Some business owners are building expansion strategies for 2021. Others want stability in the face of so much uncertainty. What is your 2021 strategy?
How to Build Your 2021 Business Strategy in the Face of Uncertainty
by John Boitnott
Recently, we’ve seen signs that many businesses are reopening during the last quarter of 2020. Yet uncertainty remains. In some states, businesses have reopened in recent weeks only to be told to close or reduce their capacity for customers. It’s becoming increasingly challenging to plan for the future. Consequently, many business owners and leaders might wonder how they can develop a growth strategy for 2021.
What you need is a strategic direction to provide purpose for your business and help you set realistic goals to accomplish in the coming year.
Here are some ways to build your 2021 business strategy during this last quarter of 2020:
Focus on what you can do
All the rules and regulations have told you what your business can’t do. What you need to do now is look solely at what you can do. For example, when restaurants were told they couldn’t serve customers indoors, they transitioned to delivery, takeout and large outdoor patios. No matter what type of business you operate, this is the mindset to develop and use for your 2021 business strategy.
The can-do strategy will start with a list of what is possible. Here are some possible examples:
- You can transition to doing business online.
- Research new markets for potential expansion and diversification.
- Still engage with customers personally to deepen your relationship.
- Create a different yet still exceptional experience for your customers.
- Revisit marketing strategy.
Once you define what you can do — even if it requires an adjustment in the business environment — you can then build quantitative goals and a set of tactics for achieving them.
Extend your product launch schedule
If your small business develops new products, then your 2021 business strategy should address those launches with a new understanding of the changes wrought in 2020. Everything from a lack of raw materials to illness-triggered factory shutdowns brought many product launches to a grinding halt.
Use that experience to develop a new timeline for product development. And assume many of those factors may continue to impact the process. Expanding your timeframe for product launches will also help you make strategic business decisions about labor, marketing and more.
Provide valuable resources for customers
Focus your business strategy for 2021 on your customers and customer-facing actions, such as adding to the value you deliver to them, and the ways in which those actions assist with your revenue objectives.
On the sales side, providing more options for financial assistance could help new customers make their purchases. Examples include layaway, structured payment plan services and other payment options that address smaller cash flows and decreased consumer confidence.
For marketing purposes, you also have considerable time and opportunity to plan content and provide access to similar valuable resources that provide information to your customers and prospects. These tactics might not deliver immediate revenue, but it can be effective to engage prospects now so they are ready to buy when things improve.
Use the time to make improvements
Look at the blank canvas 2021 offers as an opportunity to improve. Some businesses may have been putting off a complete digital transformation. If that’s the case for your company, now is the ideal time for transforming more manual and paper-based processes to a digital format.
Your business strategy can focus on detailing this transformation, including the timeline for testing and implementing those new digital processes. Doing so will better prepare you for when business picks up again. You may then find you can better connect with customers and offer them the digital experiences they have come to expect in other parts of their lives.
Develop a multi-plan approach
With uncertainty anticipated to continue in 2021, it’s good to have one or more backup plans for your business. Lay out potential contingencies that you may face in the coming year and use this time to craft strategic responses.
These strategic plans can address different scenarios like ongoing health concerns, reopening at a slower pace, continued openings and closings, remote and on-demand environments, and full reopening. Build out each of these plans, using the experience of 2020 to help develop key tactics. Many of these tactics may have already proven effective this year or they may be ones you are still testing.
Research tactics that worked for other businesses, even those you have not yet implemented, perhaps because your strategy focused on a return to a recognizable environment.
Now, in addressing different potential developments, much of what you plan for may feel as though you are a startup testing the waters once more. Building out these multiple business plans can also prepare you better for any pivots from one scenario to another.
More certainty than uncertainty
As you review these approaches to creating your 2021 business growth strategy, you’ll undoubtedly find plenty of actions you can take with certainty to counteract the doubt that seems so pervasive. By proactively addressing the areas listed here, you can keep your focus on moving your small business forward with resiliency and a positive outlook that the future is bright.
John Boitnott is a journalist, digital media consultant and investor. A version of this article appeared on Entrepreneur.
Read more about planning for 2021 here.