It’s been a volatile few years, between a global pandemic, inflation, supply chain issues, and cyber-attacks. It would be a huge understatement to say the past few years have been challenging for businesses, particularly small and medium-sized businesses. We look back at the challenges of the last few years and look forward to what lies ahead for business owners in 2023 and beyond with Media Link President, Natalie Linville-Mass.
“Every business in this country has had to re-evaluate every aspect of their business,” says Linville-Mass, “In order to figure out how to move ahead in this new world we’re all navigating through, businesses have to increase their pricing to keep up with the extra costs of doing business in a COVID economy, which has been further impacted by inflation and supply chain issues related to the pandemic.
Natalie has a unique perspective. As an owner of a marketing firm, she speaks to customers in a wide variety of fields and finds the same thing happening in every industry. It’s harder for businesses to hire and retain employees, prices for supplies have gone up in every industry, and internet security has become more of a challenge than ever before.
Many of the small businesses that haven’t made the necessary adjustments have sadly had to shutter their operations. Its imperative businesses adjust. These adjustments may mean raising prices, it may mean cutting costs, and paradoxically it may mean spending more on certain areas of your business. Trying to operate a business without a website, for example, is penny wise, pound foolish. Whatever your business, your customers have to be able to find you and have the confidence your business is strong enough to deliver the services and/or products you provide. Natalie adds, “Enticing customers with deep discounts and by giving away loss leaders, can help in the short term, but in the end it diminishes the value of your products and/or services. This approach can also make it much harder to make a profit with the sudden spike in the cost of supplies and in your workforce.”
From a marketing perspective, she adds, “When I started this agency 20 years ago, a website was an option. Now it’s imperative. You have to make sure people can find you.” She elaborates, “However, businesses now need to do more than just have a website. With the shift to online buying, businesses need to keep the website updated with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and be sure your business has a full description and listing on search engines and referral sites (i.e. Trip Advisor, Yelp, Google, etc.). If you sell Pink Widgets, and a potential customer doesn’t find your business when they search “Pink Widgets near me” in their top searches, then you will be missing that sale.
Keeping an online presence, means engaging with your customer base on social media, paying attention to reviews and answering these posts and sharing tips and insight with your customers just like we’re doing in this blog. All of these efforts create a relationship with your customer base and in this current climate, these steps are vital in this economy. “If customers can’t find you and can’t research you, they’re not going to stop in,” says Linville-Mass.
As if this post COVID economy weren’t enough of a challenge, there are other deliberate nefarious challenges to work through in the digital world. Natalie explains that there are a lot of bad actors out there, looking to disrupt businesses through fraud and mayhem. It’s vital for businesses to have strong security on their website to protect not only their own interests, but the interests of their employees, customers, and the other business websites sharing their server. Right now, being a good digital citizen means looking out for each other and making sure your sight is updated and checked regularly.
Looking ahead, Natalie expects these challenges to continue in 2023. However, now we are aware of these challenges and know what steps we need to take to adjust to this new business climate. “We have to keep moving forward,” says Linville-Mass. “It’s not just about surviving, it’s about figuring out how to thrive.”