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June 26, 2020

How Maine’s small businesses can turn crisis into opportunity  

Maine’s small business owners are dealing with one challenging event after another.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Last month, Maine employers created more than 14,000 jobs — the largest monthly gain on record.

Still, Maine’s job creators must remain wary during the economic reopening phase. Just because Maine’s economy is rounding back into form doesn’t mean that small business owners are immune to short- and long-term challenges. On the contrary, 55% of small business owners believe that it will take six months to a year for America’s business climate to return to normal, up from 46% in April.

We need to be patient, but not at the expense of being proactive. In Chinese, the word crisis is made up of two characters: “Danger” and “opportunity.” Small business owners can turn the COVID-19 pandemic into a growth opportunity.

The first step is to look into a brand recovery plan, mapping out goals and objectives to achieve in the coming months. Then, small businesses must implement strategies and tactics to see them out — concrete strategies and tactics, on paper.

This includes creating a “stakeholder map,” which shows the people who are part of your network in concentric circles. Figuring out your network ultimately allows you to determine your target audience — who you can and should “touch.”

In rural states like Maine, that network is even more important. After all, as U.S. Sen. Angus King, Maine-I, often says, our state is like one big small town. And, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of reaching out to those in your network is only magnified.

The same logic can be applied to consumers. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is largely contained, customers and clients are still wary of a “second wave.” In fact, eight in 10 consumers fear a “second wave,” meaning that they don’t fully trust the recovery yet.

Small business owners must understand that they are not dealing with “typical” consumers nowadays. Skittishness now defines clients and customers who were once all-too-eager to spend money.

With that in mind, small business needs to leverage optimism and positivity in its messaging. Today’s consumers need to be reassured, and small business owners must be the ones reassuring them. From taking the proper health and safety precautions to launching new product lines and offering “back-to-work” discounts, there are a number of ways to convey positive energy.

Here are three specific ways to do it:

  • Speak to and from the heart. Remember, consumers have been cooped up in quarantine, longing for social contact. Small business owners should show that they care, they’re listening, and their brand can help. Only by understanding the unique wants and needs of today’s consumers can small businesses hope to address them.
  • Plan events. Speaking of wants and needs, consumers want and need reasons to go outside. This is the time to explore. Knowing that, small business owners should map out fun, immersive events to get people excited about small business again. While taking the proper precautions, of course, small business pop-up sales and other events can rejuvenate the long-quarantined consumer.
  • Embrace digital. Whether they are at home or outdoors, consumers are checking their computers, phones and iPads on an hourly basis. This is an opportunity for small businesses to be seen, filling news feeds with informative videos and other content that can motivate consumers to do what they do best: Consume. If clients and customers can’t visit you in person, take your business to them.

It will take months or even years for Maine’s small businesses to find their footing, but the most brand-consumed small business owners can reach clients and customers in new, unexpected ways. As the Chinese say, crisis is an opportunity.

Optimism. Positivity. Excitement. That’s what Maine’s consumers want and need. And that’s exactly what small business should be giving them.

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June 26, 2020

Good read! If small businesses bring positive energy, consumers will be more likely to venture outside. Let's support local.

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