Small-business owners walk on a razor’s edge in the best of times. In the worst, during a pandemic that forces owners to shut their doors for an indefinite period, they feel the shaky ground they had beneath them gave way entirely. This is an unprecedented time, and thus there’s little a business owner can base their important next steps on. The one thing that’s clear is flexibility and creativity will help small companies stay in business beyond this pandemic. To help you as you consider what to do, here is how small businesses can survive the coronavirus outbreak. Though many of these tips are general, they may give you a response framework to expand on.
The natural first step is to bolster or begin making your products or services available online. While some companies—travel companies are one notable example—cannot easily make that pivot, there are ways companies can get creative.
Build out a Straightforward Website
This pandemic is the time to make using and buying on your site easier than ever. If load times are high or your interface is difficult to navigate, you’ll lose your prospective customers to better-built sites. Also, if you’re experiencing slower than normal processing and shipping or are otherwise affected by the pandemic, make sure to note this clearly on your site. Consumers are more likely to be understanding during this time, but communication is key, and your site is the place to do so.
On your site and elsewhere, marketing your product online in new ways connects you with your longtime customers as well as others you’ve never targeted before. Utilizing multiple online media is key. Drawing people to your streamlined website is key, so partner with a digital marketing company to expand your digital presence. They can optimize your site and provide opportunities for people to find your product, increasing your overall visibility for exactly the right audience.
Otherwise, social media is a great tool during this time because of your direct access to people. As people spend more time inside their homes and on devices, their time on social media increases. Also, their desire for information skyrockets—shift your messaging so you can answer the questions your business addresses best. In the process, you’ll build trust with people.
Shift Your Product
If you need creative ways to keep your company afloat, consider adapting your products. There are many examples that may help you find where you fit. If you teach cooking classes, consider prerecording your lessons and delicious recipes and selling them online. Same goes for yoga instructors and other fitness-based businesses. If you own your own mental health private practice, let people know you’re open for telehealth appointments. In the meantime, bookstores can sell virtual tickets to book talks with notable authors. There are a multitude of options at your disposal.
In conjunction with an expansion of e-commerce, you’ll need to expand delivery as well. While some companies pay others to ship their product, some prefer to or must deliver it themselves.
Restaurants, with the quick turnaround from meal production to consumption and product sensitivity, should consider investing in temperature-controlled vehicles. This is not only good for food quality during transport but also increases your delivery range, connecting you to more people who want food delivered as they stay at home. And as it turns out, the demand for delivered food is quite high during the pandemic, making it more likely using a vehicle would benefit your business.
Additionally, restaurants can shift toward prepackaged meals and products and transport them to consumers. Preparing and freezing meals and packaging a famous menu creation such as a famous barbecue sauce or cheesecake adapt a restaurant’s product to uniquely cater to at-home customers. Many of these same principles apply to exclusive meal delivery services. To deliver these products, a refrigerated delivery vehicle, which Emerald Transportation Solutions specializes in supplying, is absolutely necessary.
Florists were also hit hard when they closed their doors and lost precious foot traffic. These small-business owners can expand their fleet of refrigerated vans to deliver their arrangements to people’s homes. As Mother’s Day and other holidays loom, this presents a great opportunity for business while also helping these holidays feel more normal and positive than people thought possible.
Adapt to Address a Need
There’s also a chance your business is uniquely capable of fulfilling people’s needs during this time. If you specialize in creating sanitation products or have the manufacturing equipment necessary to shift gears, you could help fill this gap in supply. Or if you’re a life coach, your help may prevent people from experiencing undue emotional or mental distress by managing it constructively. Overall, if there’s a way you can adapt your operation to serve others during this crisis, consider doing so. Going this route allows you to meet a need while staying afloat as a business.
Communicate Your Plight to Caring Customers
Another way small businesses can survive the coronavirus outbreak is by being honest with customers about their unfortunate situation. Perhaps you’re a bookstore without the ability to launch an e-commerce-ready website. Asking customers you would chat with in-store every day to tell their friends they can still buy from you, albeit through manual means, is helpful. Be direct about your need. People are willing to help others and make a positive impact as so many bad things happen around them. So send out a heartfelt message on social media or email subscribed customers that you’re selling gift cards to help you and your staff get by. As long as you’re sensitive to customers’ possible inability to support you at this time, reaching out honestly need not be a shameful act.
Understand the CARES Act
Finally, but of utmost importance, know how the recently passed CARES act affects your business. Passed by the federal government in March, the CARES act, among other things, supports small businesses, endeavoring to keep as many in business during this crisis as possible.
This policy has several different programs. First, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides accessible cash loans to companies, which the government forgives if companies do not lay off any of their staff during the pandemic. This prevents job loss while striving for an economic bounce-back later on.
In addition, the Small Business Debt Relief Program covers the cost of new loans taken out for six months after March 2020 while Economic Injury Disaster loans or Emergency Economic Injury Grants are also an option under the CARES act.
If you need someone to help you navigate this unknown financial terrain, there’s also funding to make small-business counselors available to those who are struggling. In general, this legislation opens up pathways to accessible (liquid) funds that are in short supply for many small businesses.