Every business suffers a dip in sales or a slowdown at some point in its life.
It could be for a number of reasons, the most common external ones are:
- The world around you changes quickly and impacts you and your industry.
- Your product/service gets overtaken by competitors or becomes obsolete.
If you’re dealing with long-term change, you have broader issues to fix. See this article for more on the topic.
But if it’s a short-term problem, once the critical issues are taken care of, it’s all about having the right mindset.
It’s important to find the positives and act so that you’re ready to take advantage when the dip is over.
This is a great opportunity to do all the things you’ve been putting off for weeks, months, even years. In busy periods, much of the work that is business critical can easily get pushed to the side because of a lack of time. But the only difference sometimes – between businesses who make it through tough times and those who don’t – is the mindset of the people behind that business.
So, before moving on check-in on your mind-set.
Take a look at this video from Mind & Body coach Nic Wood, part of our new Expert Interview series. It covers how to turn stress into a positive.
Once you’re in a good, positive headspace the checklist below is designed to utilise your time wisely, packed with meaningful tasks that will benefit your business long-term.
Not every single point below might apply to you, but this is applicable for any type of business.
Focusing on just 4-5 points can be a game changer and will mean your business comes out on top when the slump is over.
1: Check your Google My Business (GMB) Profile
What is GMB?
For those who don’t know what Google My Business is here is a quick definition for you: Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organisations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. Helping customers to find your business and to learn about what you do.
To get started…
To create a Google My Business Profile you’ll need to action the following steps:
1/ Go to this link https://www.google.com/business/.
First you’ll find out whether your business is already listed. You can also do a search in Google for your company name. If your business already has a local listing, it will show up in the results. This can happen when Google has put your business on its map. But it may still be open to public editing if you haven’t yet verified ownership.
2/ Sign in to your Google account (if you aren’t already signed in). Then enter your business name (and address) to find it on the map.
3/ If your listing is there, click it and proceed to verify ownership
4/ If your listing isn’t there yet, click Add Your Business. Complete the business setup form. You’ll then follow the instructions to verify that you are the business owner.
5/ Be sure to enter the exact same NAP (name, address, phone number) for your business every time. This will avoid confusing search engines. Don’t forget a business description, opening times and website address.
6/ If you’re a Service Area Business, you’ll see a box appear giving you the option to hide your address. If you don’t want your address displayed (for example, if you used your personal address as your business address), then go ahead and check this box.
If you’ve already got a GMB profile
Google My Business is getting much more sophisticated, and no longer simply relies on the information you provide to build your listing.
The features people often overlook are:
- The ability to write Google Posts, which allow you to share useful articles you’ve written, promote offers, or events you’re running
- There is a Google Q&A section, which allows consumers to ask questions about your business, it displays them like an FAQ section
- Ability to gather reviews, not only generating reviews but responding to them has been shown to impact both rankings and click through rates
- High quality photos and even a video (30 secs or shorter) are so important to your profile. Customers who see a nice cover photo are a lot more likely to click on your listing than another one that doesn’t include a photo. Add a profile photo – 250 x 250 pixels (minimum 120 x 120; maximum 5200 x 5300)
- Enable messaging once your business is verified. Not everyone likes speaking on the phone or calling a business up. Giving people this option will increase your likelihood of generating new leads via your GMB profile
- Having a booking button on your GMB listing can be a powerful addition to your ability to generate leads. Businesses in supported regions that have integrated with one of Google’s supported booking/reservation partners will be eligible to activate this. https://www.google.com/maps/reserve/partners
2: Analyse your competitors
Why is it important?
As a business owner it’s important to be aware of your competitors strengths, weaknesses and worst mistakes. And don’t just sit on that information. You can use it moving forward to make decisions and to come up with new ideas to future proof your business.
The better you understand your competitors, the better chance you have of beating them.
Most growing businesses are keen to learn from mentors, acting like a sponge to become better each year. You may also find that your competition actually has a lot to teach you. When it comes to your competitors (especially the heavy-hitters) , study their websites. Take time to try them out on desktop and mobile devices. Read and watch their content. Check out their social media posts. Secret-shopper their sales process and how they treat customers.
Deciding who your competition is…
When it comes to staying ahead of the game, you have to keep a close eye on your competition. If you’re serious about doing a worthwhile competitive analysis, it’s not enough to just evaluate the 2 industry leaders in your sector that everyone already talks about.
The competitors you pick for the analysis determine the insights you’ll get at the end. The decisions you’ll make will be based in part on those insights. That’s why including different kinds of competitors (big and small, direct and indirect) into the analysis is recommended.
Myk Pono’s classification is really useful. Look at comparing one competitor from each category, 1,2,3.
Useful tools for comparisons…
There are hundreds of tools out there and it can all become very overwhelming. So, we’ve selected 3 of our personal favourites:
- Buzzsumo allows you to look at the top-performing content for relevant topics for your brand and specific competitors.
- SpyFu is a search analytics tool that shows users keywords that websites buy on Google AdWords. That means you can identify all the keywords that your competitors have bought, and every ad test they’ve run.
- Uncovers the technologies used on any website.
3: Write valuable, quality content to share
You may have heard that ‘Content is King’. Behind every great business is a wealth of valuable and relevant content that really connects with the company’s target audience. Creating consistent content is so important because it gives you an opportunity to stay in touch with customers without it always being about asking them to buy something.
Don’t be afraid to get started. You don’t have to be a professional copywriter or have a degree in journalism to do this well. Just be honest, get across your personality and do a spell check.
Make sure you write in the tone that your customers would respond to best.
