The world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, and we know that many small businesses are worried and unsure about how they’re going to navigate these troubling times.
So, we’ve put together some ideas on how you can stay sane and productive in the coming weeks. Of course, every business is different, so not all strategies and tactics will work for everyone. But go through the pointers below and implement the ones that make sense for your business.
Practice social distancing as a business
The phrase “social distancing” has been making tons of waves lately: and for good reason. Minimizing the impact of COVID-19 requires that people limit physical contact.
Now, this isn’t always easy especially if you have a team and if you’re in the business of serving customers face-to-face. But in light of recent events, it’s highly advisable that you take steps to implement social distancing.
Depending on your business, this could mean:
Encouraging your staff to work from home
Any member of your team who doesn’t need to be on-site should be working from home at this stage. This may include your marketing and social media team or online customer service reps.
This will be quite an adjustment particularly if everyone is used to working face-to-face. One thing you can do to ensure that your employees stay on track is to utilize team communication tools such as Slack, Zoom, G Suite, and more. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when working remotely is not communicating properly, so pick a solid comms channel and use that.
Touching base with each other regularly is essential, not just from a work productivity standpoint, but also when it comes to keeping your team’s mental and emotional health in check. This is a stressful time for everyone, and simply interacting with fellow human beings (even if it’s done electronically) can do wonders.
Double down on ecommerce
You also need to practice social distancing between you and your customers. And the best way to do that is to sell to them from afar. Ask your customers to shop online, and beef up your ecommerce marketing strategies.
Here are some suggestions:
Come up with enticing offers
Free shipping both ways is always popular, but feel free to get creative and find a unique way to position your offers.
The artist Suzy Ultman, for example, is giving 20% off everything on her site with the code “INDOORFUN” (obviously since most people are staying indoors.)
You may need to shift your messaging and create content that addresses your customers’ COVID-19 concerns. Depending on your business, you may want to publish posts to help your audience through this period.
Note that your content doesn’t have to be sales-y. Sure, you can plug your products where appropriate, but content marketing is far more effective when you focus on providing value first.
Here’s a great example from 1 Above, a company that sells drinks to help travelers fly better. The company recently sent work from home tips, and while it promoted its product towards the end, it was done in a relevant way. Rather than marketing its drinks for travel, 1 Above shifted its messaging to position its products as a way to reduce dehydration, stress, and fatigue.
Leverage user generated content (UGC)
UGC doesn’t just help you come up with great content, it increases audience engagement. That interaction is incredibly valuable, particularly during this time. When you’re constantly interacting with your audience, your brand stays top of mind, and that can translate to traffic and sales.
One company that's doing this well is the NOBULL, an online retailer that sells sports and fitness gear. With more people staying and exercising at home, NOBULL encouraged its audience to share their home workouts.
Co-promote other businesses
Your fellow entrepreneurs are likely going through some downtime as well, so why not take this an opportunity to promote other small businesses? Mention them in your posts and stories or consider teaming up with a fellow SMB to launch a joint offer.
Now, more than ever, small businesses need to support each other. So reach out to other entrepreneurs and come up with ways to join forces.
Consider influencer marketing
Speaking of which, have you considered joining forces with influencers in your industry? With more of us spending more time online, people are turning to experts and influencers to stay informed and inspired.
Consider reaching out to relevant social media personalities who can amplify your message and your brand. Just make sure to do your research on the people you team up with. There’s a lot of misinformation going around out there. See to it that you align your brand with credible personalities who:
- are authentic
- share your values
- use their platform for good.
No ecommerce site? Find other ways to sell remotely
If you don’t have an ecommerce site, consider utilizing email or phone orders to generate sales. Tell your customers that you understand they can’t come to you, so you’re bringing the products to them. Depending on your business, you may want to implement local delivery by utilizing either your staff or small business delivery services to full shoppers’ orders.
