We all get stuck in a slump now and again. Even today’s largest, most successful companies have experienced rough patches.
For example, Apple is an iconic global brand, recently valued at over $800 billion. However, pre-Steve Jobs’ 1997 return, it was facing bankruptcy.
Amazon has been called the most innovative company of the year. According to a recent report, it is worth over $430 billion (likely more after its Prime Day success). However, two years ago, it experienced some of its lowest returns when it released the Amazon Fire smartphone, a flop that cost them over $170 million in losses.
Starbucks is one of the world’s most admired companies and has a market cap value of close to $85 billion. In the 2000s they over expanded, opening locations on every corner and delving into music, books and other entertainment ventures. They lost focus on what made their business great in the first place and as a result, their stock value plummeted and it looked like the company was on the way down.
All of these now successful companies, have experienced tough times, but they revamped their brand and profitability. At 10twelve, we work with our clients to continuously keep their business fresh and relevant to their customers. If it feels like your business is in a slump, follow these tips to make a comeback.
1. Reflect on your goals and progress.
You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Some business owners may be in denial of their troubles, but avoiding problems won’t make them go away. They’ll likely get bigger and lead to your company’s ultimate downfall. It is critical to track all of your efforts, reflect on your goals and assess your progress.
Do monthly or even weekly business “check-ups”. It is easy to get lost in the day-to-day grind of running a business. However, it is important to fit in time for reflection. Take time to look at the big picture view. Are the tasks that you or your employees doing helping to reach those goals? Are they generating revenue or are their efforts that aren’t producing results and draining resources?
2. Track everything.
Reflection is great, but you can’t rely on gut feelings. It is possible to track every facet of your business, from employee productivity to website sales conversions. The more that you know about your business, the better and more strategic your decision-making.
Pull actionable insights from data. Identify small minor problems and make adjustments early on to prevent them from becoming bigger, insurmountable problems later.
3. Do you really know your customers? Get to know them again.
Your company success depends on your customers, and the relationships that you have with them. Maybe you don’t know your customers as well as you thought? Maybe your customers aren’t even who you thought they were? There also may be opportunities to reach another demographic that is just as profitable.
For example, in the early 2000s, Pabst Blue Ribbon sales were on a steep decline. However, the company noticed that in some U.S. cities the sales were much higher, so it started to investigate the market in these cities. Who was buying all this beer and why? Enter the age of hipsters. Capitalizing on PBR’s newfound hipster market, the beer became “cool” again and sales increased.
The lesson: Review your customer data. Conduct research. Find out who your customers are, what they care about and how you can enhance their experience with your brand. Continuously update your buyer personas to guide your efforts.
4. It’s all about timing.
Sometimes, even if you have an excellent product, the market might not be ready for it. Timing is everything. The Ubers, Airbnb's and Rent the Runways of the world wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago. Now, they are key players in the sharing economy.
If your product or service is truly revolutionary, then it may mean that consumers need to be educated on not only how to use it but why they should. It may be too ahead of its time or too late. Conduct thorough market research. If there is a real pain point that your company solves, infrastructure to support your solution, and a competitive but not overly saturated market, timing may be right.
5. Accumulate small, quick wins.
Transforming your business won’t happen overnight, but you can keep yourself and your team motivated by going for smaller wins. Over time, those small victories build up a momentum and give your team the confidence and skills to face bigger challenges. In science, this is known as the winner effect. After a win, our bodies flood with testosterone that boosts our confidence and motivation. Instead of trying to double revenue in six months, focus on a series of more realistic, short-term goals that will lead to greater returns in the long-term.
6. Experiment with marketing.
When in times of trouble, marketing is one of the first things that companies cut as an attempt to minimize costs. However, it is often a huge mistake. Cutting marketing completely could actually quicken the pace of your company’s demise instead of the other way around.
The key is to invest in smarter marketing strategies. You don’t have to pour tens of thousands of dollars into marketing to get effective results. Experiment with different marketing and advertising tactics. Try a guerilla campaign. Run A/B tests on content and frequently make adjustments to optimize results. Focus on channels that your customers use the most often.
Invest in great storytelling and lead the narrative. Everyone loves a comeback story. Instead of viewing hard times as a shameful failure, view them as a learning opportunities. They are challenges to overcome, and they can make your company feel more human.
7. Embrace a mindset of constant innovation.
You may just get stuck in a rut because your business hasn’t changed anything in 10 years. Although it is important to stay true to your core values and mission, you also have to adjust with the times. Keep customers not only satisfied but interested and engaged. They should be excited about what your company is going to do next. Analyze customer data and behavior and ask for feedback on how you can improve your business.
Experiencing failures and setbacks doesn’t mean the end of your business. Instead, it could be the perfect opportunity to revamp your business and make it even better than it was before, just take a cue from the greatest comeback stories of our culture.
To get back on track Jobs formed an alliance with its competitor Microsoft, cut back on expensive projects, shifted focus on building better products like the iMac, and kept on innovating.
Amazon took the lessons it learned from the Fire fiasco and used it to create better products that people would actually buy. They didn’t stop taking risks. They just were smarter about which risks they took.
Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, focused on getting the company back to its core values and offering customers the best experience and products.
Identify what is holding your business back and make changes. Search for opportunities to improve and new, meaningful ways to connect with your target audiences. For more tips and advice on how to revive and grow your business, feel free to contact the 10twelve team today for a consultation.