The coronavirus pandemic is not easy on anyone, but business owners specifically are finding themselves worried and uncertain of what’s to come. Many small businesses are opting to close their doors as a preventive measure, while others are being forced by local bans and closures to temporarily shut down or dramatically reduce operations until further notice. There isn’t yet a clear picture of what’s ahead, but we do know that things won’t be business as usual for a while.
Keeping Your Small Business Healthy Through the COVID-19 Pandemic
First thing’s first: Don’t panic. It’s easier said than done, but remember that businesses and communities around the country are in the same boat. We’re all in this together, and there may even be some opportunities for your business to discover as the chaos dies down.
Put Staff and Customer Safety FirstThe most immediate concern for your business is likely the safety of your employees and customers. For some businesses, promoting safety may mean reconsidering remote work policies, sick time, and hygiene practices. The CDC has recommended that all businesses encourage sick employees to stay home while cancelling or postponing all unnecessary travel and meetings. In addition, your company should emphasize good hygiene practices for all employees. These include regular handwashing, limiting physical contact with others in the workplace, and utilizing personal protective equipment as needed. You will also need to ramp up cleaning and sanitation procedures throughout employee and customer areas.
Many businesses are also cancelling large events and limiting in-person transactions. For example, many dining establishments are utilizing take-out, drive-through, and delivery dining to limit the number of patrons present inside. Other impacted businesses, such as concert venues, have explored more creative solutions, such as special live streaming concerts, often offered for free.
Be Transparent and Communicate OftenIt might be tempting to put on a strong face for your employees and customers to maintain your business’s reputation. However, clients (and employees) are often sympathetic and receptive to companies in crisis. So, you should be transparent about the situation for your business and the expectations customers can have over the next few weeks. It’s also important to remember that local and federal regulations may change quickly and often. So, your job over the next few weeks may be focused on creating an adaptable strategy and continuing to update the public about your business.
Social media is a strong tool for businesses to utilize right now. People can’t take their eyes off their newsfeeds as public officials continue to define and respond to this crisis. Keep your business where it will be seen by regularly posting to your social media platforms. It is important to update customers about how, when, and where your business will be available throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and what you’re doing to keep customers and staff members safe. You might also offer some lighthearted content to give weary minds a break from doom-laden newsfeeds.
As you post more on social media, you may see more favorable insights on your channels than usual. That’s because people flock to social media in times of crisis. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this is only truer. People are being told to stay in their homes and reduce their social contact with one another, so they are turning to social media apps to stay connected to the community.
Understand Your Relief OptionsOne area of particular uncertainty is the availability of government resources for small businesses. However, one program that is already in place is the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Through this program, the SBA will work with state governments to facilitate targeted, low-interest loans to businesses severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. If your business does not qualify for this type of relief, the SBA does offer other lending options through selected partners. These types of loans can free up capital for your business and help you continue supporting your staff and serving the local community.
Larger, web-based businesses are doing what they can to support small businesses as well. For example, Xfinity has offered free wi-fi hotspots to everyone for the next 60 days. In addition, many utility companies are waiving late fees and suspending shutoffs for periods of 30 days or more. Communication software and remote worker support through companies like Microsoft, Google, Slack, Wrike, and Zoom are also being offered for free or at a discounted rate for premium services.
Don’t Shy Away from AdvertisingYou may feel conflicted about promoting your business during a public health crisis. However, one of the biggest concerns during this crisis is keeping small businesses alive in local communities. So, if your business is able to stay operational in any capacity, you should be advertising. You simply will not reach customers and win their business if you aren’t visible in digital media.
Don’t Neglect the Big PictureWhile it may not feel like it, normalcy will eventually return. No one can say for sure how or when it will happen, but things will stabilize. At that point, where will your business be? One way to reduce the uncertainty is by staying invested in your bigger picture plans for your company’s growth and marketing. Naturally, you may need to adjust, adapt, and slow down. However, what’s been working for your business will continue to provide positive benefits down the road. For example, maintaining your search engine marketing will help to keep your business relevant in a rapidly changing marketplace.
If you do have the resources available to keep up your search marketing efforts—or you work with a marketing firm that will offer more flexible payment options for your services—your business will be in an advantageous position in the months ahead. Remember, the rest of the world will continue moving as the pandemic progresses. This means that the need for services won’t suddenly vanish—just imagine being the unlucky homeowner who discovers that their roof is leaking after a month of self-quarantine. Continuing to utilize organic search marketing will position your business to be found when potential customers are looking for your services. Additionally, there are product shortages and empty shelves across the country right now, which means people will be using web searches more often to find the items they need.
Discover Opportunities to Tend to Alternative Aspects of Your BusinessIn the coming months, successful businesses will maintain a glass half full mentality. Creative solutions will help keep your business afloat and minimize layoffs. The right opportunities for your business will depend on your industry and the resources you have available. Here are some ideas:
Revamp Your WebsiteEven if you’re still serving clients and generating revenue, chances are you will have some downtime in the coming weeks and months. However, that kind of free time can be a blessing in disguise. Now could be the time to finally revamp your website and overhaul it with new content. Cleaning up your web listings is another task you might finally free up the time for. In fact, you may be surprised to find inconsistencies in your businesses name, address, and phone number across different web listings. Doing housekeeping for those listings and improving your outdated website can support your SEO to keep your business relevant in the months ahead.
Make Physical ImprovementsAlmost every small business has some on-site projects they’ve neglected during busier times. Maybe your office needs a new file organization system, or perhaps customer-facing facilities are due for a deep cleaning. If you have funds to allocate hours to your staff, these types of tasks can keep employees busy and on your payroll even if business is slow.
Experiment with New Business OfferingsAs technology has evolved and new industries have emerged, you may not have thought much about how your business could change and offer new services. This is a good time to do so. For example, physicians may create more flexibility in their scheduling and adapt to business restrictions by utilizing telemedicine with online consults via webcam. Even if you aren’t offering groundbreaking new services, you can take some steps to generate revenue now without your business operating at 100%. Gift cards are something your regulars are likely to purchase, knowing they will want to return for future visits. Alternatively, you might create service packages with deferred payments or down payments on future services to offer more flexibility for financially stressed patrons.
Give Back to the Community If You’re AbleIf your business qualifies for financial relief, but you find that client calls are slow, you can pay it forward in the community by giving back through paid community service for your staff. Alternatively, you might host a food drive for the local foodbank and incentivize customers to participate by offering discounts for donations. Showing that your company cares and will remain involved in the community through these difficult times will resonate with customers well into the future.
GSM Marketing Agency is here for your business during the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand that our clients may need a little extra help to shoulder this health crisis, and we are ready to offer support while fulfilling your digital marketing needs.