Being a small business owner means that you have to wear lots of different hats, you have to be wise; choose what to outsource, select what you can manage in house and ensure that you budget for what requires skills that you just don't have.
It's never easy, you have to work hard for anything that's worth having and of course nothing is handed to you on a plate.
But what happens when your business is successful, your customers are happy, you're making a respectful profit and then a pandemic hits you sideways? Something that no expert could have foreseen or planned for?
We've all heard of the iceberg effect; right? Our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues often see the tip of the Iceberg, the flash car; the big house, the extravagant family holidays, but rarely do they see whats under the surface. The grey hairs, beneath the hair dye, the extra frown and crowfeet lines. The medication that you're taking for stress and anxiety. The lack of sleep, mood swings and tension.
Almost no business had adequate insurance to protect them against the pandemic, so it was time for everyone to test their never, tread water and rely on the Chancellor until we could re-open our doors to trade again.
We were all in this together right? All businesses except essential businesses were foreclosed. We genuinely believed the Chancellor when he declared that support packages would be put in place to help support businesses throughout the pandemic.
Initially there was no restrictions or omissions of what type of business would and wouldn't be supported.
Most businesses with premises received a £10,000 grant.
Late May/June 2020 came the news that most businesses could operate again except certain business types (hairdressers/gyms/sporting facilities etc) Hospitality could re-open outside only. These businesses with restrictions imposed could apply for grants. Other businesses were excluded.
Great; we operate online - we can open again! You'd think that this would be the end and we could begin to rebuild from here, but we were met with a flurry of cancellations; customers circumstances had changed, people were extending their car lease. Other customers were managing with just the one car as they were working from home.
At this stage stock wasn't an issue, no-one had been in the Dealerships to sell it. Cars were built and stuck at Port, there was a massive backlog getting stock from Ports delivered to PDI centres and Dealerships.
During lock down cars weren't being built, so orders for semi-conductor chips weren't being placed.
At the same time orders for technology were through the roof. With most people working from home, orders for computers, laptops, phones and tablets were at an all time high.
Even when not working, non essential shops were closed, you couldn't visit the gym, bar or restaurant, so people either took to exercise or gaming.
Tech giants seized the opportunity to build more products and ordered vast quantities of semi-conductor chips. You see that tiny little chip is so important to so many devices. As a chip requires more advanced technology for gaming, phones and computers; the cost the suppliers charge for these chips is much higher than the cost they charge to the automotive industry, so large contracts were agreed and signed.
A semi-conductor chip on a car will control the automatic locking, automatic boot lid closure and folding door mirrors for example. Car manufacturers don't need as much technology on the chip so only pay a fraction of the cost that Microsoft would pay for the Xbox or what Sony would pay for the PlayStation or what Apple would pay for the i-phone, you get my drift; right?
That's right most car manufacturers hit the snooze button and ran out of the semi-conductor chips to build their cars. Except one manufacturer interestingly enough, Toyota.
They'd suffered a major fire at one of their factories a few years back which halted production on many models due to part shortages, so since then they've always massively overstocked
You can just imagine Toyota's smug faces knowing that they were the only Motor company globally that had a strategy to overcome the issue that car manufacturers faced.
New car stock issues hit the industry 3 to 4 months after first re-opening their trading doors. Try explaining to a customer that their cars estimated build week has been pushed back by 30 weeks and you've absolutely no idea why. You see, the supply chain is quite long, there's multiple languages, cultures, Countries and companies involved. Trying to obtain the exact reason, can sometimes feel nigh on impossible, especially when your contact is through 3rd parties.
If I'd heard this saying once, I'd heard it one thousand times during my career in the Motor Trade "give em' the pickle". It's stuck with me, often I go back to basics and establish what's the pickle. If you've not seen it, it's a great way to refocus on your customer.
My worry was, I can't even provide their product, so how can I supply the pickle?
Cancellations were fast and furious, new sales were in decline as the media continuously reported doom and gloom with negative stats.
Most of our business came from special offers and batch deals. We'd agree to purchase a set amount of vehicles from the manufacturer in return for additional discounts, passing much of these savings onto our customers. Our customers were then able to drive a car heavily discounted for a fraction of the cost it would cost to drive that motor via a Hire Purchase route.
