Jim Morrison once sang “Strange days have found us / Strange days have tracked us down / They’re going to destroy / Our casual joys.” If you’re an owner or key player at a small to midsize business in the state of New York, this certainly rings true. We’re living times that aren’t just strange, but also unprecedented and unpredictable.
As I write this column, most of the small businesses in New York State have either been forced to close down or have been greatly impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic. The Wall Street Journal reports that in three weeks, from the end of March to the beginning of April, nearly 15 million people in the US filed for unemployment. People who are still employed have found their settings change as they are being asked to stay at home. Businesses across the state are adjusting to a whole new way of working.
All of this exacerbated by the uncertainty of what lies ahead. Some people are optimistic that the economy will quickly rebound as businesses are allowed to open up again. JPMorgan economists have issued a more dire forecast foreseeing a 40 percent decline in GDP in the second quarter and a surge in unemployment to 20 percent.
Regardless of the overall economic impact, eventually we’ll get back to business as usual. There’s an opportunity during this downturn to set yourself and your company up for success.
As a small business owner or stakeholder, you probably spend more time working in the business than on the business. Every day is jam packed with fires that need to be put out. Maybe you’re seeing some relief from this activity as large sectors of the economy have slowed to a halt. This is your chance to work on the things that have been on the backburner.
Now is the perfect time to reflect on your company’s positioning. Perform a thorough review of the competitive landscape. How are you differentiating your company’s products or services? How would a prospect perceive these differences based on your marketing? Heck, people might have some time on their hands, you could probably ask these questions to customers, prospects, and past clients to get a clearer picture of your company’s place in your industry.
Whenever you consider updating or revising your positioning, it’s important to define the target audience first. Create an audience persona that details your ideal customer. This includes demographic information but should go much deeper than that. Think about their values and behaviors. Consider the underlying motives that drive those behaviors. What are the pain points they face that your company can help them solve?
Now consider your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, your positioning should be derived by matching the persona’s values and pain points to your company’s mission and product attributes. How do you want your brand or your product to be perceived by your prospective customers? Is the way you’re currently positioning your company effectively communicating this?
Perhaps you’re close and just need to do some fine tuning. Or maybe you haven’t gone through this exercise in a while and a lot has changed. Your company, your customers, and your industry will evolve over time. You may need to completely revamp your brand. Good news – now is a great time!
Whether you need to update your positioning or not, your company could always use more content. You have deep expertise in your industry. This knowledge will attract prospects when they’re looking for solutions, but only if you make it readily available. Create content for your website, for your social channels, for your newsletter. Write white papers and blog posts, shoot videos and vlogs, record podcasts. Create all of the content that your audience persona will need based on her pain points and place them where she’ll find them based on her behaviors.
While updating your positioning and developing content, you’ll find another important project that needs your attention – your website. Upgrade your website now. Make sure you’re building out content that will be indexed by Google so that when the economy starts to rebound, your company will be found.
All of these ideas come from a very real place. I’ve been working on developing content and updating our website. I find that it’s not only keeping me very busy, but it’s also invigorating. I’m not inspired by putting out fires, but I love sharing knowledge about digital marketing. And I love learning new things which always occurs when researching information for content pieces.
As much as I enjoy seeing my coworkers and partners work from their homes during our video meetings, I look forward to once again seeing them in person. I’m optimistic that the work I’m doing now will help ensure we’ll continue to grow when we finally get back to the office.