1 in 2 businesses picked out ‘demand in the market’ as their number one challenge, according to a recent survey by Keep Britain Working and Reed.
Even for those that have seen their business improve post-Covid, market demand was still the top challenge, albeit for fewer businesses (42% versus 58%). Pre-Covid, a market may have been predictable and easy to plan for but this has all changed following restrictions to movement, local lockdowns, quarantine and shifting consumer behavior. Pre-Covid, businesses could act to open up new markets and focus their energies on particular segments but what we are seeing now is a situation which makes it hard for businesses to talk to their existing customers, let alone new ones, or forecast, making future plans difficult.
Comparing under-performing with over-performing businesses or those not seeing any change in performance, the biggest differences in the challenges they faced were ‘cashflow’ (+25% for under-performing businesses), ‘demand in the market’ (+17%), ‘maintaining supply chains’ (+15%) and ‘retaining employees/furlough’ (+15%).
|Which of these do you see as your biggest challenges right now?|
(please tick all that apply)
|Below average business performance|
|Rank||Above average or same business performance|
|Demand in the market||58%||1||42%||1||+17%|
|Return to the workplace||39%||3||40%||2||-1%|
|Future business plans||35%||4||26%||3||+9%|
|Retaining employees / redundancy||35%||5||25%||4||+10%|
|Maintaining supply chains||23%||6||8%||9||+15%|
|Being able to attract quality talent||13%||7||11%||8||+2%|
|Digital skills (e.g. website, e-commerce)||6%||8||6%||10||+1%|
|IT (e.g. remote working)||6%||9||13%||6||-7%|
|Sourcing PPE (personal protective equipment)||3%||11||4%||11||-1%|
The picture could be said to be even harder for local businesses. Where they once may have relied on footfall or signage to bring people in the front door, many are having to re-think their marketing strategy or even start to write one for the first time.
Whilst demand in the market is a top challenge for 48% of those surveyed, only 21% have investigated ‘new customers or markets’ and 12% state they are currently or planning to seek help for ‘Marketing and Sales’. Either they don’t know where to look or are facing more pressing concerns such as handling workers coming back from furlough, as two-thirds of businesses have used the scheme.
For financial challenges (e.g. cashflow), the signposting is clear and businesses can look to government or local authority assistance (e.g. business grant applications), but for other matters such as marketing there is uncertainty about who to turn to and many are likely having to research resources on their own.
Digital marketing can seem daunting but using social media is something most of us use daily and is a cost-effective way to reach targeted audiences, keeping them up to date with your business promotions. Along with this, e-commerce platforms (e.g. Deliveroo and Etsy) have enabled many businesses to continue trading. Some have even managed to benefit and push ahead as they take advantage of or pivot towards digital marketplaces; but for many, they lack the expertise to digitise or their business simply doesn’t allow for this.
Thinking creatively is often needed to unlock potential. In these post-Covid times we are seeing tradespeople undertaking quotes over video-chat, therapists seeing their clients over video or phone and of course restaurants signing up to online delivery services. It’s important to use all your tools at your disposal to benefit your business and protect not only your own livelihood but those you support or employ.
So, what can you do?
Keep Britain Working has partnered with Google to offer a free webinar on Social Media Strategy, perfect for businesses looking to make the most from Facebook, Twitter and so on. Visit this link to register for free.
And here are some useful links to find out more about digital marketing:
- Digital Marketing blog article, Federation of Small Business
- E-commerce blog article, Federation of Small Business
- Free 2-week digital marketing course from Future Learn
- Google Primer – free app with bite-sized lessons on topics including digital marketing