There are so many reasons why it is great for business, here are just a few…
- It will build credibility and position you as an authority, which builds trust
- Great content will influence your conversion rate to generate new leads
- Optimised content will positively influence SEO (search engine optimisation)
Type of Content
Content can take many forms, so don’t limit yourself to just one type.
Here are a few ideas to get you started….
- Blog articles on subjects your customers would be interested to read about
- Video interviews via Zoom or Skype with people who work within your industry
- Mini case studies or testimonials which can be shared in a graphic on social media
- You can create Infographics on tools like Canva to get across key topics
- Create a Podcast answering the biggest questions in your sector
- Create an E-Guide which would be really useful to a potential customer
Best Practice For Content Creation
Topic Clusters is the new kid on the block when it comes to creating content. Not only is it better for SEO (search engine optimisation) it is also better for establishing your brand as an authority, and it creates a much better website user experience.
The basic concept behind building a topic cluster content program is to enable a deeper coverage across a range of core topic areas, while creating an efficient architecture in the process.
This explainer video by HubSpot is useful to understand how it works..
4: Plan ways to give time and attention to your most loyal customers
Even in quieter periods when your customer base isn’t buying from you, it is a great opportunity to build upon your relationship. You can make them feel valued, so when they are ready you are at the forefront of their mind.
So, how can you do this? Here are a couple of ideas:
- A simple handwritten thank you card for their loyalty
- Create a VIP list with creative ideas on what special attention they will get
- Ask for their feedback and take the time to listen to their thoughts
- Make a follow-up call, not to sell to, but just to check-in on how they are
5: Set-up a loyalty or referral programme with your current customers
In most cases, a loyalty program rewards customers for their repeat business for purchasing more of that service or product, but it can also include rewards for social sharing, referrals, and other actions that demonstrate loyalty.
To gain insight into what your customers want (or don’t want) from a loyalty program, consider sending your customers a questionnaire or a simple email.
There are loads of tools out there which can help you create a loyalty programme and monitor success.
6: Tidy up your email list, remove unengaged contacts, duplicates etc.
When’s the last time you did a spot of housekeeping on your email list? If the answer is never, then you are likely to be wasting time, effort, and money on sending emails to people who aren’t interested.
The process involves removing any unengaged email contacts. Best practice says you should be doing this housekeeping on your email list a couple of times a year. Email churn can consume for as much as 30% of your list every year, so it is beneficial to remain on top of things.
The signs that would indicate you need to to clean your email list are:
- Reduced open-rate
- Reduced click-through-rate
- More unsubscribes
- Spam complaints
A couple of things you can do to re-engage your email list before striking them off are:
- Send a re-engagement email with a special perk or call out that you miss them
- Make sure your emails have an easy way for people to unsubscribe
- Ask them whether they would like to continue receiving content from you
7: Create compelling video testimonials
Before you get any of your customers to talk about your company and services, check-in to see what they think about you first. This can include a quick email prompting their thoughts, a poll or questionnaire. This is also a great way to see who you can use in your videos. If you get a positive response, it can be the start of a conversation which leads towards asking if they would be happy to take part.
Tips To Help
This short 10 minute video is great for tips, secrets and strategies on how to make your testimonials compelling. You don’t need lots of equipment or a big budget to make this happen.
A more creative way to capture a video testimonial is to do an interview.
Interviews often allow people to relax and be more natural. They are likely to feel more comfortable answering questions in their own words. And they’re more likely to produce the emotional, human-to-human connection you want with a testimonial.
If you are unable to get your customer or interviewee in the same room as you, this video explains ‘How to…’ for recording an interview on Zoom.
8: Make a list of companies to form strategic alliances with
Creating strategic partnerships is not a new concept. Companies have built empires through it.
However, it never ceases to amaze how little the majority of businesses spend on this.
What is it?
A great example of strategic partnerships is Starbucks and Spotify.
So how did it work?
Starbucks employees received a premium Spotify subscription. They used it to curate playlists featured on Spotify. Users then earned My Starbucks Reward points through the Spotify music app.
As a small business, one thing you can do to rapidly grow your brand is to seek out strategic partnerships with like-minded larger businesses. Particularly those that share commonalities and target markets, but which are not direct competitors.
Create a Win-Win
Strategic partnerships can be a game changer for a small business. Effective partnerships don’t have to just be between a small company and a Fortune 500. There are plenty of examples out there of startups forming an alliance and growing together. It’s all about creating a win-win. Ask yourself what’s in it for us? What’s in it for them? How can we add value to their customers and proposition?
This video gives 5 ways to create a strategic partnership
9: Get snapping away
Every company needs high-quality images to use. Low quality, poor images will immediately impact your brands identity and people’s perception of the service you’re delivering. After all, a picture says a 1000 words.
Good, strong images will influence someone’s decisions, expectations and emotions before they even consider reaching out to get in touch..
Images can be repurposed time and time again, so it’s always worth investing some time to get it right. Your own brand images can be used repeatedly. Eg. for a social media page or posts, Google My Business profile, for Linkedin, for pages on your website, images for articles you plan to write or even for PR coverage.
10: Analyse and review your entire sales process
Take a step back, forget everything you know about your business and put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer.
Jump onto different devices, get into different roles, imagine you’re looking for an answer to a question, or you’re browsing for something OR you’ve been recommended by a friend to check you out.
What does the customer journey look like, before they even speak with you?
Once someone does reach out to you, what are the steps laid out in order to enrol them? What makes them feel valued at every point? And what are the ways you keep your business in the forefront of their mind?
Map it out
Map out the stages of your customer journey right from its infancy, through to getting in touch and even after purchasing from you. Use this to find the gaps and question what you could do better.
This video is useful as it explains the 8 steps on how to map out your customer journey.