Many companies across the US are struggling to find their footing.
The recent economic downturn has presented challenges that not all businesses were equipped to handle.
And, as with any challenging situation, a business’s success hinges on its ability to adapt.
The good news is that there are businesses that have found ways to thrive in the midst of the disruption. And, their actions can serve as lessons to light the way forward for those that are still lost.
If your business isn’t thriving, consider taking one of these 5 paths.
Here are 5 ways to adapt your business for success:
1. Add a product
Every new challenge presents new opportunities.
The key is to critically evaluate the situation and identify which opportunities are well-suited to your business.
It’s possible that when you started your business, you might have focused your business plan on a specific market where you have substantial industry expertise. And that might have worked for some time.
But the pandemic and the current economic downturn has presented new challenges and is forcing you to rethink your original plan.
For many companies, like GIR, the best solution is to add a new product line focusing on a different application of their core technologies or products.
GIR, (which stands for “Get It Right”) makes high-quality silicone cookware. But, when Covid-19 struck, it realized that it was uniquely positioned to help.
GIR could create vital protective equipment for the public using the very same silicone material and manufacturing structure that was already the core of their business. So, GIR developed an easy-to-clean, reusable silicone mask with companion filters.
When GIR launched its masks and filters it was rapidly swamped with orders – because the masks and filters filled a real, timely need. And, GIR was able to do so in a way that aligned with its existing business model and brand mission.
Since then, the team at GIR hasn’t rested on its laurels. They’ve listened to their customers and continued to innovate.
GIR’s recognition of what customers wanted led it to update its mask and filter designs to create a better product. And, GIR has even launched an additional product – a mask carrying case to keep masks sanitary when customers carry them out in the world.
If you see an opportunity to expand your business by launching a new product, follow GIR’s lead.
- Develop a product that solves a relevant problem
- Choose a product that aligns with your business model and current operational capabilities
- Let customer feedback guide you to making it the best product that it can be
- Look for related product opportunities that complement your new product
Is there a new product that you can launch to better serve your customers (and increase revenue) at this time?
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2. Go virtual
At the time of this writing, theaters can’t open to audiences. Stadiums are closed to spectators. And, leisurely browsing through stores is, at least temporarily, a thing of the past.
The pandemic has disrupted the arts, entertainment, and retail industries in a major way.
But, many businesses in these sectors have embraced remote technology to provide a viable and profitable path forward. Here are a few examples to inspire your own business.
With large gatherings continuing to be an unsafe option, many sports leagues have chosen to play to empty stadiums while the games are broadcast for fans on television and online.
But, with many sports franchises struggling to figure out the logistics of running a safe season amidst growing coronavirus cases, sports broadcasters have been forced to look elsewhere to fill their schedules.
E-sports have been called up from the bench to take on a more active role. Will Douglas Heaven of the MIT Technology Review reports:
The last three months have seen the biggest crossover ever between mainstream sports and e-sports. Teams and promoters have been filling their suddenly empty schedules with video-game versions of their sports, keeping both fans and sponsors happy. Broadcasters such as Sky Sports, Fox Sports, and ESPN have shown hours of e-sports coverage, including football and soccer stars playing football and soccer sims Madden and FIFA. Formula One has run an entire season of grands prix using its officially licensed video game. And in Australia, NRL teams went head to head in Fortnite rather than rugby.
Is there a virtual stand-in for real-life events or activities that you can embrace to better serve your customers at this time?
Violinist and disability rights advocate Gaelynn Lea was forced to cancel her tour due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In response, she launched a series of virtual “Quarantine Concerts” held every Sunday afternoon. Lea collects tips via Paypal, Venmo, and CashApp from viewers who want (and can afford) to support her in exchange for the live entertainment.
If you’re a performer – or manage performers – consider holding virtual shows to maintain a stream of income until regular performances can continue.
Sky Candy is an aerial gymnastics studio in Austin, Texas.
Prior to the pandemic, Sky Candy held group and private classes in aerial arts such as trapeze, silks, lyra, and aerial hammock.
When it became clear that group classes couldn’t be held safely in the studio, Sky Candy switched it up. The studio wisely offered virtual training and conditioning classes to keep their students in shape for when regular classes could resume.
Sky Candy continues to hold classes, host events, and perform shows online, even though the studio has now reopened in a limited capacity.
It proudly and prominently displays its visual identity, including its name and logo, on those online events to be sure that clients and prospective clients know which studio is offering the virtual events.
