Big Lessons From Small Businesses

Many a time, small businesses impart far more practical knowledge than what we get to learn in structured classrooms.

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Observing small businesses and their growth strategies always fascinate me. Many a time, these businesses impart far more practical knowledge than what we get to learn in structured classrooms.

Last week, many countries in Central Europe reinstated strict lockdown. Budapest, where I reside currently, is back to the lockdown state of March 2020. Schools, colleges, malls, and restaurants, have been completely shut. Going back into the lockdown makes me wonder if the world will ever recover from this pandemic and will we ever go back to our earlier lifestyle again?

The announcement about the lockdown from the Government sent panic waves across the city. While consumers got busy hoarding on to stuff, small business owners developed fresh worry lines on their foreheads wondering about their existing stock and revenue. Especially the ones with perishables. But as is generally the case, it’s the time of crisis when true leaders emerge.

Amidst all the chaos, I observed a local florist whose entrepreneurial skills left me amazed — and inspired. More importantly, the speed at which she acted blew me away.

This florist has a small shop of fresh and seasonal flowers in a residential area. Where other small businesses were still trying to figure out their next move, this lady’s shop was crowded with visitors within a few hours of the lockdown announcement.

How and why? If I understand it correctly, her success in dealing with this adversity came through a combination of a compelling story, told to the right audience at the right TIME. I have made the word time in caps purposefully. Because, when it comes to entrepreneurship and marketing -

Timing Matters!

In the case of this florist, it was a lot about the timing and the speed at which she acted. Here’re a few things she did:

  • She announced a discount on her existing stock immediately including her premium products. In this case, gorgeous orchids that otherwise were high-priced products in her shop.
  • Her Facebook page was updated within minutes including sponsored ads to a niche audience set.
  • Her shop had a big board of sale displayed immediately. Simple handwritten chalkboard note. But with a personal touch of “support local”.
  • She narrated her story to the ones walking to her store, highlighting the problems of small business owners and the reason for sale. How she would be happier if her plants can decorate someone’s home instead of dying in her store. How it’s better to make less money than losing out on all her inventory.
  • She went the extra mile in understanding the taste and preferences of her walk-in customers, recommending them the right plant for their homes. When the language became a barrier for audiences like me, we managed using Google Translate.
  • The ones who were moved by her plight and her story, including me, immediately circulated about her in our WhatsApp groups. I ended up getting the same message in my inbox thrice within half an hour :).

End result — before the lockdown, she was able to clear most of her stock. Some even bought it at a full price not availing any of the discounts :). And almost everyone who walked into the store spread the message about her.

This whole incident reminded me of the holy grail of marketing — “Right person. Right message. Right time.” And of the OODA model by 40-second-Boyd. The time that we take between information processing and decision making is crucial — be it war or business. Wait a minute, are these two different?

Maybe business management during the crisis in many senses is like war only.

This pandemic has taught us many lessons. Yet again, I learned something new and refreshed my old marketing knowledge by observing this florist next to my door. May businesses like hers survive the pandemic.

And may we #SupportLocal wherever we can.

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P.S: I am currently running a special series on Product Marketing for small businesses and passion economy professionals. If this interests you, you may check all the posts in the series here.