Serial entrepreneur, Shark Tank judge and co-founder of RedBalloon, Naomi Simson shares her thoughts on small business and entrepreneurship as the coronavirus crisis continues.
5 things with Naomi Simson
What advice would you give to business owners and entrepreneurs struggling with the impact of the pandemic?
The resounding message from me is about relationships, partnerships and consistent execution of a plan will help navigate the continual and relentless change to business. A business needs to nurture its existing customers and engage them in finding new audiences. Business is still a people game but needs to leverage technology to support new ways of connecting with the very individuals they’re trying to target. Find other businesses who are also looking for customers just like yours. The competitor of the past is the partner of the future.
In all businesses long term partnerships that evolve and adjust with time are important. Never more so that now.
Many businesses have turned to online to ride out COVID. Yet before the pandemic, the majority of small businesses in Australia did not have a website. What’s your advice to online newbies – how can they build up their brand presence?
Please, please, please do not rely only on social media. They are media companies who require payment and whilst we have all watched the Social Dilemma – there is another addiction, which is that of small businesses putting cash behind a campaign to promote their content. One day it works the next day it does not. The best thing still is to build your own audience through your own website or through partnerships as I mentioned previously.
When done right, going online can be an asset – it means businesses are not limited by geographic borders or timezones. A multi-faceted approach is really the way to go and having a website with your own domain allows you to strengthen your brand and build your own audience. It also helps build credibility and allows you to reach customers anywhere in the world, especially with this pandemic.
How have you adapted Red Balloon’s business practices to cope with the impact of COVID?
Depending on which day you read this, the world is likely to be very different than the day before. Adapting to this moment by moment changes for small businesses has become paramount to survival. Customer sentiment is changing rapidly, marketing is not set and forget. People are looking to #buylocal – and often they cannot find what’s available.
Growth is often not on the agenda – yet we have found that as we work closely with our Experience Partners in all aspects of the marketing mix, from product design, pricing and of course promoting their offering to the right audience, it has delivered good commercial results for our Partners.
We are continuing to work on both short and long term initiatives to build momentum. We have invested greatly in our people and technology. Our data is helping us make informed decisions about where to deploy precious capital.
How has the switch to remote work affected you and your team? How has technology assisted you during the pandemic to stay on top of trends?
Of course, we could not have done it without technology… and we learned new ways of working – meetings in the morning – deep thinking in the afternoon. We use Office365 as our standard but of course, we use all the popular platforms. We have coupled this with local suburban co-working spaces which means that we have working and collaboration spaces. We got rid of our own office and switched that spending into making sure we did experiences with small groups of people so that we were still connecting and sharing good times together. I personally have been working within the RedBalloon for Business team – staying close to what other businesses are saying.
A lot of Aussies have been struggling with mental health during lockdown – what’s your advice for looking after your mental health and how can we encourage more resilience in the community?
If I see one more ‘unprecedented times’ in an email newsletter I am likely to scream. We all know ‘it’. We are in ‘it’ and ‘it’ will take a considerable time to be back to ‘normal’. We will get through, we will adjust and transform.
It is hard to be on your own in business with everyone turning to you for answers. These are 3 tips on mental health for business owners:
Is now good time to start a new business? If yes, why?
Perhaps it depends on the risk appetite of the founders, nothing is certain right now but it does not mean there is no opportunity. I would wholeheartedly recommend that any inspiring entrepreneur read Ready to Soar. I wrote it for those people that think that they might be up for the game of business ownership. It is a ride, but not for everyone.
There is never a perfect time to start a business but the pandemic has created a lot of opportunities to build a lasting business from the ground up. Please join me for my keynote and panel session at OnlineFest 2020 where I’ll be sharing insights and hopefully inspire you on your entrepreneurial journey too!
You can catch Naomi when she delivers a virtual keynote at OnlineFest 2020 presented by Crazy Domains. October 28-29. Go here to grab a free ticket.
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