How can we supply the product with lead times of up to 12 months on some models, let alone the pickle?
I promise there's a point to me wittering on before talking about what the title actually says.
So, here we are - no Government support, our existing tactical strategy of sales dead in the water cause there's no stock. How do we reach those new clients that know the make and model that they want to lease and perhaps have never leased before, so see the leading rentals as a saving over what they currently pay per month?
Well, enter the world of SEO, back links, blogs and guest posts.
People (or men should I say), often say that women are hard to understand, well they clearly haven't entered the world of SEO, trying to understand google is like talking Swahili to me.
Getting back to my first point about a business owner, knowing what to outsource and what to manage in house. This is absolutely something that you'd ordinarily outsource to the experts and even then it's a minefield over who to trust and establish what long term benefits they can offer.
But after you've spent the best part of 2 years treading water, then just as lead times start to improve with the supply of semi-conductor chips, Putin decides to kick you further by declaring war. Can we just catch a break already?!
Unless you have thousands to spend each month outsourcing, you're not going to see dramatic results.
To get instant results you would pay per click with google or run a sponsored listing with Facebook, these are great for instant results, but you also need to focus on the long term strategy. That marketing budget has to be split, where do you need the focus? Can you afford to play the long game or do you need results instantly?
So here I am, I'm coherent - yeah I might waffle on, but mostly you catch my drift. My marketing budget is mainly being spent on short term leads and sales, which means I had to try and decipher the jargon, research strategies, try and understand something that I know absolutely nothing about. To put my lack of understanding and knowledge into context, I had to google what a "do follow" link was and what "white hat" means.
To help a novice get started, we had to start with the platform first, we needed a better CRM system, we'd threatened for years that we'd invest to build one and never did, there was always something else that was more important.
When researching systems, we found a managed system, where we could update the website too, whilst our older site was mobile and SEO friendly, it was built on a very old platform so SEO header titles, including attributes couldn't be changed by us. This was going to be a key requirement if we were going to try and organically increase our traffic.
If you want to fill your day with frustration, lack of accomplishment and unknown results, head over and start your career in SEO.
Research is key to EVERYTHING, so I logged on and spent hours scanning the net, signed up to various motoring platforms, read through the helpful hints and tips, which would give me another route to explore.
Ultimately what I wanted to know was, what do I need to do to rank better on google? I wanted a simple answer, but quite frankly there isn't one.
Google will penalise you if they find you carrying out black hat tactics, to manipulate organic page rankings, however a quick google search will bring up a vast list of SEO companies that use this tactic.
You reach out to Outreach Bloggers, trying desperately to seek their help without coming across as desperate, lazy or selfish and are told that there's a cost to a link on their blog. You're told that EVERYONE does it, but you're a chicken and frightened that Google will blacklist you. After all, lets face it, we haven't had the best 2 years have we?
There's lots of theories, lots of different ways that SEO companies work, but which is the right way? Where should I focus my long term strategies?
I've learned that off page and on page SEO are equally important. If your audience find themselves submerged deep in a blog, they should be able to navigate back to your home page with one click. Off page anchor links with a "do follow" link are important, so long as it;s been acquired via a white hat tactic and not black or grey. Some SEO companies will tell you that they use black hat, others will promote white when really they're acquiring links through payment. One company even told me that I could add links for a monthly fee and if I cancel the service they remove the links. How are we even able to build a white hat network when no-one knows who you are?
How can you create engaging new content, when you're not offering a new concept, you offer a service that's been around for years. How do you keep it fresh?
I've never been very creative, so trying to see the wood through the trees is pretty difficult. I have a few theories having researched it but would need multiple platforms, IP addresses and companies to test it out, so do I take the plunge and go with my gut and just trial it anyway without testing it?
Organic links, engaging material and relevant content. If only keeping it simple, really was as simple as that though.
I knew it would be hard when I started, but I didn't think that it would difficult just to understand the rules. Those that speak Googles language keep the information close to their chest.
Why a group of like minded businesses in the same industry, don't just come together and help one another by permitted guest blogs without the need for payment is beyond me. After all a community is a great platform to build a business.
Sorry if I've ranted and my frustrations have came across, but actually it's been good to talk so great for my mental health; so thanks!