WOW! To say that things have changed a lot over the past 2 weeks would be an understatement!
EVERYTHING has changed…
Here in Ontario, Canada the province have announced that all non-essential services must close their physical locations for 14 days.
And to think that it’s been 2 weeks since our kids were still in school, attending music lessons and carrying on as usual. It seems like “normal life” was so long ago and that there is little end in sight.
The aggressive actions that governments have had to implement over the past week have been devastating to many small businesses. We are struggling to meet our basic business needs (rent, wages, utilities, customers…) when there has been so much disruption.
There’s no other way to say it or sugar coat it…
IT SUCKS!! (this is an understatement)
BIG TIME!! (another understatement….)
AND, now that we’ve gotten that out of our system, I’d like to suggest that we try to focus on things that we can actually control. Yes, it sucks and yes some are worried about how they will carry on. So, let’s look at exactly that!
There is no doubt that as a society this period of time will go down in history as an unprecedented event. It’s important to keep in mind that while this is a first for all of us, this is not the first pandemic the world has seen. It is possible that this could be different, but so far as history shows, we have made it through.
If you can get past a lot of the media hype and social media chaos, there are actually some great stories of really cool things that are happening right now. For example, animal shelters have reported a boost in foster applications, people quarantined are creating music together from their balconies, authors are doing read-alouds for kids, musicians are performing live from their homes, businesses shifting their products and services to help front line workers…
As we limit our transportation and manufacturing to some extent, the earth is able to take a breath of fresh air. Just look at this satellite image from the European Space Agency (ESA) that shows the change in NO2 levels over China before the quarantine (on the left) and during the quarantine (on the right).
If you look for it, there is an amazing amount of innovation happening.
People are finding new ways to communicate and new ways to offer their services.
So, as a small business owner, what can you do? How can you keep your business alive and set yourself up for success going forward?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Be Active On Social Media…but not too much!
Many of us are also feeling “stuck” at home as we do our part to quash the spread of the virus.
What that means for your business is a captive audience with a lot of time on their hands.
If you are able to still operate and deliver your product or service to customers, the first thing to do is make sure you are sharing what measures you are taking to keep your clients or customers safe. In this scary time, it is important to build trust and let people know that you have taken their safety into consideration.
This looks different depending on your industry, but it is important to share.
If you aren’t currently able to offer your product or service to customers, then you still need to be active. What can you share? How can you connect with customers? Even though there may be reduced spending on some items at the moment, that demand will return. People might not be buying, but they are window shopping and keeping your offering top of mind will set you up well for when things are able to resume.
Social marketing is exactly that – marketing.
It’s not sales.
Share your offerings, explain how they solve a problem for your target audience, why they are unique… all the things you would normally be doing to showcase your business.
Plus, we are all in this together. While we need to be physically distancing ourselves, we don’t need to be socially distanced from others. Reach out and share how you are coping. Putting a human face to your business is a great way to build rapport and engagement with both potential and existing clients.
While you want to keep your business out there, don’t overdo it by consuming too much media. Definitely stay informed, but to preserve your sanity and mental health try to limit news consumption. When things feel out of control, it helps to focus on things we can control – stay in touch socially (just not physically) with others and do our part (either staying home or being of service if you are an essential worker right now). We will get through this together!
2. Support Other Local Businesses
Whether you can or can’t operate your business at this time, take a few minutes to support other businesses.
This is a tough time for all and different people are experiencing things in different ways. Some businesses are overwhelmed at the moment because they offer something that is highly needed at the moment. Others are completely shut down due to lockdown and physical distancing. And many are somewhere in between.
No matter where you are, we need to come together and support each other more than ever to get through this crazy time.
How can you support local?
- Share posts from other businesses who are able to operate to help them spread the word.
- Highlight or share a business in your network who you partner with or use their services in your business to raise their reputation.
- Where possible, use local businesses and services to carry out your essential tasks. Visit a farm stand instead of using the grocery store. Order online from that downtown shop instead of from Amazon.
- I’m sure you can come up with many other great ideas!
Others that need support right now are all those who are on the front lines or supporting front line workers. They are working their butts off to manage the situation as best they can with the resources they have.
Reach out to someone you know personally and see if there’s anything you could do to help them (aside from just staying home!). Even if they don’t have anything that you can help with, just connecting and reaching out is helpful. Even a simple thank you and sharing our gratitude for their efforts can go a long way.
3. How You Can Adjust or Pivot Your Business?
While we don’t know when, eventually things will adapt and move slowly towards a ‘new normal’.
Even if you can’t offer services now, you need to be thinking about what changes you will make to adapt to these new times.
Just like flying on an airplane was forever changed after 9-11, it is likely that business will be conducted differently going forward.
How will you adapt?
What changes will you need to make?
How can you continue to solve your customers problems and provide value for them if things don’t go back to ‘normal’ for a while?
Again, this is going to look very different depending on your industry, your clientele and your product or service. Some changes are obvious, such as going digital – creating an e-commerce site for online orders or an online course that people can take from the comfort of their homes. Food service can start or increase their home delivery service or offer ‘curb-side’ and ‘contactless’ pickup.
Others will take more thought…
If you normally meet clients in person, how can you shift to work with them remotely?
If you work in a retail store, how can you share your products with clients in a different way?
If you typically deliver your service in a group setting, how can you adjust to minimize contact?
What other measures could you take to digitize or automate part of your delivery that could make things more efficient and safer?
As many people are working from home at the moment, how can your product or service help them?
What new challenges are people facing that your product or service could solve in a unique way?
Focusing on your ideal client and putting yourself in their shoes will help you to think about different ways that you could adapt or pivot a current offering to work in these new conditions. Put on your ‘out of the box’ thinking cap!
There is no doubt that this is an extremely challenging situation for most, no matter what your situation is.
It’s good to be safe, cautious and informed. Protect your mental health by not over-consuming media and making sure that what you do read is from a reliable source.
Keeping your business and brand ‘out there’ on social media is one easy way to keep clients and customers informed and connected, even if you can’t currently open your doors. There are more eyeballs than usual to see your stuff.
As small business owners, we need to stick together more than ever. Supporting each other, sharing stories, kudos to those who are on the front lines – all of these are ways that we can help one another, especially when we aren’t operating as normal.
…and take a bit of time to think:
How can I adjust my business to thrive in this situation?
In many ways, now more than ever, it’s time to think outside the box. Your business depends on it!