Strategies for Small Business Success During COVID-19
We have seen small businesses forced to shut down altogether but some were able to remain open even with limited capacity, they have been able to survive and others have pivoted and seen growth. Read on an we will cover the key facets in the "sea change" that these business used to alter often their whole business model. We also cover here some case studies of business that have done just that- they have executed a plan b pivot
Empowering Your Employees
Keep up daily or regular team meetings. With everything that is changing and maybe declining, it is important to keep your staff updated and get to know their concerns. Doing this will really help their morale.
You can start with a daily huddle - get everyone in check, give encouragement and updates and make sure everyone gets to speak. If you can give them a positive vibe and confidence they will be more motivated. Also each day celebrate the success of the previous day.
Congratulate a team member for a job well done.
If they are all quiet you can start by asking them these questions:
What is your to-do list for today?
What makes feel you can not get your key tasks done?
How are you feeling? or even What's up?
The key is they are engaged and have a list of mutually agree tasks each day that will move the business forward.
If a topic gets too personal, make sure to schedule a one-on-one meeting.
Above all, be empathic towards any concerns as it is an uncertain time for them - just as it is for you in undertaking a transition to take as much as the business online as possible.
Do not be afraid to add humour to the conversation.
Offer pieces of training e.g Developing New Online Skills. Maybe they need a simple course on how to uses online video software or how to use Google Docs. There are many free courses around as you also need to conserve cash reserves.
Allow your employees to develop their skills online. Make sure they have the basic skills and knowledge for different online working tools that they need. Some of the common tools are Google, Zoom, Loom, Microsoft, Zoho, Breezy HR, etc.
These tools are beneficial and efficient if you empower your employees to embrace these and as they make small steps do not forget to praise them.
Zoom has had the most press for helping to keep employees connected while working remotely but there are lots of alternatives also - for example one of the best alternatives for small businesses is BlueJeans which is a web and video conferencing tool.
BlueJeans can also be used for e-learning courses, talks, webinars, Facebook broadcasts, and meetings. You can easily record every session and make it accessible for users who are not tech-savvy as a recording.
Do not be afraid to Offer a "work-from-home" or remote work option if possible. If you can crack this one the this has some real benefits long term- and it will require you keep in regular contact with your employees and importantly setting measurable daily and weekly goals and tasks.
If you can do this you may be able to save significant cost on office space which may be the difference between surviving or not - keep down or removing fixed cost will be a key to business survival and it is what your online competitors have already done.
I have personally recently taken onboard an administrator from the Philippines. I will be also putting together a series of articles and how to do sheets so if you decide to explore this then these resources will make it easy for you to do so. If you would like help in this - or need the information sooner - please use our contact form to get in touch - it is below in the footer.
So learning how to manage your employees remotely and keep them motivated, while ensuring security of your companies data and intellectual property is key to success.
You may need to change your mindset also - and manage your staff for success and not just for working a block of time or have them look like they are really busy - when really they are just filling in their day. Coming into the office to do a 9-5 has been ingrained for so long - that it can actually be counter productive - you remember the movie and the song with Dolly Parton - "working 9 to 5".
So embrace this new norm it may be the key to your survival. And manage your staff by results and tasks achieved not just punching a 9-5 clock. If they can get it done in 4 hours what took 8 then that is fine, you have just found out how inefficient you used to be.
Security for remote workers is important and using a VPN is a sensible tool to employ - they are cheap and do not impede online speed and give your staff and you a sense of security.
We have a full section of VPN's and strongly suggest you have a read - it is full of useful tips and some great vpn discounts and free trials.
In conclusion - you need to be seen to be empowering your employees for them to feel empowered.
Re-invent Your Offering
Now we are months into the pandemic many customer's needs and wants have changed drastically form before it began.
People no longer travel, essentials have resurfaced and are more popular than luxuries, virtual or online transactions are preferred, and social distancing is highly encouraged.
To re-invent your offering, you must be sensitive and knowledgeable about people's needs in this new world.
Try to put yourself in your customers shoes,
To keep up with innovations and trends during the pandemic, small business owners and entrepreneurs need to switch up their offerings to stay afloat. The adjustments should be according to the customer's choices. See our Case Study on 5 Successful Business Pivots.
