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Discovering A Path To Business Growth Amidst A Global Pandemic

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” is a series of stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies.


With 2020 nearly in the books, it’s natural to look back at all that happened this year to evaluate how it impacted our personal and professional lives. When COVID-19 struck in the first quarter, many of us saw our lofty 2020 ambitions fade as dreaming big turned into a matter of survival.

Suddenly, businesses were less bothered by competitors and more threatened by a volatile market with no predictable timeline. Entrepreneurs and business owners had to get creative to keep their revenue flowing in, while also making complicated and often emotional decisions regarding staffing.

To put it simply, 2020 has been a tough one for most. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried quite a few tears at the beginning of the pandemic. I think many of us did as the world around us became more uncertain as the days went by. For business owners accustomed to controlling their future, watching the pandemic impact the community while standing by helplessly was devastating. We saw fellow businesses shutter, whole teams let go, and colleagues worry about the future, and we worried right alongside them.

We’re now many months into this pandemic and, for the most part, we’ve learned to adapt to the new norms. We’ve adjusted to working from home and remote leadership. We’ve nailed down the right schedule to make sure the little ones are signed on to virtual school on time. We’ve embraced virtual ways to connect with our loved ones.

Yet, while those hard months are behind us, we still have a journey ahead of us. Business growth in a pandemic is nothing short of an uphill battle every day. Over the past eight months, we have had our fair share of trials, successes and absolute failures, but each one was a valuable learning lesson pushing us forward on the path.

Here are five key takeaways from 2020, which we’ve harnessed to grow our business in new — and unexpected — ways.

 

Brand audits are essential for business growth

Your brand is the extension of your company that goes out into the world to capture the hearts of your target market and turns prospects into booked clients. Taking this time to examine your brand is incredibly important as we head into a year of uncertainty. When everything feels upside down, people want consistency and reliability from the brands they support. Look beyond the basics like logos and colors, turning your focus instead to your reputation. What do people say when you leave the room? What is the overarching message behind your company?

Every aspect of your digital footprint must represent your brand, from your website’s pages to the board on your Pinterest profile. All of your marketing, employee communications, sales collateral, and customer touchpoints must align to bring your brand to life. Use this downtime to hit pause and audit your entire brand experience to ensure your communications embrace the voice of your business.

Rock Paper Coin website design image
 

Great businesses have great data

It’s true: Data makes the world go ’round. If you want to grow your business, you need to understand the effective strategies that work in your company and those that don’t. The only real way to gain concrete insights about your business performance is through quantitative data. Install Google Analytics on your website (if you haven’t already) and check your social media profiles to keep track of the most valuable metrics that signify success (or failure)—click rates, traffic, inquiries, engagement on individual posts, and so on.

Additionally, take some time to speak with past, current and potential clients. Ask them what they like or dislike about your brand, as well as the market as a whole. Likewise, discuss barriers to entry: What are their biggest obstacles when making a purchasing decision? While numbers are vital to a business’ health, this qualitative data is just as invaluable because it provides an inside look at your ideal client’s mind. Collect this data and turn it into an actionable roadmap for future projects or development.

 

Partnerships are where the magic happens

Combining two great brands is a recipe for success, as each brings a lot of value to the table. In addition to innovative ideas and unique business models, brand partnerships also widen your reach to engage with corners of the market you may not have previously touched. Increased brand visibility and third-party validation are just two reasons that brand partnerships can be one of the most transformative steps you can take for your business.

If you’re interested in exploring brand partnerships, there really is no better time than the present. Despite all of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has had a way of bringing the business community closer through the shared experience. Are there other businesses you’d like to work with that align with your clients on another level? Is there a company that offers similar but different services? Toss out a line and explore the options at your disposal. Partnerships can vary from discounted packages combining services to shared email campaign lists or social media cross-promotion. There are many possibilities, so get creative together and find a solution that both parties find valuable.

 
Rock Paper Coin women holding ballons
   

Every dollar must matter

We know that each business expense must always push the needle somehow, but especially so in times of uncertainty and potential economic downturn. However, that doesn’t mean you need to pinch every penny to make it through; it just means you need to make wise investments. Right now, a dollar spent goes twice as far as a dollar spent in December 2019. Many companies, agencies and consultants are offering discounts to drum up business.

If you have the resources available, now is a great time to invest in some contracts to help expand your reach and grow your business. Hire an ad agency to start up a social media campaign or book a consultant to help break down the steps to reach your big goals. It’s a good time to maximize each and every dollar, so don’t be afraid to try something new. No matter what avenue you explore, be sure to track ROI to determine what is most successful.

 

It’s up to you to remove client barriers

Growing a company is an impressive feat on its own, but it won’t grow if there are any obstacles for new clients. Barriers can be anything from a website that won’t load on a mobile device, a broken contact form, a FAQ page that doesn’t answer the right questions, or a consultation that doesn’t sell clients on the value of the product or service.

To identify potential barriers, do a deep dive into your marketing, sales and onboarding procedures. Note any gaps that may let prospects fall through the cracks—perhaps you need a more robust email funnel or your blog lacks valuable content that speaks to your brand’s expertise. Every action you take as a business owner should be an effort to attract and sell new clients on your brand, focusing on your current operations to see how you can better reach and engage with people within your target market.

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One note worth mentioning is that any business growth typically requires a financial investment, especially if you plan to expand your team. If you take one thing from this article, let it be this: Fundraise early and often. Start raising funds at least eight months before you need the money.

Right now, it’s an incredibly difficult time to raise money, and the next few months will follow in suit. In the wake of COVID-19, investors are moving slowly, some businesses are waiting for a reopening date, and still others are closing down temporarily. Many things come into play when investors lean into a venture, so go into the process knowing that it will take time–no matter how sound and compelling your business plan. Don’t get discouraged. As one of our mentors told us earlier on, the money is out there; you just have to talk to hundreds of people to find it. From experience, I can confirm that it’s true. Just keep looking.

In every crisis lies opportunity and the pandemic is no exception. Creativity tends to bloom when resources are tight; in fact, many companies we know and love were born out of the 2008-09 recession. Crisis teaches resiliency and steadfastness, which are invaluable qualities for navigating the ups and downs of running a business.

Remember: In the darkness, there will always be light if you keep looking for it. Use this time to focus inward on your company. Learn new things, streamline your operations, nurture your network, and consider these the first steps toward the business growth you aim to achieve. When the dust settles, you’ll be ready and raring to go with a fully optimized company and a fresh perspective for the future.


Elizabeth Sheils is the co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, the first software platform to bring together wedding planners, couples and vendors into one system for managing and paying contracts and invoices. She was recently recognized by Special Events in its Top 25 Event Pros to Watch series.