Developing a Small Business Plan in Times of Economic Crisis

Economic Crisis
Economic Crisis
A silver lining behind every economic crisis

It’s difficult to develop a small business plan when you are confronted with an economic crisis which impacts differentially in parts of your market.  Some aspects of your marketplace may suffer severe downturn while others experience growth.  Even in our marketplace, the public sector, you can experience severe downturns. The challenge is to develop flexibility to build organizational resilience.  However, as the image above shows, behind every dark cloud, there is a silver lining.

One of the results of an economic crisis, is that you are forced to go back to basics and rethink why you exist, who you serve and how you are doing things.  This was what we experienced in the Global Financial Crisis when our human resource consultancy business lost 50% of its income in 6 months owing to expenditure constraints imposed by the State Government and the loss of a major client.

What I found sustaining in that situation (and in our current economic crisis) is our vision –  to enable the public service to be the best that it can be.  We pursue that vision through the human resource services we provide – recruitment and selection, psychometric assessment, career development, development of HR policy and practice, organisational design, training and development, organisational development, research and analysis, management development and team building.

We are very conscious that if the public service delivers effectively and efficiently, the quality of life of many people in the community will improve – whether in transport, child safety, education, economic support, childcare, health, public safety or other arenas impacted positively by quality public services.

[Photo: Copyright Ron Passfield – Sun breaking through dark clouds in an autumn sunrise in Brisbane]

Options for a small business plan in times of economic crisis

When we were confronted with the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) we adopted two core strategies for our business:

  1. broaden our client base
  2. broaden the range of services/products we offer.

These are classical strategies frequently discussed in the strategic marketing books and articles.  When we adopted these strategies for our human resources business, we were able to rebuild our income after the GFC.  What we did not do enough of, is expand our client base within the public sector and this has left us more vulnerable to the current economic crisis for our small business resulting from budget measures introduced by the new State Government in Queensland.

The State Government has introduced a freeze on public sector recruitment, travel and non-essential (non-front line) training and conferences.  This effectively freezes our major sources of income and is likely to have an even more dramatic result on our income than the GFC had.

When considering expanding your client base, you really have to revisit why you exist as a small business and who you want to serve.  We had explored the idea of expanding into the private sector but decided that the public sector is the client group we want to serve because this group is more closely aligned to our values – including service to the community.

When you are considering expansion of services/products, it is important not to over-extend yourself beyond your areas of competence.  We were lucky enough to have untapped core competencies amongst our human resource consultants to make this service expansion an easy transition.  The challenge has been to extend our branding to incorporate these new services.

A small business plan when your business-to-business market dries up

With the freeze (of indeterminate length) on recruitment, travel and non-essential training/conferences in the State public sector, we are confronted with a short-term drying up of our business-to-business market. The challenge for us now in our small business planning is to find innovative ways to provide our services and products to a wider client base.

Some of the strategies that you could adopt in this kind of constrained environment are:

  • switch from a business to business (B2b) focus to a business to consumer (B2c) focus
  • offer free seminars/workshops/e-books to retain and build client loyalty and expand your client base
  • expand the geographical offering of your face-to-face services (e.g. offer them interstate)
  • offer your services in a different format (e.g. by webinar instead of face-to-face)
  • develop products such as e-books, podcasts and videos that you offer globally rather than locally (break through the local geographical barriers)
  • explore under-utilized capacity
  • develop capacity in anticipation of the release of pent-up demand.

Every economic crisis forces small businesses to build flexibility and innovation into their small business plan if they are to survive and grow their income.

Run a Webinar for the Price of a Burger!


The webinar has become the most powerful form of online marketing for small business.  One of the leaders in the field of online conferencing, GVO Conference, now offers state-of-the-art webinar facilities for the cost of a burger (per month).

The benefits of conducting a webinar

Why would you use a webinar? Well, the benefits speak for themselves.  I have seeen many benefits through participating in numerous webinars and running my own in the area of social media marketing.  Through a webinar, you can:

  • use visual aids – slides, photos and video (…and Squidoo lenses as I have done)
  • build trust as participants get to hear your voice and see you
  • easily explain complex ideas
  • demonstrate products or services
  • quickly build awareness and credibility
  • interact with your audience via voice and text chat
  • reach a wider audience (even global)
  • achieve a sales conversion rate of 4 to 10 times that of other marketing methods.

Webinars make you and your expertise visible and engender personal relationships with your existing and potential customers.

What would you use a webinar for?

Well, you are really only limited by your imagination here. The webinar is such a flexible format that you can use it for many marketing endeavors. Here are some applications:

  • launch a new product or service
  • promote other products to existing customers
  • introduce your product and services to potential customers
  • provide ongoing training for customers
  • conduct meetings or training for geographically dispersed staff
  • develop product ideas with your customers or staff
  • conduct surveys or obtain feedback from customers
  • extend your customer base beyond your limited geographical area.

A webinar is a flexible medium if you purchase the right facilities at the outset.  I have used four different webinar platforms and have found the GVO Conference facility to be the best in terms of cost and features.

Features of the webinar facility from GVO Conference

Online conference facilities vary widely. GVO Conference provides the most comprehensive facilities at the cheapest price. Here are some of the features of this webinar platform:

  • auto-display of conference room when participants click on the link provided by you
  • slide presentations such as Powerpoint
  • video streaming
  • electronic whiteboard
  • inbuilt (text) chat room
  • voice chat via headsets
  • no dial in required (so no phone costs for participants)
  • display browser results
  • record webinar (video and audio).

The last time I checked, you could get access to a 50 person conference room with GVO Conference for under $10 per month with no limit on the number of webinars you run.

How to use a webinar for promotion of a product or service

Professional Internet marketers increasingly use webinars for the launch of new products/services or re-launch of rejuvenated products/services.

The most common approach uses the following steps:

  1. create a webpage with a sign-up form for the webinar
  2. advertise the web page and send an invite via email to your mailing list
  3. capture the email address of participants via the web form
  4. offer valuable information during the webinar that is relevant to the new product/service (teaser information)
  5. explain that there is a lot more to the problem/solution than can be covered in the webinar
  6. introduce new product/service as a solution to customers’ problems/issues/needs
  7. offer the new product/service at a discount for webinar participants (via a special participant-only webpage)
  8. follow-up participants via the email addresses captured during the sign-up phase (and extend the discount period if desired).

The webinar is a very powerful form of online marketing for small business as it builds trust, credibility and understanding while extending the reach of small business to a global audience.