Normally, we try to inject a bit of levity into our blog posts. After all, if they’re not fun for us to write, then chances are they won’t be fun for you to read. But these days of social distancing and Covid-19 uncertainties call for a more serious tone. And a healthy dose of empathy.
Because the truth is, many of our small-business clients are pretty worried — about their employees, their customers, their ability to keep the doors open. We get it; we’re a small business too. We don’t want to make light of these concerns. But maybe, just maybe, we can bring a little light into these dark times.
As a small business, we're vacillating between feeling overwhelmed and out of control. While there may not be many silver linings in this situation, the nationwide shutdown of business-as-usual might provide small businesses like ours with a unique opportunity. To do what, you ask? Good question. We humbly offer up these suggestions.
And we’re not talking a massage (though one of those sounds nice right about now). Businesses need self-care too. As your workload lightens, you may find more time to focus on long-neglected areas of your operation. Does your website need some TLC? Maybe an update or refresh? Some new content? You might actually have enough bandwidth now to write some new blog posts — or even add a blog section to your site.
Was George Bush still president the last time you updated your logo, business cards, and letterhead? Those might be in need of an refresh as well. You might even have time to spruce up that old brochure collecting dust in your storage closet. We’d be willing to bet there are a plethora of freelance designers and copywriters available for new projects right now (raises hand). Now might be an opportune time to do a little marketing makeover. When our economy is back up and running again, you’ll be ready with beautifully branded new materials to bring in new business.
Virtually, of course. Your customers are probably just as anxious as you are. So let them know you’re here for them — in spirit if not in person. We’ve all gotten the emails from businesses we patronize explaining how they’re adapting to Covid-19. But what about sending your clients a heartfelt email to let them know you’re thinking of them. Ask them how they’re coping, and what you can do to help. Remind them that we’re all human, that we’re in this together, and that together we’ll come out stronger on the other side of this crisis.
Running a small business leaves little room for social media. Use the Covid-19 slow-down as an opportunity to invest time and resources into building up your social media presence. Create an editorial calendar of posts for the next month. Start searching for curated content related to your business and relevant to your customers to post on your social media pages. Share gifs, videos, and memes to help spread a little cheer while we’re stopping the spread of the virus. Post videos and pics that show how you’re spending your new-found extra time. Provide resources — like this one on Covid-19 SBA loans — to help customers get through this experience.
While you’re posting on social media, encourage your followers to chime in. If you have loyal customers, invite them to post photos and videos showing how they’re staying productive, healthy, and sane while social distancing — and tag you. Share surveys and solicit feedback on what they’d like to see from your business once things get back to somewhat normal. Ask for pics of dogs, cats, lizards, parakeets, and other adorable pets. Request ideas for keeping kids entertained at home. Get creative, and keep your community connected to your business as well as to each other.
Your customers may not be buying stuff from your physical location right now. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want what you have to offer. Think of new and inventive ways to remind people of the value you bring to them.
Own a gym? Post a video of yourself going through a workout for people to follow at home. If you’re an accountant, share information on the impact of Covid-19 on taxes and ways to take advantage of economic assistance. If you style hair, let your clients know where they can find the great products you use online and share tips for keeping hair healthy while they wait for their next appointment.
Are you a clothing boutique owner? Offer a free personal styling consultation via email and video conferencing, and create and deliver outfits to your clients’ homes (if they live close enough). If you’re a consultant, extend clients a special discount on remote consultations via Zoom. Use your imagination to come up with ways you can stay relevant and foremost in your customers’ minds.
Take It Online
If you normally sell a product from a physical location, consider selling it online. Contact those aforementioned freelance web developers (raises hand again) to help you set up a quick and simple ecommerce site, using a CMS like Shopify, Prestashop, or OpenCart. If you already have a site built in WordPress, you can add an online store using a plugin like WooCommerce or BigCommerce. Online website template services like Squarespace and Wix also offer ecommerce functionality. Who knows, maybe your online store will be so successful you’ll keep it open once this is all over to supplement your brick-and-mortar location.
With all the logistical practicalities of running a business, chances are you’ve had little chance to dream big. So now’s your time to be aspirational. We don’t know what next week, next month, or next year is going to look like for our economy and business landscape. And that can be scary. But with uncertainty comes unlimited possibilities.
So get in brainstorming mode, grab a pencil and piece of paper, and start noodling ideas for your business’s brighter future. Where do you want your business to go? What business ideas have you put on the back burner? What’s your vision for your company three, five, even ten years from now? Identify your top goals, and then start working on a plan for achieving them once the pandemic is under control. You may not have toilet paper. But you do have time. So put it to good use.
We will get through this experience. And when that happens, you’ll be ready to build your business back up again, stronger than ever. And we’ll be ready to help you, anyway we can.