Despite the harsh realities of COVID-19’s aftermath, the robust world of businesses, big and small prepare to reopen. No matter what- life must go on. Small business entrepreneurs are striving to integrate the “New Normal” with their existing business strategies and philosophies.
While most business owners are scratching their heads to come up with new ideas to run their business, others think of methods to use this chaos as a ladder to boost their sales. In difficult times, it is easy to get lost in the maze of anxieties but those business leaders that can calmly step back, assess their market, and coordinate a plan of action, are the ones who have begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Here is our checklist of the top 7 fundamental steps small business owners should take to overcome challenges created by COVID-19. These considerations can help business owners find silver linings in this challenging financial environment.
1.Being Resilient & Having a Step-by-step Plan
Small businesses in America are facing great uncertainty due to COVID-19. However, the Business owners who will prevail are the ones whose faith in their business drives them to do whatever is necessary to survive and ultimately prosper, even in the most tumultuous economic circumstances. The owners’ resiliency and determination will not only help them navigate through uncertainty but also evoke assurance and confidence in their employees and customers that their business is stable and prepared to withstand the challenges ahead.
Having grit and a positive mindset will enable them to come up with a step-by-step plan to tackle the uncertainties. For instance, a determined business owner will not give up even if the funds are tight and sales are scarce. He/she will think of ways and new methods to attract customers, maybe through new promotions, online selling, or adding value to their existing services. For funds, they will look for banks and lenders. If they don’t qualify for the banks, they can research to find alternative ways to access capital
2. Align Current Offerings to the Market Needs
One of the most significant after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic is the change in consumer buying behavior. The world and its customers as we know it has abruptly ended, and a phase of new types of wants, needs, and requirements has emerged. Some differences are apparent; more people have started ordering take-outs and baking at home. How does that affect businesses? Restaurants must be ready to deliver food door-to-door and have to be able to reach their customers at home. Stores of all sizes and types need to have amenities and services aligned to ensure safe transactions. Products required to tackle Covid-19, like hand sanitizers, masks, surface cleaners, should be available for selling and for hygiene.
Adapting technology could help businesses cut costs and maintain sales. Businesses that require in-person consultations such as doctors, business services, teaching, and tailors could make the consulting services virtual. Using online scheduling and video calls could help these institutions run without significant changes.
New Revenue Streams:
Business owners have to get creative with business models and marketing to create new revenue sources as existing ones may have become less effective in bringing in customers. Cross-selling in-demands products (even if it is a bit irrelevant to your product), subscription model for services, discounted prices on weekly/monthly order of goods, and weekly offers could help.
Businesses may need to expand their offerings to satisfy the new needs and demands of the market. Restaurants and stores that were not subscribing to delivery services should consider having an option to take orders online and delivering their services door-to-door via a third-party delivery organization or have personnel ready to do it. Small businesses like barbers/tailors/self-care services should consider taking pre-booking as many clients may not be comfortable waiting in lines as they used to.
3.Reassessing Business Costs and Partnerships
Anytime a business faces an obstacle, the first thing the owner should do is reassess their current costs and expenditures. Especially with an all-encompassing crisis like a pandemic, chances are suppliers, partners, and rivals suffering the same way. It is an excellent time to re-evaluate and re-negotiate with existing suppliers and vendors. They might be more open to accepting new terms and rates.
Taking time to list the avoidable business costs can help small businesses to streamline their business. Changes like shifting to marketing online, simplifying the menu, utilizing an online payroll system, reducing credit card and banking fees via fintech options explicitly geared toward small businesses are a few examples of many effective ways available to reduce costs.
4. Keeping up with Policies & CDC Guidelines
Customers of all businesses are well-aware and updated individuals, thanks to technology and wide-spread availability of information. But more importantly, it is of utmost importance that we follow policies and health guidelines set by the authority to ensure the safety of our customers and employee’s health. What are the guidelines?
The following site links and related sites can inform the business-owners of the necessary steps:
- Interim Guidance for Businesses & Employers Responding to COVID-19, 11th August 2020
- Toolkit for Businesses & Workplaces, 17th July 2020
- Small Business Resource Guide
Following these steps will require businesses to spend more effort and money, but in the long run, it will help by preventing the spread of disease and by gaining the faith of the customers. Also, in most states, the law requires these rules to be followed.
Business owners should make a habit of regularly checking on updates of policies and applying them to their businesses. Another critical step is to let the customer know that the business is following CDC guidelines. Some are quite evident: employees wearing masks or having hand sanitizers available. But notices can also be put up to assure the customers.
5. Managing the Business Remotely
A defining aspect of life during and after a pandemic is working remotely or working from home. As a part of the “New Normal”, small business owners need to onboard themselves to working remotely as swiftly as possible. An open mind willing to adapt in addition to various useful tools available online can aid the transition from working in-person to working online efficiently. Working remotely has many benefits such as flexibility, optimization of time, and even cost reduction.
Constant communication and vigilance, in addition to managing accountability, can help entrepreneurs work remotely with ease. The minimum requirements would include project management software like Jira or Trello, a platform for internal collaboration like Slack, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, secure file storage solutions such as google docs, Dropbox, and a bookkeeping tool like zero or QuickBooks. Many more advanced software and tools are available to enable businesses to collaborate online.
6. Focusing on Digital Marketing to engage Customers
A surefire way of reaching customers and clients during and right after the pandemic is online. Even before, most customers would check online for reviews before purchasing most goods or services. Most people, while at home, are also attached to their phones and laptops, browsing online. With their mobility restricted, they are more active on social media sites and search engines. Even as businesses open, many people feel safer doing transactions online. Thus, companies need to reach customers right where they are – online.
Digital Marketing analytics, tools, and techniques can help businesses streamline their marketing efforts. Affordable yet highly effective tools can help them target the right audience with the right offerings, even with a limited budget. Behavioral and demographic data on groups of potential customers helps the business customize the appropriate offering and communication.
Digital Marketing strategies can help small businesses reach thousands of more customers who wouldn’t have known of them otherwise. This pandemic has provided them with an opportunity to refocus their marketing efforts to optimize their digital marketing strategies, which gives their businesses to grow to another level.
7. Developing a Lifeline
Businesses of all industries and sizes must be prepared for uncertain times. By now, most companies and especially small businesses would have realized that. To be ready for uncertainties, first, business owners have to recognize the different obstacles. These can range from economic downturns to illness, pandemic to shift in consumer preferences, and more.
Lifelines, too, can come in many different forms. It can be a much-needed fund at the right time, a source of useful information, an alternative marketing plan, or a new business model. A good financial partner or expert opinion can also be a savior. To be able to access any of these, businesses and especially the smaller ones need to prepare ahead of time. In addition to being constantly aware of the market and their own business’s strengths and weaknesses, they must cultivate good relationships with customers, partners, lenders, and other stakeholders. It is important to keep an open mind to consider different scenarios and have a basic plan to handle those.
Some articles online are claiming social distancing while good for public health is bad for business. We believe it does not have to be true. What is good for public health should also be good for business as businesses are created for people. Businesses like their owners are made of hardier stuff than apparent. With the help of effective tools, innovative methods, fortitude, deep understanding of customers, and support from financial partners, this is a war business can win.
In our upcoming issues, more strategies and tactics will be discussed in further detail to aid small businesses in regaining their foothold.