Bootstrapping in the New Normal: Top Tips from Small Business Leaders

In 2020, small businesses are demonstrating characteristic resilience and finding new ways to adapt and innovate for their customers.

In an effort to understand how to best support small business customers, the Salesforce small business team spoke with dozens of customers to learn how they are tapping into their characteristic scrappiness. Three particularly resourceful ideas emerged: membership programs, an even stronger focus on service, and community-based webinars.

Membership Programs

Generate immediate cash flow and greater customer loyalty

A B2B tech company that serves restaurants knew its client base was struggling to bring in revenue during this time, so they launched a membership program to support their restaurant clients. Consumers could purchase a membership at a restaurant of their choice for a small one-time fee, and based on the membership, receive a certain percentage off every order for a year.

This program, facilitated through Salesforce, created a quick, much-needed influx of cash for restaurants, and also helped them secure customers who’d be incentivized to use the discount to continue purchasing food.

Support your market segment and gain new customers

A similar story can be seen in another B2B tech company that services hotels, another highly impacted industry. This company is a digital consultancy that manages Latin American hotels’ online presence. In response to the pandemic, they launched a program that allows would-be travelers & patrons to buy gift cards or make donations to support hotels in Latin America, whether or not these hotels were customers. And incidentally, through this program, the company gained new leads, as hotels began turning to the company for other services.

A Strong Focus on Service

Relationship-building through a Help Center

A real estate company launched their Help Center during the pandemic as a way to provide customers with FAQs and advice without the hassle of constantly updating their website. Also, to engage with and support customers during this troubling time, they’ve published daily articles on their Help Center.

These articles range from tips on improving your credit score, to real estate investment advice, to guides on various neighborhoods. Now, clients have started to expect seeing daily articles, and the business has greater interaction with clients and knows more about them than ever before.

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Another overarching theme in customer outreach is that customers do appreciate your reaching out and checking in on them. Although it may be difficult to get your customers on the phone, the overall consensus from outreach is that the personal touch is appreciated.

Community-based webinars

Take advantage of virtual benefits

Rather than trying to squeeze live event programming into a less-than-ideal virtual format, small businesses have started taking advantage of the upsides of virtual events. With a virtual event, anyone can join from anywhere, easily, with much fewer capacity constraints, risks, and costs.

One company spontaneously launched fun Zoom webinars, which gave them a reason to call up leads and customers to offer a service, as opposed to calling to sell a product, which can be insensitive during these times. Not only did the company invite potential buyers, but they also invited other sellers in the space, to emphasize community, networking, and learning. During these webinars, the companies discussed their products and answered questions with their industry expertise.

This series was also largely entertainment-focused, rather than sales-focused, but perhaps because of that, sales boomed, and the webinar gained a following. In addition, because of the virtual format, there was little cost and little risk, they only had space to gain.

These are just a few examples of small business scrappiness and creativity. A common theme that emerged through these conversations was that businesses are taking this time to prepare for these new challenges, namely by streamlining processes and gaining greater familiarity with their tools.

Danielle Egan was a Product Marketing Intern on the small business team at Salesforce during the summer of 2020. She's currently finishing her senior year studying Business at UC Berkeley and running her education startup, Connect-In-Place. Follow her on LinkedIn.


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