses feel that leaning into AI reduced manufacturing costs by more than 10% -- and it’s not hard to see why.
From call centres to production lines, there’s a great deal of potential for technology to take on the burden of repetitive, manual tasks that pose a drain on the time and energy of your team. The notion of replacing a human team with AI is unrealistic – and, really, undesirable. But identifying the ways in which your team could benefit from automation, rather than be replaced by it, means your business is keeping pace with the 21st century, and boosting productivity without blindly pursuing tech for tech’s sake.
A rewards platform that helps you identify performance trends to understand what works and as importantly, if not more so, than what doesn’t create engagement can help you steer your marketing and comms strategy, providing your customers with what they need to help them prosper with you.
3. Invest time and resources into your existing workforce
Reducing churn and cultivating a strong, engaged workforce – even if it’s on a small scale – is absolutely vital. True, maintaining your workforce isn’t the same as growth, but it is essential to it, and scaling the business without taking on new employees is certainly possible, provided you embrace complementary technologies and invest liberally into your team.
Engaged employees are far, far more valuable than disengaged employees, which tend to be in the majority. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to boost engagement and retention and, as a result, improve the customer experience, too. Investing into staff training, introducing a more structured programme for sales incentives – take a look at our recent article on SPIFF for more – boosting communication and actioning employee feedback (as well as introducing technologies that handle the more mundane, repetitive aspects of the job), are all essential to boosting employee engagement and establishing a scalable, weather-any-storm business.
4. Refocus your attention onto the most lucrative marketing channel
The best marketing communication channels for B2B crossover, unsurprisingly, with the best channels for B2C businesses. Email remains king, thanks to the high ROI promised, even for SMEs. In fact, open rates for smaller enterprises fall somewhere between 11% and 50% – highly promising stats, given the relatively low financial investment an email marketing campaign requires – particularly in comparison to other types of marketing.
What’s more, email lends itself to a more personalised line of communication between you and your customer – and, the more data you are able to accrue based on their interactions with you, the more personal you can make your communications over time.
Adversity has a way of giving rise to ingenuity and success, provided you focus your time, energy, and resources into the right places.
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