Small businesses have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the first three quarters of 2020, the 50 largest companies in the U.S. saw their revenues grow by an average of 2 percent. Meanwhile, small businesses lost 12 percent of their revenues and more than 100,000 permanently closed. The Paycheck Protection Program hardly stanched the bleeding and was criticized for benefitting larger companies more than the small businesses it was intended for.
One reason smaller firms are disproportionately suffering is that they have struggled to reach their customers during the pandemic. Small businesses generally sell to small markets, whether that’s residents of a specific town or neighborhood or customers with niche interests. They often rely on community-based sales channels like neighborhood foot traffic, farmers markets, trade shows, local events and in-store promotions — all of which were greatly limited by the pandemic. Large corporations, meanwhile, have the resources to smoothly adapt their operations and reach customers through mass-advertising and premium-marketing campaigns.
While widespread vaccination and economic recovery are on the horizon, small businesses looking to rebuild their customer base must do more than simply return to their pre-pandemic sales channels. Social distancing will not go away overnight, and the new shopping habits people acquired may linger past the pandemic. For businesses to successfully rebuild, they need to leverage digital technology and find innovative ways to re-engage with customers.
As a professor at the USC Marshall School of Business who studies how businesses use technology platforms, I have watched small firms leap online in droves over the past year, launching and managing Amazon storefronts, Etsy shops, Instagram pages and Yelp profiles. However, as they go digital, small businesses shouldn’t simply mimic what works for large companies (something few can afford anyway).
Instead, they should focus on the big advantage they have over large corporations: They are part of the community. Here are four research-based strategies for how small businesses can marry digital tools with their unique ability to foster community and social connection in a time of crisis and renewal….
Read the full article online at Entrepreneur.
This article was produced by Footnote in partnership with University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.