How many small businesses are feeling a pinch in spending recently? As part of our marketing I do a lot of networking and as such speak to a lot of business owners, and recently the chit-chat has changed from “we’re flat out” to “the market is strange at the moment”.
From what I can tell this seems to be pretty much across the board, and it’s been backed up by newspaper articles, but why, and what can we do about it?
First of all from our perspective we’re getting more enquiries than ever, the leads most certainly haven’t dried up. However we’re finding that there seems to be a lot of people testing the water, and projects seem to take a very long time to go from initial discussions and concepts to signed contracts. This means that, without action, we managed to accumulate a large pile of leads rather than a lot of work.
Speaking to other web design agencies and digital agencies from what I can tell this seems to be industry-wide, but digging further and speaking to other businesses we’ve found that it’s not limited to web design, but across the board including the buying or leasing of cars, and the selling of houses. These industries seem to follow the same path with, for example, a lot of people asking for valuations of their properties without putting it on the market.
The first question of course is why? Well the issue seemed to start late 2015 and the timings seem to fit perfectly with uncertainties with the government, specifically the budget and the EU referendum. The budget of course affects most company directors with, despite the 3% corporation tax reduction, the introduction of a dividend tax means we’re worse off. The EU situation of course is worrying, and recently I’ve spoken to businesses who are dependent on a continual EU migrant work force; I genuinely don’t see how they’ll cope if this is stopped or restricted. This hypothesis of course is just speculation, I’m not an economist.
It’s not just local business that are struggling; the Independent have recently published an article saying that Britain has suffered its biggest downturn in productivity since the 2008 financial crisis .
If this is due to political uncertainties then depending on the outcome it may pick up after the referendum. But we’re business owners; we can’t make forecasts and run businesses based on ifs and buts.
The real question of course is what can we do about it?
This week BHS have gone in to administration  putting 11,000 jobs at risk, and an analyst on the TV last night said that this may be because BHS failed to change their offering separating them from other high street stores, she used the phrase “adapt or die”.
There is a lot of truth in this; we’ve been producing and promoting websites now for 15 years, and we’ve continually adapted our offering to survive. In our industry as web designers it’s essential as web design methodologies and best practices continually evolve. We’ve always strived to find our niche and differentiate ourselves from our competitors.
Recently things have been harder, but we’ve managed to keep the work coming in by adapting, specifically by making two main changes.
- We’ve changed our offering slightly, not a lot, but subtle differences in how we work and what we do. I can’t disclose too much here as I know competing web design agencies read our blog, but we’ve had a lot of success by offering exactly what customers need rather than what we want to sell them.
- Most importantly, we’ve really pushed and changed our marketing strategies. A time of crisis certainly isn’t the time to cross your fingers, it’s the time to take a step backwards and reassess your marketing. We’ve taken our own advice and marketing in new and exciting ways, which is working.
If anything the 2008 financial crisis made us stronger as a business, we came out of the other side being far more adaptable and I believe that, whatever the situation at the moment, what we will learn getting through it will make us far stronger moving forward.
So for your business, what can you do?
Follow our lead, look at what you’re offering your clients and see if this is what they’re after. Can you make subtle changes to make you more appealing than your competitors?
Secondly shout louder; whoever shouts the loudest (and smartest) will get the work. Maybe it’s time not just to increase your marketing budgets, but to try methods that you’ve never tried before.
A fresh pair of eyes is always good, and this is where we come in. We’re experts in marketing and we speak to a lot of different businesses.
We can look at your entire marketing strategy (both online and offline) and give you honest and productive feedback, and importantly advise you on what to do next. Whether you want us to work as a marketing consultant offering advice, or a marketing agency managing everything on your behalf, we can do it.
Now isn’t the time to bury your head in the sand, it’s time to take action.
If anyone wants to share their experiences with the current economy please contact us, we’ll keep it confidential and will happily produce a follow up article if there is a general consensus.
We are Webbed Feet UK, we are a digital marketing agency.