Marketing during a Slowdown

June 08, 2022

By Atul Oka, Senior Director of Strategy and Business Development, DUKE Heights BIA

With higher inflation and increasing interest rates, many economists are forecasting a downturn in the economy. Of particular concern for businesses is the potential slowdown in consumer spending which will impact sales and total revenue.
In tough times it is often logical for businesses to rationalise costs to ensure profitability. Indiscriminate cost-cutting however can have unintended or negative consequences for the business. The traditional approach often involves cutting the marketing budget because it is seen as nonessential to the business.
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The Harvard Business Review suggests that this may actually be harmful to the business and suggests an approach which identifies the consumers and products which will continue to be in demand and focus business marketing on this targeted space. This approach has historically been shown to not only support sales during a downturn but also an increase in market share for the business coming out of the slowdown.

To understand how to do this, we first need to understand consumer behaviour during tough economic times. Consumers can be segmented into four large groups.

Slam on the brakes – This group feels more vulnerable and immediately reduces all types of spending by eliminating costs, delaying certain purchases, or substituting items for cheaper alternatives.

Pained but patient – This group remains optimistic about the long term but is less certain about the short term, and therefore also reduces spending though not as thoroughly as the previous group. This is usually the largest consumer group and will quickly change their behaviour based on both positive and negative news.

Comfortably well-off – This group is not as concerned about short term bumps and is confident in their ability to continue spending at their usual level to maintain their standard of living.

Live for today – This segment of consumers usually remains unconcerned about savings and thus does not change their consumer behaviour unless they are directly affected by unemployment.

As a product and marketing strategy, it may be useful for businesses to evaluate their products against these market segments and identify who their main consumers currently are, then take appropriate action to ensure continued sales.

We can elaborate on this concept with two examples. The first being a corner grocery store, and the second is a beauty supplies store.

The corner grocery store, which usually caters mainly for the slam on the brakes and pained but patient consumer segments, will find that consumer behavior has changed away from “treats” or “nice to haves” to “essentials”. In this case, the store could be agile enough to reposition itself to stock more “essential” items at lower margins but secure a greater volume of consumers by better aligning its inventory and marketing to benefit from changing consumer behaviour.

The beauty supplies store however will have a different set of challenges and opportunities. Most of its traditional consumer base would now have stopped or postponed “nonessential” purchases. By focusing on the latest trends and higher-end cosmetics, the store should be able to offset the loss of sales from the slam on the brakes and pained but patient segments by capturing the attention of the live for today, and comfortably well-off segments.

Cutting marketing activities or the marketing budget during a downturn therefore may not be the best decision for your business. It may be worthwhile exploring your market and your product or service suites for potential opportunities before taking the axe to marketing.

Your Business and Higher Inflation

May 11, 2022

By Atul Oka, Senior Director of Strategy and Business Development, DUKE Heights BIA

Many businesses still not completely recovered from the impact of the pandemic now must face another challenge. Rising inflation and the linked rise in interest rates will see an increase in input costs and the cost of servicing debt for most businesses. This, accompanied by the potential slowdown in consumer demand will lead to financial stress for businesses in Canada for the next few years.

Being well prepared, however, can smoothen out the impact of these headwinds. Every business is different, but here are a few ideas that you may be able to apply in your business to help you better mitigate the challenges ahead.

1. Prioritise which products and services you push

Don’t focus on products that have a “long shelf life” even though some of these may have very good margins. These slow-moving products will tie up your capital for longer periods thus limiting your financial liquidity.

Also, try and focus on fast-moving high-margin products where demand remains stable irrespective of small changes in price. This will allow you to pass on some of the price increases in your input costs to your customers without drastically affecting your margins or volumes.

2. Spend wisely

All businesses need to spend money to make money, but during tough times it is essential that a differentiation be made between strategic vs non-strategic spending.

