By Zachary S. Sielicky
For many local small businesses, the past year and a half have been one of unprecedented challenges. With the most recent update from our state leadership announcing a re-opening of businesses as more and more Oregonians are vaccinated, businesses are faced with a new way to look at how they seek to do business. Business planning can be challenging enough in the best of times, and this year is far from the best. Therefore, creating a post-COVID business plan, one which is realistic and achievable, can help you define your business goals over the next year, and give you measurable metrics to analyze the success of your business.
Three Important Questions For Post-COVID Business Plans
Creating goals starts with defining them. Three key questions can help you create the best business plan, not just post-COVID, but in the future, as well
How does your business really make money?
Businesses are not just vendors of goods or providers of services; they are problem solvers. Successful businesses identify a need their customers have and position themselves as the answer to satisfy that need. So, what need do you meet? Understanding this will help you know how you make your money, and can help you with marketing initiatives, too, as you will be able to present your business in a way which appeals to your target customers.
Example: Whether you are a major, multi-national company like Apple who provides state of the art technology for average consumers to stay connected with the world, or you are a small restaurant who fills the bellies of your community, all successful businesses are fundamentally meeting the needs of their customer and community. Answering this question first is vital in working through the next steps.
Who do you depend on to drive the business?
Appealing to your target customers can be difficult if you have not defined who your target customer is. Focus on what type of person will patronize your business, including age, gender, and income, and education levels. Then, you can get a better picture of what this type of person needs, and then determine how you will ultimately deliver your message and the problem you solve to them. Additionally, great businesses seek for ways to expand their audience by adding more services, altering their products and finding niche needs within their industry to generate more revenue.
Example: If you are a locally owned company who sells prescription glasses, more than likely you have access to a large variety of eyewear from production companies, this may allow you access to protective eyewear used in manufacturing plants. Seek out companies in your city who may benefit or are required to wear protective eyewear and see if this could be a new revenue stream in helping drive your business.
What will people’s behaviors look like after the pandemic?
Understanding how you changed your operating model during the pandemic can give you insight into how your customers will buy from you afterward. Did you start a home delivery service, or offer virtual consulting for a service business? Many of your customers may appreciate the convenience of these services, and they could be a vital part of your business moving forward. 2020 was a year which demanded market behaviors to change, both from a business operations perspective, to the way consumers act within the market.
Predicting Behavioral Changes For Your Customers
Predicting whether your customers will continue their pandemic methods of consuming goods and services can be tricky. You may wish to send out a survey to your customer base, asking them if they preferred your pre-pandemic business model or the altered, more virtual one. Responding to their needs and presenting your business in the way that your customers wish to shop gives you a goal for your business.
Example: Your target customer’s needs may have changed, too. Perhaps they are working from home and they like the convenience of home-delivered goods and virtual services. Or, they may be tired of being at home, and welcome the chance to shop in person again.
The Salem Chamber can be a strong resource for your business. It is an organization with a mission to help local businesses in the community grow and thrive. From helping you find the right employees to hosting business showcases, the Chamber is on your side, as a business owner. If you have not stopped by your local office, take the time to introduce yourself and tell your representatives a little about your business, your goals, and ask what kind of programs you can participate in to help raise your visibility in the community.
The author Zachary S. Sielicky is the Membership Manager for the Salem Chamber of Commerce. Zachary advises businesses in the Mid-Willamette Valley on how to connect with the community and fellow businesses. The Salem Chamber is a Convener of leaders, a Catalyst for positive change, and a Champion for a thriving community. Are you a business leader? Find out what kind HERE.