As a marketing agency serving growth-minded organizations, we’ve learned a thing or two about entrepreneurs. By nature, entrepreneurs seek opportunity. If ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’ is the kind of mantra a growth-minded business owner might have, the COVID era is loaded with opportunity. Supply chain issues have caused that rare combination of opportunity and crisis small business owners both despise and embrace naturally.
One of the things we’ve learned from the last year is that significant supply chain disruption is coming from unusual places. The early demand for grocery and consumer goods has taken over trucking routes previously used for manufacturing. Shipping docks are full but not necessarily with what your business needs and wants. The more recent demand for supplies, components, chips, and other raw material resources has placed tremendous strain on the business world – but that strain also brings new opportunities. More on that later.
It will take considerable time for the shipping channels to adjust. If you have experienced a disruption in your supply line, don’t expect it to suddenly get back to normal. The longer COVID variants persist throughout the globe, the longer the supply chain recovery will continue to be. The problem isn’t just viral. From port backlogs to the temporary closure of the Suez Canal, Murphy’s Law and plain old dumb luck have a way of finding the exact wrong problem to introduce at the exact wrong moment.
And not to sound too conspiracy theoretical, but bad-state actors in countries with significant supply control can see the impact supply slowdowns have had – and they’ve certainly been more impactful to global commerce than an official embargo or blockade. Supply chain delays could be viewed as another lever to pull in the war of global economics. Be on the lookout for those to come back either intentionally or without apparent cause.
Times like these make us want to hide under a blanket and wait for better days. Whatever you do, resist that temptation.
Communicate early and often
Uncertainty is the enemy of any business. Uncertainty on your customers and their customers’ parts results in hesitation, slowing sales and a deflated bottom line. If your business will be impacted by supply chain interruptions, let your customers know now. Give them constant updates and stay ahead of what they may hear from other sources.
If pricing is likely to change, be honest and upfront about it. Your customers will appreciate the heads up so they can plan as well.
Similarly, if you don’t expect business interruptions, say so. Customers get their information from many sources. Make sure you are their primary source of information as it pertains to doing business with you.
The business opportunity in supply chain disruption
Some of our clients have spun off new lines of business or new companies dedicated to replacing lost resources. This is a way to directly address the components, parts, or inventory the business lost through proactive sourcing. Some entrepreneurs are building entire businesses with the sole purpose of sourcing highly sought components or inventory for the sole benefit of the original company. Does it make sense to take on an additional business? That depends on how long the anticipated shortfall is likely to be – and the outlook for selling or re-absorbing the business line after the coast is clear.
Focus messaging on product value
When you can’t solve supply chain issues and inventory gets tight, consumers shift behavior as well. They look to repair first instead of replacing. If you already repair your products, great – focus more messaging there. Consumers know times are tough and want to protect their possessions and keep them in top condition.
Messaging around product quality and value gives consumers the feeling that their products will last a long time and are worth a reasonable amount of additional investment. Scarcity justifies a higher price, but consumers feel better about it when they know they’re getting a good quality item.
Steal market share if you have the ability
If you’ve stockpiled the parts and inventory you needed for a rainy day before the pandemic-related shortages, or if you’ve already solved your supply chain issue, you’re in a great spot. Press the advantage by taking market share from your competition. Aggressive, direct competitive messaging can cut through the clutter and help your business stand out from the crowd to win more market share. Treat those customers right and they’ll be yours when the crisis is over.
Creating a pandemic- or crisis-resistant marketing plan is a challenge. Opportunity exists everywhere, and entrepreneurs find it. If you’re not sure what to do yet, spend time with your outsourced marketing partner to talk about the market, the economic outlook, and the marketing-related outcomes. We’re happy to talk through the possibilities.