A slump can hit any business—large or small, there’s no guarantee revenue will be sky high forever. But for many small business owners, the big question is how to stop it and recover. To help you consolidate and revitalise, here are 10 techniques to consider for better productivity and higher profitability.
1. Have an internal audit
First off, keep in mind why you set up your small business. Perhaps you spotted a gap in a market, or went after a passion project—either way, remember it’s natural for small businesses to experience slowdown periods.
When it happens, don’t panic. Consolidating your situation and looking for new initiatives are the steps to take.
Have an internal audit and find where you can cut costs and then act upon this. Monthly expenses can mount up in unexpected areas (whether it’s basic items such as stationery, or more advanced problems like a flawed marketing campaign).
This revised business plan can stabilise your situation and kick start your shift towards a better future. But there is one common kneejerk reaction to a time of strife to keep in mind.
Need a few tips on how to perform a business audit? That WikiHow piece is a good starting point.
2. Try to avoid cutting your workforce
As highlighted above, get out from behind your desk and find out what you can do to get revenues accelerating. Check what is going wrong in your business before deciding some employees have to go.
But if things are bad, then consider an alternative route. After gaming giant Nintendo suffered poor sales for its Wii U console in 2014, its market value dropped. Instead of letting staff go, President Satoru Iwata took a 50% pay cut. This message of support for his employees was emphatic.
The message for other businesses is one of ethical leadership—humility mixed with a magnanimous approach. So if you’ve had a slump, perhaps bite the bullet and take a pay cut to keep talented staff members on.
3. Treat departing staff with respect
But if you have cut staff as it’s unavoidable, then do so in a respectful manner. Many businesses, large or small, will let staff go with little regard for the long-term consequences.
With websites such as Glassdoor now providing disgruntled staff with a voice, it’s wise to be more pragmatic in your approach. You don’t want to accrue a selection of negative reviews after a series of dismissals.
If you have to let staff go, then have a plan in place. Aim to keep your most experienced and talented employees. These are the staff members who will now your small business inside out and be able to maintain higher levels of productivity.
Do keep in mind that morale may take a knock if you’re letting staff members go, particularly any who have been with your small business for a significant amount of time.
Consider new tactics to keep your staff motivated (you could introduce perks such as flexi time to improve their work/life balance) and look to train up less experienced staff towards a senior level.
Growing talent within your business is an effective modern business tactic to ensuring talented employees end up with your small business.
4. Draft in freelancers
Outsourcing is a modern marvel. You can gain access to talented individuals across the world through freelancing services. This means you don’t have to hire full time if, for example, you have a one off project.
Freelancers can also bring in an outside perspective, which is one of the great tactics to use for revitalising your business plan. A new perspective can highlight ideas you may have missed, which can give you an all-important edge in your marketplace.
But using freelancers is cost-effective, too, which can be essential if your business is struggling.
5. Check on your competitors
I don’t mean steal everything your small business peers are doing. But you can use their marketing efforts, for instance, as inspiration. Whatever they’re doing, go one better. So have a scan of your market and analyse the tactics in place—adapt any campaigns you consider suitable for your efforts.
If you’re in a B2C business, you focus on your products and make them stand out further still. Radically shake up your delivery speed rates, for example, or include freebies that will get customers talking.
If you’re in B2B, make sure your focus is clearly on the benefits you offer them. How can you save your customers more time and money? Dig deep for the answers and ensure your marketing reflects how you’re better than your competitors.
6. Get creative
In difficult times, you can turn to innovation to help you along. It can be overwhelming for customers—so how do you stand out and get their attention?
Supporting a charity, sponsoring an event, hosting an event, or giving back to your local community can all put you on the map. Turn such activities into a PR exercise—get the local media involved and you can get your small business noticed.
This is free marketing, essentially, and can improve your public image.
Rebranding may seem desperate or overly drastic, but it can help to shake up your image and create wow factor. A rebrand can help you attract a new range of customers, help you define your new mission statement, or make you stand out from your competitors.
The latter is a key point. Its commonplace for many small businesses within a, respective, market to begin using the same buzzwords, relying on the same web design, and trumpeting the same taglines. The problem with this is customers don’t have a clear choice—every business merges into one banal formula.
Ensuring you stand out can make a huge difference. A change in name, a new look, and a new tagline to differentiate you from the rest can have dramatic results. Still need convincing? Have a look at these 10 most successful rebrands, which Business Insider selected.
So dare to be bold and innovative—it’s a key component to revitalising your prospects.
8. Change your marketing strategy
Have a look at your existing marketing strategy and examine its strengths and weaknesses.
It might be that your SEO is off point. Or your PPC is falling flat. Or you’re doing no content marketing. Examine where, traditionally, you’ve excelled and focus on how you can improve your strong points.
Many small businesses believe they have to be on all available marketing platforms. It’s an often ignored fact, though, that social media simply doesn’t work for many small businesses. Many sign up as it’s touted to be the magical marketing tool—share your content and watch your customers go wild.
But for most small businesses, a solitary retweet is a major achievement. Most brands don’t have the authority of the likes of, for example, Coca-Cola, who can pick any marketing campaign, run with it, and enjoy considerable success from a 3.3 million strong Twitter following.
For small businesses with 1,000 followers, it’s not as simple as that.
So turn your attention to easy wins, such as upping your blogging strategy to capture key search ranking positions. Or ramp up your granular PPC campaign to reach your audience. Find what works for you and focus on that—there’s no need to try and make every marketing avenue work.
9. Get a loan
If you need additional funds, there are services that support struggling small businesses. You can look to a private funding institution for help with this.
Many small businesses can hit a difficult period simply due to a lack of money. A timely boost in funds can stabilise your issues and help you power through to greater things.
10. Change location
Circumstances can change—what may have been a sensible starting location for your business could now be the exact opposite.
Or you may have dreamt big as your started and events have changed—you could be in a huge office when all you need is a small one.
Making the shift towards a suitable environment can offer you with money saving initiatives and provide a new lease of life, so it’s one to consider carefully before committing yourself to.
Conclusion: Self-assess and take a risk
Finally, as a key summary point, if your business is in crisis, a natural human reaction is to keep things safe. Taking a well-judged risk, however, may be what you need. With little to lose, shaking up your approach could transform your fortunes.
Take a close look at what can accelerate revenue and improve productivity. Find out where you’re lacking before making any sweeping changes, then be bold with your new concepts for an upheaval than can lead the way towards a brighter future.