Before the crisis, we captured key insights into the unique challenges small businesses face in the evolving modern business landscape. Compared to large companies or corporations, small business owners may be working with less resources and time. This makes it even more challenging to stabilise in the middle of a global pandemic.

This crisis impacts everyone, reminding us that we’re all connected and need to assist each other. So we put together 3 tips to help small businesses prepare for growth and adapt to new customer expectations.

Growing a business is always a challenge, especially with the current obstacles and setbacks. 


Businesses operate at different speeds

Different businesses, geographies, and industries operate at separate paces. Within a company, it’s possible for a department or region to be working at its own speed. 

For instance, a region may be struggling to stabilise because it doesn’t have easy access to information or processes to make quick operating decisions. This hinders a team’s efforts to return to the workplace because they will be spending more time on trying to stabilise. Conversely, some companies are already moving into a massive growth phase. They may be more prepared digitally or the demand for their products or services has increased.

It’s important to note that small businesses play a critical role in driving the world’s economies. In the EU alone, businesses of 250 employees or less account for 99.8% of all nonfinancial enterprises and 66% of employment. They also contribute 57% of the economic value, amounting to more than €4 trillion.

But there’s something economists don’t capture: passion. Large enterprises have room for fluff—they swell, they bloat, and they slow down if they aren’t careful. SMBs don’t have that luxury, and as a result, they rely on speed. As we all know, the only way to thrive as a fast-paced organisation is to build your team with passionate people that care about what you do. 


Tip 1: Get to know your customers and how to engage them

As you stabilise your business and prepare to reopen, you can still spend time connecting with your customers. Finding, winning, and keeping customers is key to business success. But this can be difficult when customer expectations are a moving target. Especially, during a crisis. Businesses are struggling to keep up with the latest customer demands and changes in the current market.

Our Small to Medium Business Trends Report found that keeping up with customer expectations is a primary challenge. When compared to enterprises, 53% of SMB leaders feel at a competitive disadvantage in meeting customer expectations.

However, one of the key assets of SMBs is their relationship with their customers. Fostering good rapport with customers and taking the time to build a genuine connection supersedes consumer expectations. Moreover, being a smaller business gives you an unparalleled advantage in being able to know your customers individually, on a one-to-one level. Businesses need to nurture this relationship and offer the best customer experience possible. 

SMBs want to know their customers. They are driven by a passion and agility that is virtually impossible to replicate in enterprise companies. Always make sure to check in with your customers and streamline your day-to-day tasks so you can focus on them. 

To align with social distancing standards, here is a list of new ways to digitally engage with your customers: 

  • Set up a remote call center: your customers want answers, like is your business operating online now? Or, when will you reopen? So, make sure there is a direct line for you to answer their questions. 
  • Increase performance on your social channels: Update your customers on your latest business efforts, products, and services. Let them know that your business isn't going anywhere and you're here to stay.
  • Monitor your customer engagements: A CRM system is a great way to keep track of all your interactions with customers on different channels. Keep your business engagements organised and never miss a customer inquiry!


Tip 2: Measure what works and refine your approach as you go

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. 

It is important to track the value of your strategies by identifying key performance indicators (KPIs). These help entrepreneurs focus their time, energy, and money on the strategies that are growing their businesses. Moreover, they can use KPIs to eliminate those that aren’t. Running a small business is a juggling act. So it can be difficult to move forward with a growth strategy and stabilise your business when there’s barely time for the day-to-day.

Also, keep an eye on the competition, what are they doing to grow their businesses? How have their products and/or services changed to adapt to the current market? This is where technology can be a significant help when strategising your plans for growth.

Before the crisis, business owners spent the majority of their time on in-house tasks. According to the Time to Transform survey, these tasks were aimed at sustaining current business, rather than on generating growth. Now, leaders are focused on adapting to the "next normal" and improving their growth plan to meet new customer demands. But how can a small business, with limited resources, concentrate on growth when there's hardly time for the day-to-day?

By having the right technology to free up your time for a growth plan! 

For instance, a CRM system makes processes more organised and proficient. It improves your team productivity by automating time-consuming administrative tasks. It also keeps all your data in one place by eliminating disconnected systems. This includes spreadsheets or other physical paperwork that can slow your business down as you manage growth. 

Once you have goals in place, the centralised reporting from a CRM system helps you understand different aspects of your business. For instance, you can monitor how your employees and teams are progressing toward those goals. Comprehensive dashboards track key metrics to monitor progress at a glance.


Tip 3: Scale your business for growth and long-term customer relationships

Benjamin Franklin once famously said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Now, planning is more important than ever. Even before the crisis, 50% of small business startups fail before they reach the five-year mark.

Many SMBs are so focused on ensuring business growth that they fail to adequately plan for it. When they finally get the success they deserve, they face various issues (funding, staff, etc.) and often are not prepared to support this growth.

One advantage small businesses have over large corporations is the high level of quality and service. They have the opportunity to create long-lasting connections. Think of your customers as your second family and how valuable they are to you, especially during the global pandemic.

As the business grows, however, it can be more difficult to maintain these standards, particularly in customer service.

A CRM system automates processes to accommodate the ebbs and flows of growth. If your basic administrative needs are automated, your team will be better equipped to adjust to the rapid influxes of customers, without sacrificing service. It also helps you keep all your customer information centralised, ensuring that your long-term relationships don’t suffer as your customer base increases. With CRM reporting tools, you can track all aspects of your business to see which areas need improvement as you grow.

Want to know more about the impact a CRM system can have on your small business? Get the CRM, A recipe for success report to learn key industry insights and how to scale your business.