3 Actions That Enabled My Printing Company to Survive the Pandemic and Hit New Q3 Heights
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve felt the pandemic’s effects. Its reach is inescapable, with research finding the COVID-19 pandemic presenting alarming implications for the global population’s collective mental health, no matter who they are. For business owners across the country, it's safe to say that most have felt these ubiquitous pressures, especially in their finances.
I certainly felt the heat in my own printing business, PostcardMania, where at one point, weekly earnings dipped down 41%. At first, it was very scary, I won’t lie to you — but this wasn’t my first rodeo. I brought my business through the 2008 housing crash, learned from it, and was able to form a recession-proof plan this time around.
Because of that plan’s execution, I managed to survive the initial closures without laying anyone off, managed to have the best third quarter in company history (26% up from Q2!), set multiple revenue records, and hired 36 more people.
The following are a combination of business pivots and old company institutions that have carried me through thick and thin that you can apply to your business.
1. Make intelligent cash-flow decisions
Nobody knows your business like you, so these steps will only work when you take the time to analyze every minuscule aspect and dusty corner to see what can be optimized or removed for your benefit.
But this is important: do NOT cut your marketing. More on that shortly.
For printers with deep B2B networks, one area where you can alleviate financial pressure is to leverage your professional relationships for immediate assistance. As long as you don’t have any skeletons in your closet, a number of people may be glad to help you out and cut some slack. For us, that looked like asking our vendors for some leeway and allowing us to accumulate debt with them to pay off in the immediate future. They were happy to oblige, since we have a long relationship and always pay our bills on time!
Taking on strategic debt is another reliable way to give your business a chance to recoup losses and return to profitability. To help us recover, we took advantage of the completely forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loan the government rolled out to keep small businesses afloat. This loan’s application window has since closed, but the Small Business Association offers a Lender Match program to help find loans and lenders that fit with your situation.
The last option before it gets ugly (firing staff, shutting down) is asset liquidation. When I say “asset,” it can be literally anything — buildings, equipment, inventory, vehicles, even the chair you’re sitting in — that you can sell for cash. Use common sense when assessing the importance of each item to your business. While we had already planned to sell a partially used storage facility we owned, when that sale finally went through amidst the pandemic, I would be lying if I said it didn’t give me some extra peace of mind.
Outside of reworking your business’s internal structure, there are things you can implement that help increase the influx of cash.
2. Build loyalty/credibility and show your commitment to customers by keeping a constant outflow of communication with them
When times get tough, brand loyalty can go a long way. Brand loyalty is built through consistency, which means everything during this incredibly uncertain year. Radio silence can be your worst enemy in times like these. According to international research, “ ... consumer behavior is changing rapidly in terms of the importance they place on branded products ... This isn’t the fault of brands, but it is the responsibility of brands to react fast to these changes. In fact, without doing so, their long-term survival could be in jeopardy.”
What does this mean? It means that your best chance of survival is letting your clients know that you’re reliable by communicating with them on a regular basis. If you maintain a line of outflow to them, especially in times like these, you will surely earn their loyalty.
If money is tight, there are affordable methods of communication out there. Writing blog posts or articles, updating your website, sending out emails and e-newsletters, and staying active on social media channels are all inexpensive ways to keep in touch and reassure customers you’re there for them.
If you have the resources, send something in print, our favorite medium. A study conducted for the U.S. Postal Service found that physical ads engaged viewers for longer and caused more activity in the brain associated with value and desire than digital. As a printing company, I’m sure you know the value of a tangible piece of communication. It may be worth prioritizing.
While engaging previous clients is important and will certainly help, marketing to prospects may be even more so to keep new revenue streams coming in.
3. "Never stop marketing” has been a PCM mantra since I almost lost my company
I know it may seem counterintuitive to spend more money when you’re running short on it, but hear me out. When these situations happen, most people tend to go into panic mode and pull back on their marketing to make up for losses, right? The thing is, this is actually the counterintuitive thing to do. Why pull something for extra cash when that something is bringing you revenue?
As I’ve said repeatedly for many years, the more outflow of communication and marketing you have, the more inflow of cash that you’ll receive. This isn’t just some catchy jingle I use to promote my business — it's a motto that saved it.
Circa 2008, when the housing marketing crashed, I lost just under half (46%) of my clients, who were mortgage brokers. Long story short, I cut my marketing when a financial advisor told me to do so, and it nearly put my company out of business. The next year, we were down 15% from the year before, or $4.5 million. It was a huge loss. But, after reinstating my marketing spend, it created an influx of leads and cash that eventually stabilized the business again.
I learned from this initial mistake, and when this year’s recession came around, I stuck to my guns and kept my marketing pumping. As a result ... voilà! After a short (but stressful) five weeks when the pandemic first hit, my weekly earnings returned to pre-crash levels. And then some. We’re on track now to be UP at least 10% this year.
We’re not the only ones that think so, either. So you don’t have to rely on just my word on this.
The Harvard Business Review’s research surrounding how businesses responded to the last economic recession in 2008 and the eventual effects of those decisions found that “companies that injudiciously slash marketing spending (during an economic downturn) often find that they later must spend far more than they saved in order to recover from their prolonged absence from the media landscape.”
Former Microsoft executive and current MDC Partners CEO Mark Penn in an interview detailed how a company’s marketing is the most significant indicator of why they’re struggling or thriving in the pandemic.
In another interview, he discusses the vital role marketing will play in the economy’s recovery.
When combined into one recovery plan, these three actions will work for your printing company – just ensure you’re making all of the best decisions for your business!
Joy Gendusa is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, keynote speaker and philanthropist. With only a phone, a computer and postcards (no funding of any kind!), Joy grew PostcardMania from a small startup into an industry leader that generated $60.5 million in 2019 and currently employs 286 people in Clearwater, FL. You can request free postcard samples from Joy’s company today or reach her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.