Starting, maintaining and growing a small business presents a great deal of challenges at the best of times, but during economic downturns these challenges can grow quite substantially. I believe that the most important thing for small business owners during COVID-19 is to be productive, stay positive and to establish a strategy to help ensure that the next few months are as manageable and profitable as possible. Check out my tips below for both service based and product based business owners, to help ensure that your small business can survive COVID-19 and the tough times ahead.
Get your business online
So many parts of the world are currently on complete lockdown, with people having to work from home, self-isolate or be quarantined. It’s therefore more important than ever for you to have an online presence, not just so you can work from home as well, but so that you can reach those that are stuck at home too. Many people will be spending more time online not just out of necessity, but as a way to pass the time. This means there is the potential for more eyes to be on your business than ever before, as long as they can find you…
If you already have an online store or site, continue to focus all of your efforts in this area, focus on increasing your online sales, improving your SEO, staying active on social media, building your mailing list, planning out content and fostering online relationships with your community.
If you don’t yet have an online store or site, it needs to be your number one priority to build your business a website, gain an online customer base and keep cash coming in. Not sure how to get your website set up? Get in touch for some help.
Diversify your income streams
For some service based businesses out there, you might be thinking – how do I get my business online if I don’t have anything to sell? Now is the time to increase revenue by diversifying your income streams. Maybe you’re a photographer – could you sell preset packs or photography tutorials? Maybe you’re a caterer – what about creating a recipe ebook or YouTube channel? Perhaps you’re a PT or yoga instructor – why don’t you create some home work out videos or fitness courses for people to carry out in their own homes? If you’re a hairdresser, can you start selling products and hair accessories? No matter what you do, there is ALWAYS a way for you to diversify your income streams so that you can get your business online, you just need to get creative and think outside the box.
Increase your marketing efforts
While it’s tempting in times of uncertainty to cut costs wherever possible, I urge you to not slash through your marketing budget or efforts, or your situation could get worse. Instead you need to revamp your online marketing strategy to remind your followers and customers of the value and quality of your products or services. Do not promote sales or low prices, as this will be an unsustainable long term strategy.
Consistent and well thought out marketing strategies are essential to ensure that you are easily found by new customers and at the forefront of your existing customers minds. Effective marketing will also allow you to stay ahead of your competitors and maintain online traffic, enquiries and sales. Remember to keep it relevant to current situations, such as your customers being stuck at home. Be more active than ever across all of your marketing platforms, think Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Tiktok, email marketing, blogging and so much more!
Hold onto existing customers and clients
It’s no secret that it’s easier to get a repeat sale from a previous customer or client, than it is to get a first sale from a new customer or client. Strengthen your relationship with them by reminding them of your story as a small business owner, so they feel more inclined to work with you or purchase from you rather than a large corporate company or retail giant. Take every opportunity to promote the benefits of your goods or services, with a particular emphasis on the quality and value that you can provide. If you can’t currently sell them a service or product, then take the time to share value with them in other ways – by inspiring, educating, entertaining or distracting them from whatever hardships they are currently facing too.
Don’t be afraid to get vulnerable either, be honest and share the situation that your business is in and let your customers know what they can do to ensure your small business can survive COVID-19. Encourage them to purchase gift vouchers for the future, pay ahead for their services, subscribe to your newsletter, leave you a review, or whatever it is that’s going to help you to stay afloat over the next few months.
Pay extra attention to your best customers or clients
Service based businesses – arrange a meeting (or Facetime) with your biggest clients to remind them how much you appreciate their business and loyalty, do what you can to strengthen that relationship to make sure you don’t lose the business and avoid any projects or jobs being cancelled.
Product based businesses – take a look at your online analytics and send a thank you email to your best customers. Consider offering them a small discount on their next purchase as a thank you for their ongoing support or run a giveaway or competition for them – after all, if it wasn’t for them your business wouldn’t be where it is today.
Speed up cash flow
If you’re a service based business I recommend trying to collect your receivables as soon as possible, reduce your payment days and keep cash flow moving. If you’re a product based business then try to keep inventory as low as possible and consider whether it’s an option for your business to create on demand, rather than keeping cash tied up in products on your shelves that aren’t moving quick enough.
Consider international expansion
And then… world domination!! No but really, while your local economy may be dipping, other areas in the world may be on the up. If you’re a product based business, look into expanding your business internationally by finding stockists overseas or researching shipping options for overseas deliveries. If you’re a service based business that can deliver your service online, put some feelers out to find some new clients in other countries.
In my opinion this is the second most important point in this post (after getting your business online!) Greater productivity = greater results. If you work in a team, you can increase other people’s productivity by boosting morale, recognising achievements, staying positive and making work fun. If you work solo, check out my post – how to stay productive and happy while working from home for some top tips on productivity.
If you feel like there “isn’t much to do” due to a lack of sales, bookings, clients or enquiries, then now is the PERFECT time to be productive by improving your business and systems so that you’re ready for when everything does pick up again (which it will).
There are honestly so many ways to do this, such as updating your website or portfolio, renovating your cafe or shop front, batch creating blog posts and social media content, recording new podcasts or video tutorials, planning out your email marketing content, writing new ebooks, creating new downloadable guides and freebies, practicing a new client pitch, rewriting your menus, improving your customer relationship management system, tidying up your inbox or hard drive, *gasps for breath* I could go on and on… What’s more, this could be a really valuable opportunity to work on your personal development by enrolling in a new course, learning a new skill or making a dent in all those books you’ve accumulated.
Support your community
While it’s so important to focus on your own small business during COVID-19, remember that you aren’t the only entrepreneur or business owner struggling through it. Reach out to your community, rally up with your other small business friends and promote the heck out of each other! Keep spirits and positivity high, remember that we are all in this together and continue to support your local and shop small.
Need more help? Check out the amazing free small business survival guide resource that Jenna Kutcher put together here: https://jennakutcher.com/smallbizsurvival