This past fall was a scary time for us. In two months, we lost six management clients – approximately 40% of our revenue. Each one had different reasons for leaving – personal difficulties, financial woes, expansion of staff to hire in-house social media managers, etc.
I wasn’t sure what we were going to do. I considered taking out a loan, getting rid of my office to work from home, laying off staff, and even changing my business model. At one point, my husband had a talk with me about being “OK” with the potential that my business could fold altogether. He thought we would pull through, but just wanted to let me know that it would be alright if we didn’t.
We’re now in mid-December and I’m happy to say things have turned around quickly. We’re not completely in the clear, but we’ve recovered most of the lost revenue and we have some great things in the works.
This experience was a lesson learned on how quickly things can change. And I know I am not alone. I often hear from other business owners about navigating troubled waters. I thought this would be good time to share some tips that worked for me during this time. I hope it will help others who come to experience difficult times.
1. Create a savings buffer. We put back a little, as we could, when we were ahead. Even if we didn’t need to use it, knowing that we had it gave us comfort. It also gave us the confidence to refuse to settle for lower fees in our pricing and packaging.
2. Expand offerings. If there were ever a time to think outside the box, this was one of them. Monthly social media management has always been our core business, but we started pushing for more strategies, coaching, and product sales. These sources of non-recurring revenue helped us get through the rough patch.
3. Continue to market. When times get tough, businesses often cut their marketing. But tough times are when we need marketing the most. It’s crucial to put our business out there – consistently – to generate the leads and sales that increase revenue. Having a low-cost, established social media presence is particularly helpful during tight financial times.
4. Be smart in following up. I’ve heard that it takes 8 to 12 follow-ups before landing a sale. But, that doesn’t mean we call the same person each day for 12 days. When times are tough, it’s easy to become a little too persistent. Instead, find a way to generate top of the mind awareness so they hire us when they are ready. Find a valuable article and share it with them, create strong social media content that they’ll see and notice, send a card or email to congratulate them on an award or wish them a happy birthday, refer someone to their business, or simply invite them for a cup of coffee.
5. Ride the storm out. Understand that business is cyclical and it’s a phase that most business owners experience. Learning to mentally, emotionally, and financially navigate tough times is critical in running a successful business long-term. True character is revealed when things aren’t going well.
What ways have you weathered tough times in business?