Can you offer supplemental virtual events to boost income and keep your audience engaged?
3. Change your audience
Businesses tend to take it for granted that they know who their audience is.
But, an economic recession is not the time to take anything for granted.
When the pandemic struck, Joyride Coffee ran an OCS (office coffee service) selling high-quality wholesale coffee directly to offices. But when businesses began to shutter, and employees sheltered and worked from home, Joyride’s founder David Belanich realized that he’d need to reconsider their business model.
This lead to a profitable shift to a new audience. Industry publication Vending Market Watch reports:
They created a new channel, reorienting their e-commerce platform at www.drinkjoyride.com and their product offerings to serve individuals throughout the pandemic.
Joyride introduced a direct-to-consumer channel, enabling coffee drinkers to have Joyride products — including freshly roasted coffees, finely sourced teas and cafe-quality cold brew — shipped directly to their homes. Joyride also launched a new product, Joyride Boxed Cold Brew.
These coffee innovators embraced the opportunity to sell to a new audience, enabling them to continue to grow at a time when many businesses were in decline.
So ask yourself, is there another audience you can serve? And, if so, how?
One thing to keep in mind when shifting your focus to a new audience: you may need to consider rebranding if your visual assets like product packaging, product name, or other visual elements of your brand don’t fit well with your new audience.
This can happen, for example, if you traditionally sell to a corporate audience but pivot to sell to consumers.
4. Adapt your operations
Normal consumer behavior patterns have changed.
Many people are uncomfortable (or unwilling) to eat indoors in restaurants.
People are shopping online more frequently than ever before.
And, when shoppers enter stores, they want to get in and out more quickly than usual to minimize the risk of viral exposure.
Smart businesses are paying attention to these trends. And, they’re adapting their operations to support consumer preferences accordingly.
Coach, trainer, and executive consultant Giora Morein reports that Whole Foods, along with Kroger,
…made a smart choice to close some of their brick and mortar stores entirely, and turn these into distribution centers or temporary warehouses and fulfilment centers. This allows staff to get orders out quicker, travel shorter distances to customer homes, and make the most out of the space they have, especially under the pressures of reduced physical store opening hours and added demand.
Adapting their operations has allowed these grocery superbrands to meet their customer’s needs more effectively. And, it’s powerful to deliver uninterrupted service at a time when so many businesses are failing to live up to customers’ expectations.
Are there ways that you can adapt your business’s operations to service customers more effectively?
5. Embrace multilevel change
Don’t assume that making a single change is going to be enough to propel your business to success.
For some businesses, adding a new product, adjusting operations, or reaching out to a new audience may be enough.
But, for many, it won’t be.
And, that’s not a cause for alarm.
True adaptability relies on making the changes that are appropriate to the unique situation. And, with a full arsenal of tactics to choose from, you’re better equipped than ever to decide what sort of response is appropriate for your business in these circumstances.
Here are two businesses that have made comprehensive changes in order to adapt and thrive.
The Cheese Shop
The Cheese Shop, a seller of gourmet cheeses, implemented a multi-faceted adaptation to the coronavirus pandemic.
- It expanded its store offerings beyond cheese to include a wider range of regular groceries, pre-prepared sandwiches, and full meals.
- It’s using its social media accounts to engage customers with videos of its tasty foods and announce daily specials.
- Curbside pick-up and shipping services are now available for those who are unable (or uncomfortable) to come into the shop.
- The Cheese Shop is now offering “Victory Cheese” boxes to help support the American artisan cheese industry.
If you do something similar, you may need to rethink your overall brand and whether it confuses customers and prospects. If your brand is confusing, careful branding or rebranding can help you tell a better story about the range of products you carry and about your business.
The gift shop Revolutionary Concord, like many businesses, had to close their doors to the public during early pandemic lock-downs. In order to keep her store afloat, owner Marie introduced the following changes:
- Marie offered “virtual shopping” via Facebook live; walking customers through the items in stock so that customers could place orders via phone.
- Marie added a “no-touch” pick-up service and delivery.
- When the store reopened, Marie instituted…
- an 8 customer maximum,
- a new sanitation regime,
- and private shopping hours available by appointment from 8:30 am – 10 am.
Bend, don’t break
Changing course is not a weakness.
And, in challenging times, it’s often the only path forward.
Take a cue from these businesses. Adapt your business in smart ways now and you’ll live to do business (and adapt again) another day.