Time for a new normal?

Getting your business back on track after Covid 19

Since the Covid 19 pandemic, many small businesses have been in lockdown. Some will still have managed to keep afloat with help from the government or savings; some will have been able to carry on their work from home; some online businesses may not have been affected at all. But the truth is, no matter how big or small our businesses are, just the fact that we’ve been in lockdown and subjected to a constant bombardment of negative news, is bound to have had affected us all one way or another.

It’s looking like over the coming weeks and months, things will very slowly start to return to some kind of normal…but will it be the normal we know? The normal we’re used to? How are we going to get ourselves and our businesses back on track?

One thing that I think this pandemic has taught all of us in business is that we need to be flexible and ready for change, so it might be worth recording everything you’ve learned, and continue to learn during this crisis, so you can have a contingency plan in place to help you through the next few months. I hear you… how do you do that? Where do you even start?

It might be that your business has to take a different direction, maybe look at new services or products that are relevant to your customers now… and beyond the pandemic. It’s really important to keep in touch with your existing customers…have you thought about giving them a ring to see how they are? Or sending them an email or online message? As well as asking if they and their families are OK, you can ask for their input…ask them how you can help them in the near future. Their needs and wants may have changed and they might want something different from you.

Communication with customers is going to be crucial as you move your business forward, so having their input and opinions will help…and to a certain extent, the experiences they have encountered with the pandemic. There may be new problems that your products or services can solve that you hadn’t thought of before. Or there may be something new that you can develop as a result of your customer feedback.

Can creativity emerge out of lockdown and through all the chaos we’ve witnessed, will you see growth? Some businesses have changed tack, for example, restaurants and cafes have had to adapt or close; some of them have chosen to offer a takeaway service, so they’re still earning something; some are offering a home delivery service; they’re still serving their customers and keeping themselves out there. Is there anything you can do with your business to keep yourselves in the forefront of your customer’s minds?

My customers don’t have money to spend

For many small businesses, lockdown has meant a steep decline in sales of products and less use of services, so income and profits are taking a massive hit. Is it possible during this time to start looking at new sales channels?

If you sell products, could you expand to creating an e-store, such as Etsy or Ebay? People are bored and online all the time and figures have shown that they are still choosing to buy online. If you’re not online, they can’t find you…it’s that age old, you’ve got to be in it to win it situation.

Do you have a website? It’s fairly easy to set up a straight forward website to show your products and you can just add a PayPal button if you don’t want to set up a full online website store.

If you have a website already, have you thought about starting a blog to talk to your customers about your products and the problems they solve? This isn’t about making a hard sell, but more about giving your customers and potential customers information about what you sell. You could also add an opt-in on your website so people can sign up for a monthly newsletter, where once again, you can show how your products or services can benefit them.

And of course, social media has billions of subscribers every hour of every day, from all over the world. Post regularly to get your business name known and help you stand out from the crowd. Go ‘live’ and talk to your customers, even if only for 30 seconds, or make a short one minute video about your products or services. Video gives customers the chance to see you in the flesh; they feel like they are interacting with you and you are being invited into their homes. Just be you, let your personality shine through and just talk. I know this is hard and something I know I need to do myself, but I hate myself on camera! I’m sure there are many people who feel the same, but I know we’ve got to get ourselves out there and video is the way to go! If you get to like it, you could set up your own YouTube channel.

If you hate being in front of the camera, how about a podcast? This is a fast growing market and you just have to talk, not be on camera. It’s just an audio recording to keep in touch with your customers and find new ones.   

Once you have created new sales channels, don’t forget to shout about it on your social media sites, email your customers and make sure you are marketing what you’ve done.  

It’s never too late

It’s never too late to prepare, never too late to do something about your business. Governments have generally been quite good in offering aid to small businesses, so take advantage of that.

If you belong to social media groups for your type of business, ask questions about what others are doing – don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

You might be able to start up a conversation or thread to brainstorm positive or strategic ideas. Or, if you have employees, why not ask them for ideas for the business that are different to what you currently offer. Draft in family members on Facetime or video chat – ask them for advice and ideas – family like to feel involved and they might come up with some really creative ideas.  

Whatever it is that you decide to do and whichever direction you decide to take, it’s important to keep moving and keep on, keeping on! Doing something…anything, is better than doing nothing at all.    

How you react to this crisis and how others see you react will define you and your business in future. They will see that you are resilient, even if you aren’t able to run your business as normal.

Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments below – I’d love to see what innovative ideas you’ve come up with!