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Entrepreneurs and marketing in a time of economic recovery

Entrepreneurs and marketing in a time of economic recovery

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Isar Kiani

November 2021 has been designated by President Biden as National Entrepreneurship Month. For many entrepreneurs, the past two years have been among the most challenging, with pandemic related issues including health concerns, mandated closures, labor shortages and supply disruptions. These are just a few of the challenges, while the list can be quite extensive.  

Despite these challenges, according to a report by the Census Bureau, the number of new businesses created during the pandemic has dramatically increased, with 2020 seeing a 24% increase. Many of those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic were among those who stepped onto the path of entrepreneurship. However, success and survival of such ventures requires utilizing every capacity available, including refined marketing initiatives.  

  1. If using help from marketing professionals, be selective. Many entrepreneurs have experienced this sudden increase in contacts from individuals who claim to be marketing experts, particularly in the online environment. Some of those marketing professionals may in fact have good track records, however, many of them don’t meet the bar. Be very selective about who you work for and try to understand what unique features they bring to the table. Don’t be fooled by facts and figures that are too broad or general and instead, be critical and allow the marketing professional to demonstrate how they can help. Keeping your costs in check begins by using the right professional help. 
  2. The pandemic has shifted the balance toward online business models, but only barely. Studies show that there is still considerable preference among customers to shop in physical locations, especially for products that are associated with a tactile experience. If your business works better by offering products in physical locations, stick to that plan. Use online and digital platforms to support your business model, but you don’t have to completely replace it.  
  3. You don’t have to move your business online, but online should be a more important part of your customer service. While studies show and predict that a significant part of customers will revert to their pre-pandemic habits, it is undeniable that many businesses improved their online presence over the past two years. This is not likely to go away. Customer have benefited from a range of activities in the digital environment which have improved the overall shopping experience. Price comparisons, product specifications, registration forms, inquiry platforms and many more things important to shoppers are now done over the internet. For entrepreneurs, this means that they deal with competitors that are more tech savvy and better prepared than before.  
  4. Shortage of supply opens customers to new or alternative products. There are more opportunities for innovative ideas and thinking outside the box. Marketing communications that address this and establish a product or service as a viable alternative are instrumental to success.  
  5. Customer segmentation matters more than before; re-identify who you serve. The pandemic may not have shifted the fundamentals of customer decision making, but it has emboldened the lines that defined customer segments. Previously existing customer preferences that were seen as unrealistic were met by businesses that attempted to hang on to any thread that would keep them in businesses. Many of those practices offered improvements to existing business processes and will likely remain as part of standard operations. However, some other practices proved too costly to sustain and instead of helping businesses stay afloat, dragged them down. Entrepreneurs need to distinguish among customers whose expectations fall within the realm of realism. Understanding customer segments that allow for business continuity and avoiding segments that cause more cost that benefits is a critical step in the road of survival and success.  
  6. Competition is higher, and businesses now have more skin in the game, so buckle up. If. If in the past, passive marketing efforts would have worked to attract a segment of customers, now, they may not suffice. Entrepreneurs need to be more aware being an entrepreneur in the past meant facing many challenges, those challenges have now multiplied. An impact of the pandemic was that federal and state governments offered many protection programs for small businesses to keep them funded throughout the pandemic. In many cases, funds came with personal guarantees and with the pandemic lasting for so long, now many small business owners and entrepreneurs face an increased pressure to stay in the game as much as necessary of this heightened competitive landscape and be more proactive in communicating their business to existing and potential customers through channels that are effective, but least costly. Marketing should become an everyday job, just as important as operations.  

Isar Kiani is an assistant professor of marketing at St. John Fisher College, a marketing consultant and an entrepreneur.