As a small business owner, you witness the marketplace changing before your eyes, sometimes so quickly you don’t have time to adapt. New technologies, shifting consumer preferences, and global events can all leave you scrambling to keep up.
To thrive in an environment as dynamic as this one, you need tools and techniques in place to stay nimble. Read on for some key strategies that can help you pivot and embrace even the most sudden and unexpected change. Next time, it will be your competitors struggling to keep up with you.
1. Use Tech to Speed Decision-Making
In years past, you could afford to wait days or weeks or weeks to make a major decision. But at the speed information travels these days, that’s no longer true. Fortunately, technology can ride to your rescue.
A scheduling software for small businesses, for instance, can help you make faster decisions. You can view your team’s availability and schedule meetings in real-time. You don’t have to wait for everybody to respond to emails or chime in about their schedules in order to meet. You can get your whole team together faster in order to make crucial decisions and stay one step ahead of everyone competing against you.
Another tool for making quick and agile decisions is artificial intelligence. For example, you can use AI-powered analytics to track sales patterns and customer behavior. This intel can guide your choices on everything from expanding your product line to entering new markets. With solid data to back up your decisions, you’ll have less cause for hesitation.
2. Always Be Innovative
Stephen Hawking once observed that “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Whether you’re adding features to your product, embarking on new marketing campaigns, or looking for ways to trim waste, innovation keeps you ahead of the pack. During the Covid-19 pandemic, so many businesses were caught off guard. Successful companies got creative in adjusting to new demands and restrictions. Others stayed stagnant and saw their profits plummet.
Innovation means taking risks, experimenting with new ideas, and embracing failure as a learning opportunity. Test things out before launching them on a large scale. Maybe try out offering 24/7 support to certain customers with the help of chatbots. If they don’t respond as you expected, refine your approach and learn your lessons for next time. With a mindset of innovation, you can pivot better when market changes come your way.
3. Monitor and Analyze the Market
Adapting to the market means keeping a close eye on your competition. You need to understand your target audience and watch and listen to industry developments. You can use market research tools and social media to look at consumer trends. You can leverage competitor analysis tools to figure out what’s working for your rivals. Then you can use that info to decide what’s right for your own business.
For example, say you notice a competitor offering a creative new product or service. You can quickly analyze it and decide whether it’s something that your customers might be interested in. If it is, you can immediately begin to explore how to work in similar offerings in your own business. Or maybe you can come up with something better!
Also, monitor external factors like changing regulations or economic shifts. For example, if Congress is debating new laws that impact your industry, you need to be aware of the potential changes so you start preparing even before they take effect.
4. Focus on Your Customers
Remember, your customers are always at the heart of any business decision — even if you’re using the latest, most sophisticated technology. You have to be available to customers when they need you, ease the buying process, and create an unforgettable brand experience.
Communication is always key. Jump to respond to customer inquiries and feedback. Gather data on your customers’ preferences, habits, and behaviors and use it to give them recommendations or send them targeted promotions. Monitor social media so that if a customer publicly complains, you can respond in real-time and make sure they come away satisfied. This can offer you a huge boost in loyalty and satisfaction.
When launching products, go all out. Try some bold marketing tactics like staging a virtual launch party or interactive social media campaigns. Social media listening tools can help here by letting you tune in to what actual users are saying about what you’re offering.
5. Develop a Creative and Flexible Team
As a small business, you probably don’t have a huge staff. That makes it all the more vital that your team members be able to learn and grow, staying open to new ideas and approaches. Focus on soft skills such as problem-solving and communication as you hire.
When you recruit, reach out to a diverse pool of candidates. Look at those with different backgrounds and unique experiences. This diversity can help you tackle problems in ways you didn’t think of. Build up a culture of innovation and improvement, both for longtime employees and new hires.
Offer tangible rewards, like gift cards or bonuses to those with the most creative ideas, and recognize these individuals publicly. And put money toward training and mentoring your team. That way, your employees will be up to date with the latest tech and industry developments. With the right team in place, you can more easily pivot. You can also jump on new opportunities as they arise.
Keeping Ahead of the Curve
In a constantly shifting marketplace, staying ahead of the game requires vigilance, adaptability, creativity, and innovation. A few crucial tactics will not only keep your small business afloat, but propel you toward success. Don’t let change overwhelm you — embrace it instead. Use it to your advantage to keep ahead of the curve.