Let’s start off with the not so nice side of the current COVID-19 pandemic we find ourselves in and get it out of the way. The economy is not doing great at all and many small businesses have been forced to close their doors, while others lost a huge percentage of customers, and still more are having to lay off staff just to keep afloat.
My business means that under normal circumstances I work from home. Only difference now is me worrying about my child’s schoolwork and keeping her up to date as much as I can, while still keeping two very high-energy dogs entertained. Oh, and don’t forget all the other things around the house that needs seeing to; cooking, cleaning, washing etc. A tiny bit of nightmare all on its own.
But let’s take a moment to look objectively at our business. Take a step back and focus. Now is not the time to panic. It is time to start thinking out the box.
Worldwide market conditions are changing rapidly. Not just here in South Africa. And now more than ever it is vitally important that you communicate with your customers via social media. Small businesses must now be innovative and find ways to stay competitive to ensure survival. Remember, people still have needs and will continue to buy products and services. The only thing that will possibly change is the way in which your customers access your products and services.
Take a Step Back
Think and look towards the future. Plan for changes in the way you do business after the national lockdown as well as prepare for either an extended lockdown or any future lockdowns. And no, please don’t let negativity get a hold of you now. This is how we will plan and weather the storm. Regardless of your business type, think on the following:
Can you offer customers a package deal?
How will you celebrate getting back to normal business using your social media platforms?
What is the greatest weakness currently in your business? In other words, what is the biggest threat to your business as it stands?
Do I have a great relationship with my followers on social media?
If you are selling a product, look at your current supply chain and find the missing links. Consider if you may have to change the way you deliver your product to your customer. Don’t wait for your customer to find alternative sources to get the product you offer.
Now would also be a great time to look at supplier(s). Will they be able to adjust to your new ways of business and provide the quantity you require with a timely delivery? This is a golden opportunity to make a change that was possibly already needed.
Look at where the level of your current customer service stands. Is it great, mediocre or close to non-existent?
Up your Game
Here is for some great news! Small companies can adapt much quicker to changes in the economy thanks to their size. Their business mainly comes from local customers who prefer to ‘buy local’. Awesome right? However, you will need to up your game to stay relevant and a head above your competitors. Here are some great suggestions:
Adding value is one of the best ways of ensuring your customers do not stray. Think newsletters. A fantastic way to stay in touch with your customers. Make them personal, informative about your business and any new projects or procedures you will be introducing. Try not to remind your audience about the current disaster they’re experiencing. Rather keep it simple, short and offer content that can be useful to them.
If possible, think of running competitions. You can share interesting information about your business and ask simple questions such as ‘In which year did we open our doors?’ | ‘What was your best moment while visiting us?’ | ‘Which of our product do you like the most and why?’. Audiences are always looking to keep busy, and even more so now. It’s vital to create contests that are fun, educational and captivating.
Think of ways to keep the product(s) customers ordered as hygienic as possible. Relate this information to your customers on the exact procedures you have implemented for their safety. Going forward, this will be a major concern for most buyers and now is the time to change the standard way of doing things. Your customers will love you for it.
If you are offering a service, think about sanitizers on countertops, spacing of tables if you are a restaurant, encouraging take-away orders, implement online ordering if you have not done so already, less cash handling and more electronic payments, staff training on cleanliness and practising high standards of cleanliness etc. And once you have put all of this in place, share it with your customers so that they will know what to expect when visiting your establishment and/or ordering from you. It will build trust in you and your business with positive and long-lasting benefits lasting till after this pandemic has blown over.
Be positive, warm, friendly, honest and open when you are dealing with your customers. This is an absolute must do. No skimping.
Put that creative thinking cap on. What else can you do or offer your existing customers? Make a list however weird and wonderful and then start noting down positives and negatives, what will work within your company and what won’t. Then put procedures in place to implement the changes.
Key to remember is that you want your business to be at the top of the minds of your audience. Don’t stop posting on your social media. Whether you have a company assisting you with it or you are doing it yourself, don’t take your foot off your marketing efforts. It is much easier and less costly to market to existing customers than to try and acquire new customers. Think of the hare and tortoise story. The hare took a break and the tortoise ended up winning the race.
I hope you have found this post informative and helpful. Do you have any further suggestions you wish to share with everyone? Please feel free to do so. Together we can weather the storm.