If you’re a small or medium business (SMB) owner, the global pandemic may have affected your current operations and future outlook in numerous ways. These are unprecedented times, but the uncertainty of the situation doesn’t mean you should panic or give up. Here are some tips to keep your organization resilient.
Research the Available Funding Options
There are a variety of state and federal funding programs created to help business owners during the pandemic. Take the time to find out about those and whether they might ease the strain of your current circumstances. Even if you don’t need emergency financial help immediately, knowing what’s out there could help you feel more empowered if you require it later.
Pay attention to the timelines associated with the programs you find. For example, the application period for the federally provided Paycheck Protection Program closed at the end of June. However, there are other options to consider, including those that offer debt relief or a funding advance.
Communicate Honestly With Your Customers
Connecting with your customers during the pandemic will likely require a few communication tweaks to get your messages out. Don’t worry about not having all the answers. Speak openly about what you do know, and customers will appreciate that transparency.
Maybe COVID-19 changed some of your in-store processes or slowed e-commerce orders. It’s best to tell customers about those things right away. Even if the current situation results in a few downsides for some people, demonstrating transparency to your audience is an excellent way to show you care about keeping them informed.
Partner With Other Local Organizations
Another way to thrive during the pandemic is to explore opportunities to collaborate with other businesses. Think about other organizations with customers that would enjoy or need what you offer. For example, if you have a house-cleaning business, see if a moving company would provide a 25% off coupon for your services. Tidying up an abode is an essential process for people who are moving away and want to get their deposits back or sell the properties, after all.
Craft your pitch thoroughly before approaching any business. Address what’s in it for that enterprise, as well as how the partnership could lead to a mutually beneficial pairing. Discuss perks like increased brand awareness and opportunities to reach new segments of the market. You might initially only see other enterprises as competitors. There are valid reasons to work together, too, however.
Build Your Online Presence
With more people staying home, it’s increasingly important to boost your marketing efforts by focusing on your internet presence. You might already have a website and social media profiles. That’s a great start, but you should also look at ways to make it even more convenient and comfortable for people to engage with you online.
If your website is not mobile-friendly, now is a great time to make the necessary changes to cater to smartphone users. You could also show authoritativeness by posting helpful, relevant content for current and potential customers. Doing that demonstrates you are still here for people during this new normal.
Maintain a Positive and Proactive Mindset
Fear holds some people back and causes declines in morale and performance. It’s tempting to ignore everything bad that’s happening and hope it’ll just go away soon. However, the more effective way to respond in a fear-inducing situation is to think about how you’ll help your business weather the storm.
Think as positively as you can. Instead of focusing on all the negative aspects of the situation, consider how these tough circumstances could help you explore creative methods and emerge stronger than before. Challenges like those posed by the pandemic often encourage people to investigate new profit streams and marketing methods they may not have otherwise considered. Ponder how you could rise up and not let the coronavirus keep you down.
Pivot Your Business
The pandemic has probably made some parts of your business difficult or impossible to do safely. Realizing that can bring discouragement, but don’t let a down mood dominate your outlook. Planning to pivot your company could help you discover different ways to keep the money coming into your enterprise.
If you formerly catered food for now-cancelled events, could you adjust by offering some often-requested dishes as home deliveries? Maybe you frequently held in-person lectures or classes. Video-streaming software could help you bring valuable content to individuals wherever they are.
Invest in Employee Upskilling
The pandemic could also provide an ideal chance for you to schedule workers to take courses and get skills that make them even more valuable to your SMB. You might sign the IT team leader up for a networking security class or have your marketing manager earn a certificate in search engine optimization. Determine what capabilities your employees lack and how to target them with education.
Many online course providers expanded their catalogs during COVID-19, and you may be surprised at the interactivity offered by such options. Some educators use software that allows learners to go into breakout groups or give virtual presentations to online classmates. You could even move forward with skill development informally, such as by launching a mentoring program between departments. Then, if things get slow in one area of the company, workers could pitch in elsewhere.
Show Empathetic Leadership
The COVID-19 pandemic affects people differently, and it’d be challenging to find someone who says it has not impacted them at all. Use that reality as your justification for a more empathetic style of leadership. Let employees know that you’re available if they need to talk, and recognize that some usually unflappable workers may appear more flustered due to everything happening in the world.
On the customer side of things, displaying empathy means being willing to listen to their situations and doing your best to understand them. Perhaps one of your long-term clients confesses they need to cut down on orders or require an extra week to pay an invoice. Take a personalized approach to those situations whenever possible. As people see that you’ll show understanding, they’ll be more likely to remain loyal.
Offer New Services
Recent research shows that most Americans reduced their trips to non-essential stores. Similarly, people are more likely to request or use virtual services, such as those that allow consulting with experts via video chat. Another emerging trend is the increase in stores offering hybrid options where consumers can shop online and pick up their goods in person.
Regardless of your industry, think about whether diversifying your services offered — and the ways you provide them — could help people feel safer and more excited about supporting your business during the pandemic. Such an approach helps you outside of COVID-19, too. For example, individuals with disabilities, stay-at-home parents and older people are some of the many groups that would likely value the option of getting help from home through virtual platforms.
Your Time to Thrive
The pandemic undoubtedly creates challenges, but the future is certainly not entirely bleak. Depend on these tips to point you in the right direction as you plot the most appropriate ways forward to keep your SMB strong.