To do this, it might be good to start with market research. Know what the marketing and economic experts have to say and suggest whether it may be for national, regional, or local economies. Think about the industry you belong to and what the experts are saying in your field. Remember that different places have different needs and wants. Also, taking into account your existing and potential customers' demand in order to determine what they need, and see if you can provide that. Keep in mind that during this economic crisis, you have to be sure of making a shift or pivot for your business that you can sustain until the economy is back to normal again. And maybe if you do it right and keep monitoring your customers you may actually develop into a whole new mode.
After all the research that you have done, start to put all the ideas and data together then start to test your re-invented offer and see how it draws reactions from your customers. If it results in success, then good for you. If not, make more effort to brainstorm your offerings and try again. Do not give up.
Consider having a pickup or delivery method for your popular products. In response to this pandemic, many small business owners are advised to re-consider other options in selling their products. You can ask your employees to switch their roles or tasks to make way for this method. if you have food or tangible products, you can choose to have a free delivery option in your local or surrounding areas. You can also promote your products through social media channels and make your team arrange the pickup and deliveries for you, as well as the inventory. If fact in this new world - you really should be learning and starting to use social media in your business if you are not already.
Takeout, pickup, drive-through, and deliveries are perfect options for small restaurants. Today, many have adapted to offering family packs which include all the essential ingredients and instructions for a family or group to do their own cooking. Also, a "make-at-home" kit could be a good idea. It does not just promote social distancing and less physical contact between employees and customers, it also helps your customers bond together while supporting a local small business. Getting services from DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Postmates might be a good idea for your small business. They are the local delivery services that have nationwide platforms that can help your distribution.
One fast food giant in Australia started selling milk, eggs, and bread through their drive through window when they we only allowed to serve takeaways due to lockdown.
Have a "look-but-don't-touch" method for customers and authorities both will appreciate your own effort in preventing the spread of the virus. With that, you can do your own part of helping the community by putting physical barriers, provide one table and chairs per customer, regulate a "no mask, no entry" policy, implement the wearing of masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) for your employees, and mark designated spaces for waiting and standing. If you are into services, consider a virtual and online consultation via phone or video with your clients and immediately deliver their needs. If you are into a nail or hair salon and spa or massage services, you can offer your customer home services if that is permitted. If you are a fitness instructor, you can opt to do online sessions with your clients. If you are a real estate agent, you can do virtual walkthroughs, 3D tours, recorded videos, and send high-quality photos.
Of course, even though there is no physical contact with your customers, never forget to engage and build a relationship online - it will be part of the new world and developing loyalty now is a critical company wide skill to have.
Embrace the digital way
Almost every business has gone through this approach during this crisis since social distancing is highly encouraged or even enforced by law.
Digital or virtual transactions are the best options in order for your business to survive.
Though e-commerce is already a thing even before this pandemic has started, it has really grown and now people are enjoying even more the convenience and efficiency they are unlikely to go back to how it was before. At least not in the same numbers.
Innovations and unique marketing strategies are required when you go online. So, ask yourself if what can you uniquely provide for your customers?
Embracing the Digital way means - looking at each aspect of your business now and determining if it is done "old school" or "new school" - the digital way. Check each touch point of your product or service and determine the customers must haves. Then replicate that in the virtual world and work out how to deliver or deploy it better in the digital sense.
Below are some useful tools that you can integrate in order for your business to go online.
Shopify and Amazon
These two are the most popular e-commerce platforms today and are considered as quick alternatives for your on-site stores. They can help every business to start their online store by giving a safe, secure and accepted domain for you to set up your online store, and keep it running. They even provide you other offers like payment processing, fulfilment services and easy integration with social media sites in order to expand your sales.
Wix also offers small businesses the ability to launch their own stores instantly. Like Shopify and Amazon, they also provide a secured domain, capture email addresses of customers for your marketing strategies, and even help you create your own logo.
This e-commerce solution requires your employees to be a little more tech-savvy since they have a few complex features. Though it is simple to build your own secure website, it also has analytics and other features that may take a little bit of time to learn.
Squarespace claim they have search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to help rank first in every search engine. It also integrates a wide variety of social media sites. Plus, it has fulfilment services and email marketing tools to help you reach a wider range of customers regardless of their area and device used.
Taking advantage of Social Media Platforms
Social media channels are always a good option when switching your businesses online and can help to develop management plans for the pandemic. They are cost-efficient and people today are socially engaged and active in these channels.
Basic social media features in digital marketing for businesses are usually free of charge, however you can post advertisements. These if designed right can be very effective as they reach customers just when they are looking to buy. There is some skill and art around being successful in this environment and we recommend that you take a course. We have curated a careful and small number of paid and free course that will get you started and if followed will bring in good results.
