While the adversity we’ve endured this year as global citizens has varied greatly by geography, industry and any number of demographics, the opportunity to work together with a crucial shared purpose has been uplifting for many of us.
The COVID-19 crisis reinforces the value of not just mutual support, but willingness to learn from each other. This rings true in business, and particularly in marketing, where the challenges and opportunities for small and large businesses have always seemed very different. Through the pandemic, it has become clearer that taking marketing cues from businesses of all sizes can help build stronger brands, more resilient companies, and a thriving marketplace.
Lessons from the small-business community: Don’t let size stand in your way.
Stay agile. As a business grows, it becomes more challenging to experiment, redirect quickly, remain agile and fail fast — abilities small businesses often embrace. Large companies would do well to imitate their smaller brethren, who are often better positioned to adapt in a rapidly changing marketplace.
Stay open. Large companies have the luxury of established processes and partnerships, but in the age of the entrepreneur, there’s a potential disruptor around every corner. Don’t get set in your ways, or the market will leave you behind.
Stay accessible. Small business owners are masters in the art of partnerships. Collaboration between small businesses tends to be simple, straightforward and neighborly. Entrepreneurs are our economic foundation, employing roughly 70 percent of the world’s workers. Staying connected with them in a spirit of mutual collaboration benefits everyone. Large businesses should work to understand the challenges small businesses face, then build simple, innovative solutions for them.
What entrepreneurs can learn from market leaders: Support your passion with good business sense.
Be your own general manager. Many small business owners start their companies because they love what they do, but sometimes they underestimate the importance of solid business sense. To succeed, entrepreneurs must pair passion for their craft with real business know-how, from balancing the books and turning a profit to differentiating their offerings in the marketplace. Small business owners who manage their companies like the big guys, and focus as much on creativity as hard data, know the true value of effective marketing.
Stand for something. It doesn’t have to be a divisive issue or a huge social movement, but consumers connect with companies and brands that make a statement on something that matters to them. In a study of global brands from Kantar, almost two-thirds of millennials and centennials express a preference for ‘brands that have a point of view and stand for something’. Many small businesses have the benefit of local insights and community connections. Reaching neighbors and friends who are also patrons can be a powerful strategy.
Network and plan. In a rapidly changing world, it’s hard to plan for what’s ahead – even just months or weeks down the road. Large businesses have learned the importance of proactive planning and risk management, and small businesses can take this valuable cue. Small business owners who plan, re-plan and scenario-plan will be prepared to act and react to shifting sands. When a business has committed time and effort to networking, it should also consider that in its planning: A strong network can offer support in many situations.
Get with the (government) program. Large companies are knowledgeable about government offerings and programs that can benefit their business and know not to leave them on the table. Small businesses should be just as savvy about what’s available to them. The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program — a coronavirus relief measure that incentivizes small businesses to keep their employees on payroll — is a good and timely place to start.
The pandemic has revealed the humanity we are capable of – what is possible when we work together and what we risk by being at odds. As people, industries and economies step into an unknowable future, the new paradigm for businesses of all sizes is to listen to consumers, learn from each other, move forward and grow stronger together.