Growing a business in a post-pandemic world won’t be easy, but in the Plymouth and Cape Cod areas, business owners know that their hard work will be worth it when their small businesses come out alive on the other side of COVID.
What are some best practices to succeed? Local business owners recently weighed in with some suggestions.
Target Your Market
It’s Important to know who your customers are and also what your competitors are charging. Ask yourself, what sets you apart from the competition?
“Identify your target market and what price they would be willing to pay for your product or service. If you plan to charge more than your competitors, be prepared to justify what sets you apart from the competitors,” said Barbara Liftman, Cape Cod Uncontested Divorce. “I think people on Cape Cod are price-conscious. They are very hard-working and living here is very expensive, so they want the best value for their money. I find that I am able to charge more in other areas. I think if your target market is tourists, it may be very different.
Prepare For Lean Times
The pandemic showed that a back-up plan is crucial for your business to survive a crisis and for seasonal businesses, during or the long, off-season months where you might be traditionally closed or have less income.
“It will take a few years to figure out your winter income, so prepare for the off-season and save money. My store is only two years old and half of that was surviving through a pandemic! But, we are continuing to grow and thrive every day,” shares Katie Scott, owner of Pure Vita Modern Apothecary Studio.
“Make a plan to combat the seasonality of the Cape and Islands. Our economy is unique and so you need to adjust your business plan and budgeting to handle the tidal seasons of revenue. I always set certain benchmarks in my budgeting. Once you know you can cover your fixed and variable expenses (and it’s wise to tuck a safety net aside), you have some room to breathe and can decide to reinvest in growth.” – Nicole Bessette, Capt’n Cod’s Bear Cove.
“Think about an online product or service you can offer to have a larger audience base. In the past year, many independent, local businesses have offered online services, sampling programs, and expanded how they reach and engage with more potential customers,” suggests Janet Morgenstern Passani, Jute Marketing.
Importance Of Social Media, Reviews, Websites
If you’re not engaged in social media of some sort you are likely missing a large part of your customer base. A vast number of shoppers, diners and other consumers are checking Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and websites for information and/or reviews.
“People have time on their hands and will look you up before visiting your store or considering your service,” says Merry Flynn, manager and co-owner of Woolfie’s Bakery in Dennis Port. “Once you have the momentum of followers, good reviews, and an overall presence online it will help carry you through tougher times. On our last day at Woolfie’s we created a brand new flavor – the ‘Funfetti’ muffin – and posted it to Facebook and Instagram. About 30 minutes after the post, I was hearing customers say, ‘Do you have any Funfetti muffins left?’ I was surprised and happy! People were seeing our post and coming just from social media. It can take years to get to that point but building an audience is powerful and can really help your business.”
Yes, it’s lonely and scary out there when you’re an entrepreneur but there are loads of business organizations and mentoring groups whose members are willing to share experiences or just be a sounding board.
“It’s important to remember you’re not alone and there’s support for the challenges you face. Join a business peer group, take a business class, pick something that works for you,” says Amanda Kaiser, Program Manager at EforAll Cape Cod & Founder at Cape Cause Marketing & Events LLC. “I would tell someone who is thinking about seeking out mentoring or a peer group to try it at least once. It can feel nerve-wracking to reach out to others. But if you give it a try, you’ll discover that there are an absolutely stunning number of people who are generous with their time and expertise. People who have already had a lot of experience are often anxious to pay it forward and help others avoid the same mistakes they’ve made. There’s nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.”
Is your business trustworthy? Do you have clear policies and procedures?
“People shop/work with those that they know, like and trust. Be yourself – authentic and consistent,” advises Laurie Hannah Walsh of Direct Sales for AVON & PARTYLITE. “When you or your product provides the solution to a problem they have, and they have trust in what you’re offering, they are more comfortable. It’s all about the relationship you build with people,”
“Create policies and procedures. For those tasks that are repeatable processes, make sure you have them down pat,” says Michaela Herlihy of Beacon Financial Planning in Hyannis.
“Use your creativity in connecting with your clients. We are in financial planning so we look for ways to ask open-ended questions about who clients are and what their values are. Oftentimes, people won’t understand how that impacts their financial picture, but we know from experience the more we know about the client’s total personality and values, the better we can service them and help with their financial plan and investment portfolio. We have gone to clients’ children’s volleyball games, met for a walk, had them to our office for a private, ladies-only bra fitting (for our Beacon’s Got Your Back event), etc.”
“Make sure you implement impactful DEI procedures and policies to promote equity and justice if your business is large enough to have staff and/or volunteers. Hire and promote minorities!” says Tara Vargas Wallace, founder & CEO at Amplify POC.
Emphasize your local connection, says Mark Ameres, management consultant and technology implementation advisor, and hone in on what people can get from your business, even though they might not be able to communicate their needs.
“Get a 508 number. Listen to what people need. They may not know how to describe their solutions or they don’t know what they don’t know.”