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Finding Growth Opportunities in an Uncertain Economy

Economic signals are all over the map.

Depending on who you ask, we are in for either a good old-fashioned recession or something called a ‘soft landing’ or maybe no change at all.

This makes it really tough for a shop owner to confidently plan for the next 12 to 24 months.

The good news is this uncertainty is also creating opportunities for shop owners that recognize them and are prepared to take advantage of them.

Increase Market Share

In uncertain economic times, it is common for shops to start cutting costs.  An early victim is usually the marketing budget.  It’s common when times get slow for shop owners to think they can’t afford to support their social media ad spend or their traditional advertising costs.

However, this can create opportunities for shops that are prepared to go against the norm.  A shop that continues to advertise can maintain its sales level during slow times.  If most of your competition has stopped advertising, this approach can even increase your share of the market – as the available market shrinks, you are able to pick up a larger percentage.  Better yet, when the market eventually turns around, as they always do, the shop that increased its market share will grow much more quickly than those who stopped advertising.

Upgrade Labor

Some shops have already started reducing their working hours.  Others have already started laying off employees.

This means, if you need to upgrade the quality of your workforce, there is a larger labor pool for you to select from.  If you have a competitor that has cut back on shop hours, consider placing yard signs near that competitor and/or use geofencing and texts to advertise your current openings.

This cost-cutting mentality isn’t limited to the stone industry.  Most businesses follow this model.  If you have a good training program, there will be more quality applicants of all backgrounds to select from, allowing you the opportunity to upgrade your workforce.

Enhance Your Company Image

If you think the only factor you can compete on is price, then it’s time to introduce you to the UVP (unique value proposition).  Your UVP tells prospective customers why they should buy from you instead of your competition.

Even though you fabricate countertops just like your competition does, your business still has characteristics that are different from your competition.  Some of these are how well you execute your work, your level of customer service, the market segments you are experienced in, any special services you offer, and many more.  The key is to craft a simple but compelling UVP.

A marketing strategy that leverages your UVP is the key to keeping your sales volume up while everyone else is slowing down.   A solid strategy would include social media and an email campaign along with traditional marketing methods.

If you are struggling to craft a UVP or to define a solid marketing strategy, get professional help.  While this will cost some money, it won’t cost nearly as much as all the sales you will lose without a strong UVP.

Pro tip:  A strong UVP does not mention price!  Properly crafted, your UVP will reduce the pricing pressure that normally comes with an economic downturn.

Improve Processes

If you have been struggling to find time and resources to work ON your business processes, this could be your golden opportunity.

Have you been thinking about implementing a different software package?  This could be the time to tackle that project.  Have you been wanting to build out your training program so you can finally grow your own in-house experts?  Now is the time to do it.  Have you wanted to visit other shops in the organizations you belong to so you can see what everyone else is doing (better yet – send some of your key people on those visits)?  Maybe this is the time to conduct your own safety training and conduct some self-audits.

Bring on New Product Lines

Are you getting more requests for porcelain but have struggled with it in the past?  This could be the time to get some solid training and start building your procedures for working with those materials.  Your consumables supplier can help you with getting the right tooling.  ISFA can provide the technical training you and your folks need.

Increased pricing pressure is common during a downturn.  Rather than reducing pricing on your main bread-and-butter products, consider taking on some lower priced product lines.  This will give your customers an array of options to meet their budget requirements without hurting your primary business.

Enhance Your Customer Experience

This would be a great time to consider upgrading the overall experience of your customers.  How long does it take to generate a quote?  How can you improve the speed of following up on initial customer inquiries?  What can you do that your competition is not willing to do?  Is this the time to experiment with in-home sales?  Is this the time to work on shortening your template-to-install lead time?  Maybe now is the time to consider offering annual countertop inspections and sealing services.  Raising the bar on your customer experience can put a lot of pressure on your competitors – yet another way to gain market share.

For a business to grow profitably, key people must spend a large portion of their time working ON the business as opposed to working IN the business.  While the uncertainty can be a bit scary, an economic downturn can present the ideal opportunity to work ON your business.  Companies that execute well on these items will create a strong competitive advantage that will pay off handsomely – both now and also when the economy rebounds.

 

If you are struggling to reach your business goals or if you’re just stressed out or want to discuss this article, hit my website and schedule an call or contact me at Ed@FabricatorsCoach.com. We’ll talk about your situation, and I’ll help you develop a plan to reduce the chaos, make more money, and get your life back.

This article was published in the November 2023 Issue of the Slippery Rock Gazette, find it at: 

https://www.slipperyrockgazette.net/index.cfm/pageId/5088/Finding%20Growth%20Opportunities%20in%20an%20Uncertain%20Economy/