There is a huge choice of social platforms and some are better than others for certain industries.
Google, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Twitter, Viber and Spotify are all very efficient channels to gain new customers as well as build loyalty with existing ones.
You can also plan to do live online selling, free webinars, online sessions to engage customers. Do not forget that your website can also have chats and comments creating daily check-ins for more customer connections.
Deepen loyalty with existing customers
Business owners are not just the only ones affected in this pandemic, customers are too. We are all in this together.
In serving your customers it is best to keep your efforts real, authentic, and transparent in order to earn their trust and add value to their lives.
Remember and take on board that your loyal customers are not just there to generate your income or profits, they are also your unpaid brand ambassadors and sales marketers.
Regularly Update Your Social Media Profiles and Pages
Your social media platforms can be a powerful foundation in building trust and relationships with your customers. But, you need to be the most engaging online business in order to get that.
One of the ways to be engaging is to be part of their conversations in your content, it has to be natural or organic and not forced. Keep your strong relationships with them by sending relevant updates through emails, newsletters, social media posts, and videos. With more people spending time and money online today, it is great to create engaging and creative content related to your business.
To do this, ask yourself this question:
How can I engage my customers regardless of where they are right now?
What can I do to encourage them to support my business?
Also do not forget your competitors, who are your competitors? What are they doing to cope up with this pandemic?
What is the local trend in this industry today?
Then brainstorm with your team or mastermind to see what is working and what you can do to improve over your competitors.
Giving out freebies and discounts through your online stores can also be a good choice to catch the attention of price-conscious shoppers. However do not compete on price alone. Work out a way to add value before, during and after the transaction.
Also, discounts if given the right way can be a great way of building loyalty among existing customers - but you need to be careful how this is managed.
Here are some ideas on ways that you can do it:
-Get two or more complementary products and discount the bundle, giving customers an opportunity to try new products.
-Use volume discounts to raise customers’ order values.
-Offer discounted shipping or free shipping if customers reach a certain amount of purchases.
-Maximize cross-sell opportunities and/or order value with buy one, get one promotion.
Another opportunity to build a strong customer relationship is to offer charitable sales promotions such as donating a certain amount for an organization or charity. This can encourage them to purchase items for themselves while still doing good for others.
Partner with existing businesses - do not overlook this one.
The objective of partnering with existing businesses is to develop and explore new ideas, creating business partnerships, searching synergies, and believing that there is power in numbers and partnerships. Be sure to make an effort to connect your business with other local stores, local chambers of commerce, and different industry trade groups. Using social media like LinkedIn or Facebook also is a great way to find potential partners.
Partnering with other businesses can also engage more customers and reach a wide range of audience, that is why many businesses have found collaboration to be a real winner.
To do this, ask yourself these questions to help you:
-Who should I partner with?
-Who are their target markets?
-Do we have the same products or services?
-Would this partnership benefit both our businesses?
Re-evaluate Your Marketing Strategies and Budget
Using your marketing budget well is a key component to this business pivot.
Using the research and competitor analysis from the above sections then you can reach new and an increased number of prospects.
Do not fall into the trap of just doing the same marketing (unless you know it works) because in many industries everything has changed.
Social media can help you tighten your budget
Internet usage went up high since COVID-19 and most people had no choice but to move their business purchases online.
Since people are forced to stay home, digital advertisements, email marketing and social promotions have become a key part of any businesses promotion strategy.
Social media marketing could be a good and convenient way to promote your goods and services as it directly helps you to pivot your business during this pandemic. As we have said above, your social media account could help you build the relationship, loyalty, and trust with your customers.
Document everything to determine and understand your return of investments (ROI). Keep track of the best offers and also what were your worst. It is so important to document this - as while it might be fresh in your mind now- in one month or one year you will not remember. What is key and most people overlook, is that we get good and successful at marketing and promotion not through brilliant ideas - but at incremental improvements.
Doing this and improving incrementally over a year will put you so far ahead of your competition that they will not even know where to start. Sweat the small stuff, the details or how and why each campaign improved - or not. It was maybe a layout, it was a certain phase that resonated - and combining this incremental improvement strategy over a year will yield great results. Sure you may get lucky and have a big win quickly - but for most it takes time. Stack the odds to your advantage and implement a document to track what you did as much as possible, what you changed and why.
You will see results
Good luck, or really what I should say is GOOD RECORD KEEPING and incremental improvements will yield you results and over time you will be amazed how good you are.