A simple rule of thumb to help identify if a cost is strategic is to make sure the cost checks one of the following:

  • Is the cost essential to maintaining or growing the business?
  • Is the cost going to result in a short- or medium-term cost saving for the business?
  • Is the cost a legal or compliance cost?
  • Will the cost result in a positive net ROI for the business?

If that new Lamborghini for your delivery driver does not tick any of the boxes above, it may be time to rethink the expense for the next year or two.

3. Build a financial buffer

If you are a business that carries debt, it may be time to find ways to reduce costs and repay as much debt as possible before interest rates rise too far. Streamline your processes and eliminate wasted steps, costs, and shrinkage. Try and accumulate these savings over time so you have a war chest ready for emergencies.

4. Reposition your brand

Increase the perceived value of your product or service so customers are less hesitant to pay a little more. Some costs cannot be absorbed by the business and need to be passed down to the customer. This is especially challenging when your brand or product is positioned as a discount or bargain brand or product. Price increases in this sensitive segment can and will lead to the loss of certain customers.

Repositioning your brand, however, may allow you to increase prices without adverse reactions from potential clients. Increasing the perceived value of the product by improving the quality of packaging, adding warranties or guarantees, or creating bundles or packages will allow you to attract customers that are looking for value and are willing to pay a little bit more than absolute rock bottom prices for what they want at little or no additional cost to the business.

The future is always hard to read but as Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. The preparations you make today may help save your business tomorrow.

 

DUKE Heights Business Mentorship Program (Small & Medium-sized Businesses)

Small & Medium-sized Businesses

Click Here to Apply

If you are a small or medium business in the DUKE Heights Business Improvement area (East to West, between Keele and Dufferin Streets, and North to South between Steeles and Sheppard Avenues), you qualify to join the FREE DUKE Heights Business Improvement Area (BIA) Small Business Mentorship Program.

The DUKE Heights Business Mentorship program for small businesses is an initiative from the DUKE Heights Business improvement area to boost and enhance the future success and sustainability of businesses in our BIA. The mentorship program forms part of the BIA’s economic development strategy which aims to improve the success and sustainability of businesses in the area.

The mentorship program will pair an experienced businessperson or specialist with needy businesses to provide guidance, advice, and support through a structured program framework that will cover all aspects of the business. The program will help small businesses overcome current challenges and improve growth and profitability.

The Small Business Mentorship Program is designed and structured on a modified Business Builder framework which aims to help small business owners create and drive successful business growth and profitability strategy.

Key Program Activities & Goals

The program includes the following main activities and goals:

  • Creating an effective business strategy from the owner’s aspirations and goals
  • Breaking the overall business goals into actionable and discrete activities to help the business improve:
    • Business growth
    • Customer numbers
    • Financial stability, profitability, and margins
    • Marketing and sales
    • Operations and efficiency
    • Product design and development

In addition to guidance and advice, each small business accepted in the FREE small business mentorship program will be eligible for the following:

  • Free business website
  • Free Digital marketing on social media and digital platforms
  • Free Billboard Advertising
  • Free Business evaluation and benchmarking
  • Free access to the business toolkit
  • Free profile and article in our newsletter and other print media
  • Free security services
  • Free consultation with a registered accountant to help with financial planning or grant applications
  • Free access to business webinars and networking events

Our volunteer business mentors will spend a few hours with you every week/month not only covering the different aspects of business covered above but also sharing with you the insights and knowledge they have gained throughout their lives in running or being part of successful businesses.

Apply Now to Find A Mentor

The program is currently accepting new applications from small and medium businesses in the BIA. The requirements to enter the program are listed below:

  • The Business must be a going concern for at least six months.
  • The business can be of any sector or industry.
  • The business should have at least one full-time employee and either lease or own property within the boundaries of the BIA.
  • The business owner must show a willingness and commitment to work with the business mentor to improve and grow their business.

Mentees will be selected based on various criteria in addition to the requirements stated above such as potential match and alignment with our mentors and overall business potential. Shortlisted mentees may be required to present their business to a panel of potential mentors as part of their final selection to the program.

