Have you recession-proofed your business?

Coronavirus has upended how we live, shop and work. Many restaurants and hotels are closing for good. Malls before the pandemic were already losing anchor tenants and now that is accelerating with JC Penney closing up to 250 stores, Macy’s 125 and Nordstrom 16. Now that people are avoiding indoor spaces they will likely see faster decline. Many smaller stores have clauses that cut them loose from their leases if a mall loses two or more anchor tenants.

Business has been going online for awhile but that is accelerating. People have learned to work remotely and shop for most everything online. We may go back to brick and mortar stores, but those that don’t have an online presence will suffer. The mall as we know it is likely doomed.

But what if you’re not a mall retailer? What if you are B2B or an only online B2C business? You can’t ignore the forces at play. Is your business set up to weather the recession? Have you built a brand people love so much you are the only one for them? You can’t be all things to all people. But you need to matter to enough to sustain your business. Whether that’s 1,000, 12,000 or 3 million.

You need to create a defensible moat around your business. 

Here are 11 tips for doing just that.

  1. Ensure clarity of purpose for your brand. Do you and your employees know what you stand for, how you do it and why?
  2. Always remember it’s not about you, it’s about them. Do you know how your customers eat, breathe and live? If not, find out.
  3. You customers need to know you care deeply about them. That you have empathy for their pain. And they can smell superficiality. Be real. Be valuable.
  4. Are you creating an emotional bond with your customers? No matter how practical your product or service, people buy from people they like and trust. Be human.
  5. Is it a pleasure to do business with you? Have you removed the friction from the buying and delivery process? Is it easier and more delightful than any of your competitors? It’s the little things that get under one’s skin.
  6. Does your website SHOW who you are or does it just tell people. Hint: Show, don’t tell. Can I find what I’m looking for in two clicks or less and do you make it easy for me to talk with someone unlike your mobile carrier?
  7. Are you communicating regularly with your customers and do they look forward to hearing from you? What is your engagement with the emails you send? If it’s low, find out why. Test your messages, include a single clear call to action. More than one makes it harder to choose. And people will leave never to come back.
  8. Have you optimized your sales funnel? Do you know where your business is coming from and how much each lead costs you? And ultimately each customer? How about your conversion rate? Do you know why people choose or don’t choose you? Do you know what your customer retention rate is? Or why a customer leaves you?
  9. Is your content consistent and valuable? Does it focus on the problems and situations your customers face? Does it answer their questions and concerns? Or those of your market? Are you speaking the language of your customers?
  10. Avoid being a me too brand. Copying everyone else won’t make you resilient. Doing so always puts you in follower position. Make sure you stand for something enduring and meaningful.
  11. We are in the experience economy. What experiences are you creating for your customers. Even now – especially now – it’s important to find ways to wow and delight people. Maybe that’s a personal call just to check in. Or maybe a personal note in their package. A simple example are these shoes, my current favorite. After buying a pair while on a business trip, I order them direct from Amsterdam. In the box is a personal note from the person who packed them. It’s a little thing but shows they care. And now I’m talking about them with you.

These are tough times. But good or bad, it’s what you make of it. There is opportunity in the chaos. How ready is your brand to navigate the road ahead?

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