Have a look at what Col Juicery is doing. The company has set up two delivery days (Mondays & Thursdays) on which customers can get their juices delivered to them. They just have to place their orders by a certain cut off time, and Col Juicery will do the rest.
Now, if same-day or next day delivery isn’t possible for your business, consider implementing curbside pickup, where shoppers still drive to your store, but you’ll bring their orders straight to their car.
Consider one-to-one appointments
If you must see customers or clients in person, see if it’s possible to only interact with one shopper at a time.
“One strategy that brick and mortar retailers can take is to schedule 1:1 shopping appointments,” comments Meaghan Brophy, a retail analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com.
“These arrangements can ensure that customers remain isolated as they purchase necessities. In the same vein, the one by one approach will allow retailers to thoroughly clean surfaces after each interaction.”
Keep your customers in the loop
Your customers are likely to be just as worried as you are. And depending on your business, they may have some additional concerns — such as whether or not you’ll be open, what will happen to their appointments, current orders, etc.
If you haven’t done so yet, craft a message letting customers know what you’re doing about COVID-19. Consider including the following points:
- Remind your customers how much you value them and that you care about their health and safety
- Outline the specific steps you’re taking to address COVID-19. How are you beefing up cleanliness and sanitation in your location? Are you planning to remain open? Do you have new policies in place?
- Outline the steps that your customers should take if they’re doing business with you. Should they order online? Is it still ok to visit your stores? What can they expect when placing an order?
Find small business assistance
Times are tough, so if your business needs additional support, you likely have some resources available to you. They include:
Small business loans - The U.S. Small Business Administration is providing low-interest loans that businesses can use for working capital. These funds from these loans can be put towards payroll, accounts payable, and debts.
Bill relief - Some utility companies, such Southern California Edison, which supplies electricity, is offering bill relief. In addition to temporarily suspending disconnections for customers unable to pay their bills, SCE will make arrangements that could spread out a customer's payments while going through difficult periods.
See if your utility company has a similar program.
Be proactive about finding assistance
If you’re worried about making ends meet in your business, proactively seek out resources and relief initiatives such as the ones mentioned above. Consider taking the following steps:
Call your vendors - Get in touch with your vendors and suppliers and come up with an arrangement to help you get through these hard times. Can they downgrade or put your account on hold? Are you able to move your billing date? Don’t hesitate to reach out to them. Your vendors and solution providers will want to keep you as a customer, so they will likely be happy to set up a deal.
Tap into your local community - Connect with other small businesses in your area or call your local Chamber of Commerce to see if there are any resources you can tap into. It’s possible that your local government will offer programs to assist SMBs through the COVID-19 situation.
Plan for the future
If you’re looking to be productive during the downturn, one thing you can do is to plan for the future. Don’t let yourself get caught off guard again by something like COVID-19. Come up with a plan to make your business recession-proof. That way, if the world goes through adversity, your business won’t suffer.
Now, each entrepreneur’s plan will be different, but here are some questions that can help you guide this process:
- How can you be more effective at putting money away for a business safety net?
- Are there other revenue streams, channels, or markets that you can tap into, so you can have funds flowing in from more sources?
- How can you serve shoppers better?
- How can you add more value to your customers' lives?
- What are the offers, programs, and initiatives you could implement immediately after the COVID-19 situation stabilizes, or is over?
The bottom line: business may be slow, but you don’t necessarily have to slow down (unless you want to take a break, of course). Use this time to be innovative. What’s something new that you can create? Cook up new products, services, and experiences for your customers. Or, you could evaluate your existing offerings and find ways to improve. Maybe you can redesign your website or shop. Perhaps it’s time to make your shipping practices more sustainable.
But whatever you decide to do in the weeks and months ahead, know that there is hope. You’ve weathered other storms (in business and/or in life) in the past, and you’ll get through this one.
Stay safe everyone! noissue remains open. Our shipments are going our as usual, and we're washing our hands. We have 10-day shipping for anything urgent, and of course we'll let you know if anything changes.