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Proven strategies to prepare your SMB for growth

More than two in five SMBs say maintaining financial growth is one of the top three hurdles to business growth and nearly half expect COVID to modify the way they operate in the long term. Here, two Trailblazers, Nick Holden, Founder and Director of ModularWalls, and Christopher Tsiknas, Marketing and Partnerships Specialist at Lawpath, share their business 2020 growth stories. Discover how they maneuvered hurdles and modified for success.

Uncertainty. It was the dominating feeling of early 2020 when the pandemic hit, with over half of SMBs worried about reduced customer demand according to our latest Small & Medium Business Trends report. But for these two SMBs businesses, that feeling quickly transformed into momentum as it became clear business growth was set to accelerate. 

“Yes, it was definitely a bit scary,” says Nick of those first nerve wracking weeks in March and April. “But fortunately we have a big enough workshop that we were able to keep people at work and just rotate the sales staff to maintain COVID safety.” Existing CRM platforms came to the fore with sales people able to maintain real-time 360-degree views of the customer from their mobile devices. 

“The pandemic brought into sharp relief a whole bunch of things we’d been putting off – this or that could wait till next week or be put on the back burner for another month. Suddenly the time to do those things was now and we ran with it.”

Christopher also experienced the impact of the pandemic as a call to action for the business. “We were feeling cautious, like a lot of businesses. But optimism has always been at the heart of Lawpath and this was like a great opportunity to explore what might be possible.”

Test the water with both feet: using tech to scale at speed

ModularWalls has long embraced digital technologies on its path to growth so turning to tech to facilitate further growth over the pandemic was an easy choice. “Lots of people were finally doing their home improvement projects and taking advantage of government stimulus offers and less red tape – we had to be ready for that,” says Nick.

Using the Lightning platform, Nick and his team developed and launched the ‘Quick Quote Calculator’ as part of The Neighbourhood – ModularWall’s support site. It’s a simple tool customers can use to generate a quote using the visual options that are so important to showing what ModularWalls can achieve. “Plus it helps us capture more customer data that we can then feed into the Marketing Cloud,” adds Nick. 

And the result? “Well, at first everyone stressed out a bit because our lead rate – which had been increasing organically quite successfully – dropped from about 150 per week to less than half.” But something more important was going on. “Our conversion rate jumped dramatically from about 20% to around 40%. Engagement was way up and we were generating far more qualified leads. We were finally getting through to the right people with the right information.”

Constant and careful analysis of the customer data was critical. “We were revising all the time,” explains Nick. “We’d check where customers were dropping off then make changes to ensure the customer was more successfully engaged and moving further along the journey. Then when they got to the point of calling us, we were having much more productive conversations.”

“Sometimes you’ve just got to be prepared to test the water with both feet,” says Nick of his all-in, double-down approach to business during the pandemic.

Lawpath also had the technology in place to not only roll with the pandemic punches but use them to their advantage. “Lawpath was born digital,” explains Chris. “So we were well placed for remote working and digital communication.” Not working in an office environment did change a few things, however. “We did ramp up our comms and project management tools so our sales team had easy real-time access to all the info they needed via dashboards and didn’t have to rely on those spontaneous office conversations you could have to share information.” 

With the tech and the know-how in place, Lawpath found the pandemic was a way to get in front of people who might not otherwise use such a service. “The shift to everything being online really changed the way people thought about professional services, especially legal.” In an industry often associated with gleaming offices and financially inaccessible services, Lawpath presented a fresh view of what was possible when it came to getting legal advice. 

“Clients were much more comfortable using video conferencing to have meetings and discuss their legal issues – that way of communicating just became normalised so quickly. We were able to get our message out much more easily than if we’d depended on a big office environment with in-house filing systems and fancy conference rooms.”

The pandemic amplified the need for Lawpath’s flagship legal advice plan and they also established an online document witnessing protocol (approved by the Law Society) which meant people didn’t have to meet face-to-face to legally sign and witness documents. “That was a great example of how we were able to use digital technology to adapt on the fly,” says Chris.

Why the human touch – and takeaway pizza – still matter

By automating back-end functions there was more time for the sales team at ModularWalls to spend on the phone, nurturing their leads. They even added a dedicated customer service rep. “It’s easy to under serve the customer if you never meet them,” says Nick. “We don’t want to hide behind emails – we know how critical the customer experience is and for us it’s about maintaining a seamless process driven experience with the ‘hands on’ attention some customers still count on.”

Nick describes it as akin to the best pizza ordering experience you’ve ever had. “Make it easy, give lots of updates about when your pizza is going to arrive. But also give plenty of opportunities for customers to make changes and to chat to you for reassurance. It’s really about doing what you will say you will do – and a lot of the time that’s something as simple as returning a phone call.” 

Chris says that listening to what people have been looking for over this difficult period showing compassion and empathy for their feelings of uncertainty and fear, has been critical to providing great service. “Our customers are often handling complex issues and taking some big leaps into starting businesses. It’s important we understand their challenges and fears. Yes, all the digital solutions are important but sometimes nothing beats just being able to talk to someone.” Moving away from the traditionally clinical view of legal advice and transforming their model from purely transactional to truly relationship-based has been an important part of Lawpath’s success.

The takeaways – without the pizza

Nick: “Are you squeezing everything you can get out of your existing technology? Are you being really clear about what problems you want to solve? Are you training, training, training your staff? Finish something before you move on and start with clarity about what you next want to achieve.”

Chris: “Have the tools ready to go and be comfortable using them. Automate as much as you can so you have more time to spend nurturing your customer relationships. The right digital solutions can drive efficiency and that’s what keeps your costs down and makes your service more accessible to more people.”

Discover more insights into the challenges SMBs are facing and what solutions might be possible. Download the Small & Medium Business Trends Report here.

Merlin Luck

Merlin Luck is Regional Vice President of Small Business at Salesforce.

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