The COVID-19, best known as coronavirus, has changed the business landscape everywhere – from Wall Street to Main Street. And it will take some time before both the local and national economies begin normalizing.
In many places, local businesses like bars, restaurants, and health clubs have been temporarily shut by government order in order to enforce social distancing protocols. This strategy will reduce the spread of the virus. But it is obviously damaging for small businesses, even those that remain as people stay home to wait out the crisis.
So what can small business owners do right now to protect their business and set the stage for recovery and growth once the virus has been defeated?
Here are five ideas:
1. CORONAVIRUS AFTERMATH: STAY FOCUSED ON THE “BIG PICTURE.”
The market has experienced pandemics, recessions, and upsets before, and many businesses have thrived in the aftermath. This current concern will be no different. Use this time as one of growth; maintain your business presence and prepare yourself to flourish when the market regains its footing.
While short-term plans are necessary due to rapidly changing circumstances, they cannot be made at the expense of long-term strategy. The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, like its predecessors, will not last forever. Position yourself to address the world post-crisis. Your actions during this time will inevitably affect the fate of your business when normal operations resume.
2. Reassure Your Customers
The first and most immediate thing you should do is to reassure your customers that your business is still functional – even if it is not currently open – and that you are taking steps to protect them from getting sick.
This week, inboxes everywhere filled with notices from companies seeking to simultaneously calm nerves and explain steps being taken to clean surfaces, enact sanitation protocols, and ensure the smooth operation of the enterprise throughout the crisis.
You need to do the same. Use e-mail, social media, and all other electronic channels to communicate with your customers.
3. Take Care of Employees
If your external customers are feeling anxious about what the future holds, doubly so are your internal customers: Your employees.
Nobody knows how long this crisis will last or how severe it will be. It could require some, if not most, businesses to shut down or limit services for weeks. So obviously, your workers are going to be extremely concerned about their short-term future.
Now is a good time to talk to employees. Be transparent with what you are doing. Reassure them that everything eventually will return to normal and explain how you have their interests in mind. At the very least, these kind words will help calm nerves and allow them to remain hopeful through this crisis.
If you can allow them to work remotely, here are some tips:
– Use Skype to communicate with employees. You can create groups and separate them by departments for meetings and for sharing important information.
– If you need to have control, you can use logmein to remote control employees screen. This is not something we really recommend, but we want to mention, it is available.
– Use Google Drive to share docs and collaborate online.
– Use a Project Management software to help your employees understand the process flow and their responsibilities. We like Avaza.
– Use ZohoDesk or any Help Desk system to create email templates to help your team communicate faster and more efficiently with your clients.
– Automate your email system. Use a system to create automatic responses based on customers clicks.
– Use a LiveChat, with Artificial Intelligence, to answer to Frequently Asked Question
– Create a Booking / Ecommerce system to accept payments online
– Accept credit card online, we recommend Authorize.net, Quickbooks and Paypal
4. Switch to Digital Marketing (US Chamber of Commerce Recommendation)
Where are you getting your information about the virus crisis? If you are like most people, it’s your smartphone.
Right now, businesses need to get their messages in front of where people are looking: Their digital media such as emails, text messaging, social media platforms, and other digital marketing.
Now is not the time to come up with a new marketing campaign to boost your sales. This can be the best time to work on your website. This might be a good time to take care of the things you have not had time for in the last few years. If your website is 4-10 years old, it is time to consider an update. Switching to digital marketing now lets your business connect with customers directly and immediately while building trust relationships that you can rely on after the crisis passes.
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE. A small amount of business and brands will handle this situation the right way. Be that business. People will remember how you handled your marketing at this time. So instead of pushing your message today, focus on the future.
5. Consider Rebranding
In his ancient text “The Art of War”, Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu said, “In chaos lies opportunity.”
This crisis eventually will pass. The economy will return to normal although the cultural landscape will likely be permanently changed. In the meantime, consider using this disruptive time to rebrand your business to fit the future.
An excellent example is China. Two months ago, China was cast as the villain as the coronavirus spread outward from that country to the rest of the world.
Now that the number of new cases in China has started to drop and the country is moving out of crisis mode, China is improving its international reputation by reaching out to countries like Spain and Italy and offering their help in dealing with their national emergencies – rebranding from villain to hero.
Keep People Safe
These are scary times. Even if the coronavirus hasn’t yet reached your area, eventually it will, but no need to panic.
The most important thing you can do right now is to keep people safe. Taking these five steps will help protect yourself, your employees, your business, and your community while setting the table for what happens next.