Click Here to Apply

If you are dedicated to growing your small business, the DUKE Heights Small Business Mentorship Program can help you in growing your successful business. Please remember that we have a limited number of qualified volunteer business mentors, so we encourage you to apply while slots are available.

 

DUKE Heights Business Mentorship Program (Start-ups)

Start-ups and Entrepreneurs

Click Here to Apply

If you are looking at starting up a business or are already a small start-up, the DUKE Heights Business improvement area (BIA) has a FREE Business Mentorship program that can help guide you and your business to success.

The DUKE Heights Business Mentorship program for Start-up businesses is an initiative from the DUKE Heights Business improvement area to boost and enhance the future success and sustainability of businesses in our region of Toronto. The mentorship program forms part of the BIA’s economic development strategy which aims to encourage entrepreneurship and economic activity in North York.

The mentorship program will pair an experienced businessperson or specialist with needy businesses to provide guidance, advice, and support through a structured program framework that will cover all aspects of the business. The program will help the start-up overcome challenges and be better positioned for growth.

The Start-up Mentorship program is based on a modified version of the acclaimed business model canvas (BMC) to help understand, visualise, and implement business decisions.

Key Areas Covered

Key areas covered by the mentorship program include:

  • Business Strategy and idea validation
  • Business and product positioning
  • Finance, financial planning, and pricing
  • Differentiation and value proposition
  • Marketing – identifying target markets, marketing messaging, positioning, marketing channels, etc.
  • Sales – creating an effective and efficient sales process with targets and performance management

In addition to guidance and advice, each Start-Up accepted in the FREE small business mentorship program will be eligible for the following:

  • Free access to business webinars and networking events
  • Free access to the business toolkit
  • Free business evaluation and benchmarking

Our volunteer business mentors will spend a few hours with you every week/month not only covering the different aspects of business covered above but also sharing with you the insights and knowledge they have gained throughout their lives in running or being part of successful businesses.

Apply Now to Find A Mentor

The program is currently accepting new applications from Start-ups looking for business mentorship. The requirements to enter the program are listed below:

  • Business must be past the conceptual phase and have a real product or service.
  • Business must have tested the product or service and/or have proven sales.
  • The business must have a business plan or forecasting backed up by research indicating future sustainability and profitability.
  • The business can be of any sector or industry
  • The business should have sufficient initial seed funding to start and run the business until additional funding can be secured.
  • The founders of the business should be involved in the business full time or show sufficient commitment to the business.

Mentees will be selected based on various criteria in addition to the requirements stated above such as potential match and alignment with our mentors and overall business potential. Shortlisted mentees may be required to present their business to a panel of potential mentors as part of their final selection to the program.

Click Here to Apply

 

If you are dedicated to growing your Start-up, the DUKE Heights Start-Up Business Mentorship Program can help you in creating and growing a successful business. Please remember that we have a limited number of qualified volunteer business mentors, so we encourage you to apply while slots are available.

 

Request for Proposal-Landscape, Urban Design and Street Animation Strategies

DUKE Heights BIA is seeking quotations from Proponents to undertake a process of research, focus group discussions with stakeholders and the development of specific landscaping, urban design and physical design improvements/features as well as programing actions for identified localities, both on public and private lands along the BIA Main Streets.

The objective is to achieve Main Street animation for pedestrians and passers-by, especially in the Spring, Summer and Fall.

Download the detailed RFP from the link below. The deadline for submission is Friday, April 8, 2022, at 4:00pm (local Toronto time).

 

Download RFP on Landscape, Urban Design and Street Animation Strategies

 

Request for Proposal-Tree Inventory and Planting Opportunities

DUKE Heights BIA is seeking quotations from proponents to undertake a complete review and detailed site assessment of the existing tree inventory and compile a planting plan for additional trees on the BIA’s internal streets.

