Updated: Jul 6, 2020
How small businesses can adapt and be ready for what is next in a post-COVID environment.
When states started closing brick and mortar retail shops, I was slightly stunned by how many small businesses were not prepared to promote and take their business online. As I searched the internet to buy goods and services, there were restaurants without online menus; nurseries and garden shops without a method to order online; or businesses with no online presence at all. For many small companies, developing an online presence can be a resource or cost issue but it is also a missed opportunity to grow and build revenue and brand presence.
Businesses relying only on their in-person customers had to quickly adjust and find a model that would allow them to expand their offerings. Here are some thoughts on how to help your business be prepared for the future.
Review your website.
· Is your site professional, accurate and easy to navigate?
· Do you have hours, policies, products, or a way to place an order?
· Does it reflect your personality, or did you just do the bare minimum?
· Are you capturing your customers’ information to allow you to market and communicate with them later?
Everyone is spending more time online, and nobody likes to navigate a poorly designed website. A frustrating experience can result in customers shopping elsewhere. Think from the perspective of the user – is it easy to find information or place an order? Investing in a user-friendly website with e-commerce options will appeal to all your customers, not just ones that are tech savvy.
Improve your visibility & stay connected.
When you can’t rely on foot traffic, how do you get the word out? Staying connected through social media is one way to set up a following of loyal customers, share information, provide offers, and promote your products and services. Customers like to be “in the know” and have insider information on their favorite shops. A modest budget for social media advertising could increase your exposure to a very targeted or regional audience. It also gives you a platform to have some fun and let your customers know what you are doing.
Another resource to stay connected is through direct mail. Consumers are at home and hungry for information but can be overwhelmed with emails. A printed postcard with an enticing offer can help drive traffic to your website or incentivize a new customer to pick up the phone and place an order.
“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.” – Oscar Wilde
Many businesses that were thriving and successful two months ago may no longer be in existence today. Is your business diverse enough to weather the storm? If one segment of your business is impacted can you pivot to improve revenue somewhere else? I recently received an email notice from my favorite candy company offering logo branded hand-sanitizers in addition to branded chocolates. It seemed a bit odd at first, but they have the tools and infrastructure to create custom branded labels – why not apply them to companies looking for hand sanitizers? It did not take away from the chocolate business and gave them a potential new revenue stream.
Business owners have to re-think how they can adapt and fit into the current market needs. Necessity is the mother of invention – think outside what you have always done and consider what the future may become. Are there plans and processes that you can put into place now that will give you an edge down the road? This moment is challenging all of us to try new things. Now is the time to be creative and plan for the future.