Small Business Crisis – 6 Options for Coping with COVID

by | Apr 18, 2020 | Business Advice | 0 comments

The advent of the coronavirus pandemic has made enormous ripples in the economy, and small business is at a crossroads. As a business owner, you need to evaluate your next steps to keep your business going in the right direction, and the secret is movement.  Taking action right now is more important than ever, but deciding which action to take can lead to paralysis by analysis.  Instead of freezing in place, move forward with the right focus, and your business will thank you.

6 Options for Coping with COVID for Small Businesses

  • Communicate
  • Serve
  • Reposition
  • Connect
  • Customize
  • Market

Bottom line is that you need to use this unexpected timeout to understand your audience, develop a relationship with them, and anticipate their needs.  Small business is predicted to lead the recovery in the post-lockdown economy, but they can only do that if they take advantage of the opportunities the crisis has presented.

Communicate

Tell your existing and potential customer base what’s going on. If you need to change business hours or contact directions, do so in all the places a customer could look, such as your website, your business Facebook Page, Google business page, and so forth.  Also send an email to your email list with that information.  Include an explanation about why the change is happening, too. While it might be obvious that its happening because of COVID, taking the step to say so helps cement it in the consumer’s mind. You are making this change to help do your part in keeping the community safe, and not out of a sense of fear or feeling of scarcity.

Any mass emailing needs more copywriting and less generic content.  Avoid boring “This is what happening this week” kind of emails, and instead, consider what your audience is most curious about as how it relates to what your business does.  For example, if you groom pets, then consider an email that includes taking care of pets during the pandemic.  If you’re a yoga instructor, you might include a how-to guide on how to use yoga at home to relieve stress.  Customize your content, and the people who get your email will actually read it.

Serve

At times like this, people want more than ever to be heard.  This is when you need to pay close attention to customer service, and ensure that your existing clients are getting questions answered quickly.  Frustration in general is at an all-time high, and it will spill over into negative opinions of businesses that are failing to respond.  We don’t know what the world will look like once the crisis has passed, but your customers will remember how unhappy they were with your business after everything settles down.

Reposition

The pressure of following social distancing directives has pushed businesses and consumers into virtual and online environments. Where once we had a conference around a large table, we now have virtual meetings.  Interacting with coworkers is now via video chats. One of the most amazing aspects of the internet was the ability to connect with people from the comfort of our homes, and only now is the majority of the world discovering this.  This is the time to take advantage of the new skills your clients are developing by encouraging them to connect with your business virtually. Hosting webinars and conducting live streams are now options that more and more people are familiar with, and more likely to engage with than ever before.  

For those small businesses with a product line of real items, eCommerce is now the way the world does business, at least during the lockdown.  If you don’t have a webstore, or your current webstore is looking shabby, now is the time to create a functional and fast site for online shoppers.  This doesn’t have to be a complex process, but it does need to be simple and user-friendly for buyers.  Online shoppers will not tolerate slow sites, or a complicated payment process.  eCommerce for small business is more than critical during this pandemic.

If you aren’t super comfortable with repositioning, or aren’t sure what steps to take, reach out to those who can set you up for success, like the professionals at Ask Michael Chandler. They’ve been in the business of helping small businesses use the internet and technology to reach a wide base of consumers for over 15 years.  They can explain what you need to do, show you exactly how to do it, and how it will work for your business.

Connect

And by this we mean you should connect meaningfully and honestly.  No one wants to hear empty platitudes about how hard life is right now.  Instead, show your clients and potential clients how your business is shifting to ensure continued service. Is your workforce all working from home now?  Talk about it. Discuss the dramatic change you undertook to take care of your staff. Is your company donating to relief organizations? Create content around it without including a hard pitch about how people should buy from you. The silver lining of this situation means your business has opportunities to show that a good, honest person is running the company.  Consumers, even before COVID, are showing an increasing trend to buy from companies they feel they can connect with.

You also need to invest more time to strengthen the relationship with your existing clients right now.  Focus more of your effort on connecting with them, and not as much on acquiring new customers.  Taking time to confirm that you are still dedicated to your current clients, and remind them of the value your business can bring to them.  Retention will translate into more stability so that when life returns to normal, you’ll be able to shift focus to new client acquisition without needing to start from scratch.

Remember, when people are forced to be more selective about who they hire, they are much more likely to choose a business or professional that they feel a personal connect with.  Spend the downtime now developing that connection and your business will benefit.

Customize

While people are uncertain these days, they are still buying. Creating a customized offering means you can show them that you are sympathetic and understanding of the situation. Before COVID, it might have been easier to offer products or services that were more or less one-size-fits-most. Customizing anything for a buyer means spending more time putting something together. while trying to avoid overwhelming the buyer with too many options.

Right now, though, is a time when buyers want to felt taken care of. So, take some time to thoughtfully consider what new or additional options you can offer to further customize what you already do, and communicate that to your audience.  Imagine a potential client saying, “I just want this, and nothing else.” Instead of trying to convince them they need all the other things you offer, or just saying you can help them, go ahead and imagine what it would look like if you took care of that buyer.  Then, create that offer and make it available.

If your business is focused on products, you might not have the option of customization, but you can consider including free gifts, or creating free shipping offers.  People are home and shopping online, so offers built to attract their clicks are ideal.

Market

There are too many hands in the marketing kitchen, so to speak.  While large businesses are in endless meetings about how to talk to your shared audience, you can step in and take action. Big corporations will always lack the flexibility and responsiveness of small business. This is the time to be talking about your business in an authentic way. Experiment with content, and learn what your audience responds to, at a time when your audience is spending more time online than usual. Don’t be shy – audiences are forgiving by nature, especially when they care see that you are sincerely trying to help them. Explain and demonstrate how your company can bring value into their lives, because right now, buyers want to know that whatever they spend their money on, they’ll be getting a great value for it.

Coping with COVID for Small Businesses

This pandemic crisis has made a huge impact on our economy, health and lives.  Its up to each of us to decide how we respond to it, though. We can freeze up in fear, or become determined to act despite the uncertainty. Communicate the steps your business is taking, and ensure that your customers are going to be taken care of quickly. Focus attention on your existing client base, and connect with honesty with your audience without pushing the sales pitch. Consider creating new options to customize your service. Take advantage of the market by jumping in and creating content, and most importantly, reposition your business for digital and online audiences. 

If you need some (or a lot) of guidance, talk to those who have been helping entrepreneurs and small businesses even before COVID reared its ugly head. Ask Michael Chandler is dedicated to your success. https://askmichaelchandler.com

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