Download the detailed RFP from the link below. The deadline for submission is Friday, February 25, 2022, at 4:00pm.

 

Download RFP on Tree Inventory and Planting Opportunities

 

Featured Member: Active Kids Zone

July 26, 2021
BY: CLARA SALEHI

Active Kids Zone is shaping out to be the go-to place for your kids this summer! Built to help busy parents, the facility is conveniently located at 951 Alness St. and is like nowhere else! Active Kids Zone has an expansive 10,000 sq. ft. centre that contains a full-size gym, a 3,000 sq. ft. indoor playground, and three additional party rooms. Children will never want to leave as they take part in entertaining activities all day long! Active Kids Zone runs summer and holiday camps specifically when children are out of school, including winter break, Passover break, and March break. They are a pivotal local hub due to their proximity to the local community, as they prove to be an invaluable place for busy families.

Active Kids Zone is not solely a children’s entertainment facility, it is also open to party planners across the board! Group parties are a breeze at Active Kids Zone as they can help plan and host various themed birthday parties, company parties, corporate functions, and more! They are proudly nut-free and wheel-chair accessible to ensure an inclusive and safe event for all.

Nonetheless, Active Kids Zone’s success in recent years could not prepare them for the rollercoaster year that occurred upon the pandemic’s arrival. In March 2020, Active Kids Zone was forced to cancel their March break camp due to the province-wide lockdown, usually their busiest time of year. Fortunately, after several months of closure, Active Kids Zone was able to successfully run their summer camps in 2020. However, their time open was short-lived due to the following lockdown that lasted on and off well into 2021. In the past year, group parties and gatherings were at a standstill at the Active Kids Zone facility, but they are hopeful that they will be back to hosting events soon!

As of Wednesday June 30, 2021, indoor gatherings of up to 5 people are allowed by Ontario and the number is set to increase in the next few weeks. This summer is filled with hope for owner Jennifer Fleischer as Active Kids Zone takes it “day by day”. They are thankful for government financial aid and promotional support tools from the BIA that has helped keep them on their feet.

Now, after months of doubt, Active Kids Zone is slowly welcoming children back to their programs! They will be running a summer camp all through July and August in their state-of-the-art facility, which will include a wide variety of programs and activities for kids of all ages. More importantly, Active Kids Zone prioritizes health and safety in their facilities and will be adhering closely to COVID-19 safety protocols, all while ensuring that the kids have an amazing time!

For more information about Active Kids Zone and their various programs and services, please visit: www.activekidszone.com.


“Live an Active Life. Have a great Active Kids Day!”

Active Kids Zone

951 Alness St
North York, Ontario
M3J 2J1

Email: Fun@activekidszone.com
Phone: (416) 650-5060
Website: www.activekidszone.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/activekidszone
Instagram: www.instagram.com/activekidszone

DUKE Promos July 2021

DUKE Heights Business Improvement Area (BIA) is home to 2500 businesses, located between Keele and Dufferin Street and Sheppard and Steeles Avenue. Our BIA businesses offer a wide range of products and services at competitive prices. Explore DUKE Heights BIA businesses and help support local businesses by taking advantage of these special discounts and savings being offered to you until July 31, 2021.

All offers are valid until June 31, 2021. The Promo Codes can be shared and redeemed by more than one person and more than once subject to availability. However, checking with the vendor for any restrictions is advisable.

Download with Links


DUKE Promos June 2021

DUKE Heights Business Improvement Area (BIA) is home to 2500 businesses, located between Keele and Dufferin Street and Sheppard and Steeles Avenue. Our BIA businesses offer a wide range of products and services at competitive prices. Explore DUKE Heights BIA businesses and help support local businesses by taking advantage of these special discounts and savings being offered to you until June 30th 2021.

All offers are valid until June 30, 2021. The Promo Codes can be shared and redeemed by more than one person and more than once subject to availability. However, checking with the vendor for any restrictions is advisable.

Download with Links