Have you ever heard a comment or a phrase that felt like a punch in the gut?

At an online conference last week, the speaker said, “you can make excuses or you can make progress, but you can’t make both.” Boom. That one stung a little.

I immediately thought of the common goals everyone has for the new year – getting in shape and taking better care of your health – they always sound good at first, but they’re usually followed by nothing but excuses.

How Does This Apply to Business?

As I kept thinking about that phrase, I thought about my clients and other businesses who have been scrambling and hustling to keep themselves afloat. They had to adapt, setting up tents in the parking lot to have “patio dining”, creating online and curbside services, changing their protocols and doing everything they can to safely serve their customers in this time, while also protecting their staff.

The creativity and sheer determination has been impressive. When faced with these obstacles, they could’ve chosen the “easy route” and just close their doors to the public. But instead, they chose to find an alternative that would allow them to make progress.

COVID19 and The Great Depression

The more I thought about it, the more it reminded me of studies I had read about businesses who came out of the Great Depression strong. One of those businesses was Proctor and Gamble.

During the Great Depression, unemployment soared, spending slowed down and businesses cut back (sound familiar?). In sum, many businesses were suffering, much like today. When mainstay grocers cut their orders, that hurt companies like P&G who supplied their products.

Instead of hunkering it down and waiting it out, they got creative and decided that, since people would still need soap, they would make sure they were the soap of choice.

This quote below comes from an article from Mental Floss explaining how they did that:

“Thus, instead of throttling down its advertising efforts to cut costs, the company actively pursued new marketing avenues, including commercial radio broadcasts. One of these tactics involved sponsoring daily radio serials aimed at homemakers, the company’s core market. In 1933, P&G debuted its first serial, Oxydol’s Own Ma Perkins, and women around the country quickly fell in love with the tales of the kind widow. The program was so successful that P&G started cranking out similar programs to support its other brands, and by 1939, the company was producing 21 radio shows—and pioneering the “soap opera.”

Despite the challenges of the time, this company rose up with creativity to be the soap of choice and it served them well.

How Can Small Businesses Survive Tough Times?

I know small businesses may not have the ad budgets of P&G, but that’s not a reason to back down. If you want to outlast this season, creativity, gumption, AND remaining present in marketing will be essential to your success. You can’t afford to disappear, even if you’re closed at your brick and mortar. You need to find a way to continue a relationship with your customers online.

We’ve seen some businesses who have been deeply impacted, but they are choosing to make excuses over progress. They don’t show up consistently, they aren’t communicating, their voicemails are full, and they aren’t answering customers’ requests. You can’t afford to have this happen to you right now.

While I totally understand the impacts that have taken place, there are many studies out there (inclusively ones done during COVID times) that suggest that more than 50% of the consumers will leave and go somewhere else if the customer experience is bad. I don’t know many businesses (certainly not mine) that can do without HALF of their customer base.

Even if it’s just you left – answer your phone, call back, email, update your public information. Don’t shrink because of challenges. Rise up with gumption and figure out how…even on a limited basis. I know you can!

It’s tough right now – for everyone. But are you making progress during this time? Or are you making excuses? We can’t do both. I truly believe this can be a time of growth. What do you think?

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