Article by: Business Builders
For many small business owners, continuing to do business as we recover from the effects of COVID-19-related restrictions will require fresh thinking and reinvention, writes Tony Wall, Head of Design at Intuit QuickBooks Australia.
The challenge of deciding what’s worth keeping, what’s worth changing and what’s worth throwing out entirely can seem daunting. We use design thinking to solve these big picture problems. Here are a few steps you can apply in your business to decide whether and how to change your operations, as government restrictions begin to ease.
Start with deep customer empathy
Begin with the people you depend on to keep your business afloat: your customers. It’s time to find out how they really feel about your business and your products or services. What’s their appetite for it? How’s it working for them? What drives them crazy or turns them off? These are important questions we should be able to answer. After all, it’s a whole lot cheaper to retain good customers than it is to find new ones.
For customers who have stuck with you through this pandemic, what is driving their loyalty? These are your best customers and probably your best word of mouth advocates. Now is a good time to figure out you how can work more with these customers – and other customers like them – in the future.
When gathering feedback:
- Consider creating a quick survey using a tool like Google forms. Create questions that ask customers to respond on a sliding scale, so that you get a quantifiable response rather than a simple yes or no. This will help you understand how customers are feeling in greater detail and give you pointers on which areas to prioritise.
- Be conscious of the fact that customers often tell you what they’re thinking, but not why. A survey can hint at what issues might be, but you may want to follow up with them to dig a bit deeper into some of their responses.
This is exactly what Intuit recently did that led to the launch of our Cashflow Planner Tool for small businesses. We wanted to dig deeper into how small businesses were feeling during the pandemic, what problems they faced and how we can help them. We did a survey to see how they’re feeling, looked at some of our internal product data to see what features were being using the most, and had some discussions with customers to learn more about their pain points.
Once we came up with some ideas, we developed some lightweight prototypes to see if what we had in mind would resonate. After a few more tweaks, our Cashflow Planner Tool was born.
Go broad to go narrow
The results are in – you’ve got some insights into what works well for your customers and what doesn’t. It’s time now for some blue sky thinking. Brainstorm a ton of ideas about what you could be doing differently. We call this “going broad to go narrow”.
Plot out your ideas on a chart that shows what your potential profit might be from offering that service versus the cost or time to implement it. Is it worth it? Is it unique and competitive? This exercise can help you focus on a few ideas that are worth exploring further.
Making it easy for customers – and worth it
Two primary questions for many businesses is what products and services it should offer and then how much to charge for them. Your customer conversations and survey data will give you a deeper insight into changes you may want to consider making.
For many small businesses, offering adjacent services is a logical next step. One example I saw recently was a graphic designer who started providing print services. That’s a logical add-on and an easy way to bring in more revenue related to your core business service. If you’ve ever noticed your customers asking if you provide a particular service when they buy from you, that’s a good sign you may want to explore that further, as it could make life easier for your customers.
Many businesses also struggle to nail down their pricing strategy. It can be an afterthought, based on gut instinct and looking at what competitors are doing. Try experimenting. You could offer a different rate to certain customers to see how they respond or consider setting up a separate page on your website that offers alternative prices for your products and see which offer gets more traction.
COVID-19 will be the worst experience for many small businesses – but just as it has caused many to reassess their daily habits, it may also be an opportunity to come back stronger. Talk to your customers, get brainstorming, run some experiments, and see what sticks.