It’s no secret that the events of 2020 have left many community service organisations scrambling to cover costs, maintain clients and future proof themselves all at the same time.
Unfortunately, this has seen many businesses – particularly those operating in the NDIS – having to operate on a skeleton budget or even in some instances, close down altogether. On the flip side of this, we’ve thankfully also seen a high percentage of organisations thriving through the limitations and restrictions that came about due to Covid-19.
So what exactly is the difference between the success of some community service organisations and others?
The simple answer? Planning. As a business owner myself, I’ve seen firsthand what incredible change and growth can come from effective business planning – not only from Amergin’s perspective, but from our clients’ as well. If you’re anything like I was 8 years ago, you might be sitting there right now thinking ‘What good is a day out of the office going to do me? I need to be present and ‘doing’ to measure my success.’ And to be perfectly honest, (and to what my colleagues can attest) this is simply not true.
What is true however, is that if you don’t take the time to strategically map out your pathway to success, it’s going to be a long and tumultuous ride. Even worse – you might end up spending a lot of money on ideas or initiatives that don’t offer any serious return on investment. And that’s where things can take a turn for the worse.
With all of that said and done, I’ve decided to put the proverbial pen to paper and share 4 budget conscious tactics you – as a business owner or manager operating in the community sector – can put in place from today (and for free!) to help prepare for unexpected circumstances.
01. Get out of the office
No, I’m not saying take the day off. I’m saying get yourself (and ideally your management team) out of your regular operational environment, and organise a strategic planning day. Whether it be from home, a co-working space, a coffee shop or even a local park, take the opportunity sooner rather than later to revisit exactly why you do what you do. Disconnecting yourself from your regular office environment will help you to remove distractions and allow you to put all of your focus on building (or reshaping) a strategy that will ultimately drive your business forward.
If you’ve not done this previously, or are looking for more structure to your current planning days, I strongly suggest adding our recent article about the importance of strategic planning in times of change and uncertainty to your reading list. There’s also a wonderful resource put together by our Social Impact Consulting (SIC) team available for download that just may be of some assistance!
SIC TIPSocial Impact Consultant Tips – Make it a habit. Quarterly strategic meetings and an annual meeting at the start of each year will help you to stay on track and refocus on goals and priorities previously set.
02. Learn about your clients
So, you’re noticing a decline in engagement when it comes to past and present clients. This is your opportunity to put yourself in their shoes. What are the problems clients are currently facing? Is the support you’re offering meeting these needs? In these times of change in particular – it’s important to remember that everyone is feeling the impact. While your organisation may be facing uncertainty it is important to understand that your clients are also experiencing similar, if not heightened, feelings of uncertainty and concern. This results in changes in their decision-making and how they may seek out or engage with your service. How is your business model responding to this?
By taking some time to learn more about your ideal clients and what drives their choice of provider, you can start shaping how you market your products or services to them. Some basic key areas to start looking at are:
How can you get this kind of information from your community service organisations’ data?
Whilst it may seem a bit difficult to understand how you can get access to this information on the surface, you likely already have some data to start analysing. Consider mapping each of your services alongside demographic information of clients that have engaged these services already. Do you notice any trends? Are there services you offer that haven’t had any uptake? How can you reshape that service to better fit the need of your clientele?
There are also certain online tools that you likely already have in place that can help you dig a little deeper. Think about things like Facebook business page interactions, Google analytics and Google Business Pages. The great underlying commonality between all of these online platforms is the data in which they collect – and make available – for you to use to start building out your customer personas.
SIC TIP Social Impact Consultant Tips – Start by looking at your existing customers and identifying trends within a database of people who have already made a purchase decision with your organisation.
03. Spend some quality time on your website
When’s the last time you sat down and had a critical look at your own website? I mean really sat down and reviewed every single page, every single form and every piece of content in detail? I’m going to take a quick stab in the dark and guess that it’s been quite some time.
In 2020, it’s simply not enough to just have a website. Instead, you need to be thinking of your website as one of your key lead generating tools. And just like anything else in your business – it needs to be nurtured and optimised so that it’s consistently operating at its full potential. If you have a website in place (you should!), taking some time now to conduct a full website audit is a simple way to start future proofing your business.
Start by putting yourself in your ideal customers’ shoes (See point 02) and asking yourself some of the following questions:
- Is the content easy to read and digestible?
- Is the core service offering easy to find?
- Does the messaging capture my attention?
- Do the visuals support the message?
- Is it easy to make an enquiry?
If you answered ‘No’ to any of these questions on any page of your website, change it. Now. Often, when we go through the process of designing and developing a website, it’s built from our own perspectives – what we think looks or sounds good – and not from the perspective of our customers’ needs. As we see more and more products and services move to the online space, it’s this kind of thinking that needs to change. What’s a more perfect time than now to take action?
SIC TIP Social Impact Consultant Tips – Get members of your family or other colleagues to review the website and provide feedback. You’ll be surprised how different people interpret different things both visually and written.
04. Take some time to reflect
Don’t forget your Feedback and Complaints register. Reviewing your register regularly will provide you with real insights from real clients, and thus help you to make decisions that shape your business for the better. It’s your opportunity to recognise staff members who have gone above and beyond by providing exceptional service, or on the flip side, it’s an opportunity to look at where improvements can be made. While on the surface, complaints can sometimes be difficult to hear (particularly when you feel like you’ve offered a high quality service), they provide an opportunity to learn and grow both personally for staff – and as a business. Ask yourself the following:
- What could we have done better in this situation?
- Do staff need more training in this particular area?
- Was the complaint handled sufficiently?
- Do you we need to look at improving our processes?
- Have we been in contact with the person who made the complaint?
Taking this approach for both compliments and complaints will ensure you continually provide a best practice service, empowering your staff and reminding your clients why they decided to choose you in the first place.
SIC TIP Social Impact Consultant Tips – Set up a Google My Business page and enable the reviews functionality. This is a great, easy way for clients to leave public reviews and provides a public platform for you to respond directly.
The most important thing community service organisations can do now through these times of change and uncertainty is to keep going. Step back, take in the bigger picture and start taking action on the things you can change, to help get you through the things that you can’t.
Where do I start?
If you want to get started on refining your vision and develop a Strategic Plan to drive your business forward, you can download our Free 2020 Strategic Planning Guide for Community Businesses
Just click the link and enter your email address and we’ll send it to your inbox.
It’s specifically tailored for community businesses who want to move forward and need a plan to get there. It will help set your priorities and goals to reach your Vision and navigate change so you don’t feel held back.