The Coronavirus pandemic has been incredibly disruptive to small businesses. Many have had to close their doors, send home their employees, and wait in uncertainty. It goes without saying this is causing a lot of businesses fear and anxiety, but many business owners are using this forced downtime to prepare for a post-COVID-19 world. Here are a few ideas to keep you busy and prepare for when you can throw your small business doors open again…
You know all those “I wish I had time” and “someday” projects that lurk in every corner of a small business? Now is great opportunity to dig into those neglected stacks, organize odds and ends, and throw away or repurpose things you are not using. It also gives you time to stand back and look at your use of space. Is this a good time to rearrange furniture? Displays? The upside of organizing is that projects are an excellent way to alleviate anxiety. Organizing and rearranging takes your mind off of the omnipresence of Coronavirus. You can also end the day with a sense of accomplishment as opposed to despair.
This is where we are seeing a lot of small businesses shine right now. They have shut down normal operations, and have altered how they do business depending on exactly what their customers need during this crisis. Restaurants that normally do not have takeout now do, gyms are renting out their equipment, Napa Valley is shipping flights of wines and selling virtual tours to go with them! Use some of this downtime to really crawl inside the head of your customer. Who are they? How do they shop or utilize your services? Most importantly, what are they going to need once the Coronavirus pandemic is over? When you can answer that, boldly adjust your inventory and/or offer new services that your customers will be looking for and will be willing to pay for in a post-COVID-19 world.
Focus on Marketing
If there is a constant struggle that plagues small businesses, it is having the time, energy, and expertise to effectively market. The “sheltering in place” order gives businesses a unique opportunity to dedicate real time to marketing. Here are a few ideas:
Learn how to set up and manage a Google Ads campaign (or consult with a certified Google Ads expert). Even if you don’t want to invest the money now, learning about Google Ads will position you to advertise the updated or new products or services your business is offering in a post-COVID-19 world.
When I visit with most of our small business clients, the response to social media is about the same: “Ugh.” It’s time-consuming and needs to be done strategically. It can be difficult to measure return-on-investment – the data and analytics are there, but is it affecting your bottom line enough to justify the time spent on it?
Here’s the good news – there is TONS of information on how to run an effective social media campaign. A very simplistic start includes these three steps:
- Set goals. What are you hoping to accomplish? Do you just want to increase followers at first? Engagement? Traffic to your website? Establish your goals so you know what to focus on.
- Figure out what social media platforms your customers are on. You don’t have to be on every social media channel ever created. More than likely, your customer is just on one or two channels consistently. Figure out what those are, determine how frequently you will post – and stick to it. Whether it is once a day, or once a week, speak to your customers on a regular basis. There are software programs that help you to schedule posts in advance, so during this “time off,” you could schedule out a whole month or two in advance.
- Remember the 80/20 rule. You should be offering your customers some type of value 80% of the time, and only pitching to them 20% of the time. If you use social media as a billboard, people will start to tune you out, or block you. What does your audience find interesting? You can link to your own blogs, or to articles written by others. You can post fun facts, FYIs, and interesting images associated with your audience’s interest. Social media is used to build conversations and relationships with your customers, so remember to keep it about them.
Now that things are a bit quiet, it may be a great time to take a serious look at your website. Does it still convey the message you want it to? Did it ever? Does it have imagery that accurately reflects your business today? Does it play nicely on a mobile device? Does it have a great user experience that makes it stand out from your competitors? Is it optimized for performance and search engine results so that your website is easy to find?
Really focusing on your online presence during this time could yield maximum returns when everyone’s doors fly open again. You want to capitalize on any post-COVID-19 boom that may be waiting on the horizon and there is no better way to do that than to have a website that is fully optimized, tells your updated story, and provides a memorable user experience for your customers.
Every small business has a handful of things that need to be repaired. This can include technology (printers and computers), plumbing, heating, and that drawer that REFUSES to stay on the tracks! These things can drive business owners and their customers alike crazy over time, but there never seems to be enough hours in the day to fix things. Well, now you can. And every time you make a repair, you are helping other small businesses (like hardware stores and IT companies) stay in business. If you’re not sure HOW to fix something, remember that YouTube is every handyman-wanna-be’s friend.
It can be extremely difficult to do, but maybe now is a good time to rest a bit. If practical, consider working half days and indulging in hobbies, interests, reading, and relaxing the other half of the day. The reality is that this too shall pass. And while many forecast a fair amount of gloom and doom for small businesses on the other end of this, it could just as easily end up being a boom for people who have had to live weeks without the goods and services they need and want. In a few short weeks, you may find yourself working extra hours. Take this time to position your business for what your customers are going to need from you post COVID-19, and rest up while you can.