As local businesses, we’ve learned resilience. In fact, we all probably have a PhD in resilience, at least those of us who survived—make that are surviving—the pandemic. In our third year of pandemic life, we are innovative, adept, creative survivors.
There may be dark clouds on the economic horizon. Inflation, possibly heading to a recession, is going to challenge us once again. But we don’t need to wait until it gets here. Let’s be proactive and map out a storm plan. If your idea bank is empty, here’s a few things you can do to bolster business—recession or not.
1. Team up with a business neighbor or friend
Two unrelated businesses could benefit from shared customers. All of these examples work both ways as well:
• A restaurant and a retail store could schedule a lunch-n-shop event. Have lunch at the restaurant (perhaps with a discount or free item) then go next door to shop with a $5 gift card to get started.
• An insurance agency and local grocery store could promote each other. Buy insurance from me and get a $50 gift card to the neighboring, local grocery store.
• A realtor and a bank. Put together a seminar on buying a home in 2022. Always have something light to nibble on.
2. Retail Clean Sweep
If you are a retail store, clear out old inventory. Christmas in July; End of Summer blowout sale, Fall Festival of Savings—you get the idea.
3. Create an “experience” in your store
It’s what local business is known for—that unique experience only we can deliver. It doesn’t have to be a huge affair. Pick up some cookies or bake some fudge and hand it out. This creates a memorable moment and your customers will return with the glow of a little extra.
4. Conserve cash
Sounds obvious but take the extra step to see what you can cut. Put off that major purchase or stocking up on items for now. Cutting a little now can save you from cutting a lot later.
5. Fill your coffers
Ask vendors to pay now. You might let longtime vendors know that you’re a little tight right now. They’re likely to respond supportively. For them, it’s protecting future business. You could also offer a small discount for payment now.
6. Join an Independent Business Alliance or Buy Local group
Hopefully you have one. If not, consider starting one. Then invest a little time and get involved in the organization. It will bring business back to you.
7. Guerilla Marketing
Print post cards with your business info and perhaps an incentive. Go to a neighboring business parking lot and hand out the post cards to people in the parking lot or sidewalk or waiting for a bus. Better yet, enlist your business neighbors in a cross-promotion campaign with shared flyers or coupons.
8. Support nonprofits and bring in more business
Nonprofits often raise funds with silent or online auctions. Give them a gift card (or more). It will bring new customers into your business.
9. Gather your tribe
Pull together a list of your closest allies and rally together to make sure your small sphere of influence has mutually beneficial plans. Look for ways to help each other all will benefit.
10. Claim your share
We know, government “handouts” aren’t your thing. But you’ve faithfully paid your taxes and this is how they’re being used so step up. Fill out the paperwork for all funding options when they come up. We see so many people either not trying or not accepting opportunities but this is when those opportunities become necessary and the reason they exist.
If you survived the pandemic so far, you’ve likely done some of these. Recession or not, we could all use a little more business. These 10 tips are inexpensive (or free), easy ideas. Start now so you can sail through the coming storm.
—Rebecca Melançon, Local Business Institute