Coronavirus Covid 19 and your small business

No matter where you are in the world, if you run your own small business, be it from home or from small premises, like me you’ll be wondering how you are going to cope if or when you have to close or scale down your business due to the coronavirus pandemic, Covid 19. This is a worldwide crisis like nothing else we’ve ever encountered before, so no wonder everyone is a bit bewildered. 

  • Will I go out of business for good?
  • What if my customers don’t want to come back when it’s all over?
  • How can I keep my business in the spotlight if I want my business to carry on being a success after all this?

The answers all boil down to what you can do right now…NOT what will happen afterwards and that’s what a lot of small businesses are focusing on. However, there are things you can do with your marketing to keep your business in the hearts and minds of your current and prospective future customers. I think that a lot of us have been told that our businesses are ‘non-essential’, but this doesn’t mean not important, just not essential to the running of the country! Of course your business is essential to you, to your family and friends, your customers and your purse! It’s not going to be ‘business as usual’, even if you normally work from home, but now is not the time to be pushing ahead in an aggressive way. You need to be highly sensitive to your customers and the situation that they’re in too. 

How does the Coronavirus affect your customers?  

Obviously how the virus affects your customers and in turn, how that affects you will depend on what you do for a living. If you’re in the beauty industry, (therapist, masseuse, hairdresser etc.), then your business will have to close, as what you do means you can’t possibly remain 2 metres away from your clients. If you sell a product or service, there may be things you’ll need to change – you can no longer do this face to face, so it’s time to get a bit more creative. But before you do, have a think – get out that pen and paper and think about how the virus is affecting your customers. What is keeping them awake at night? How can you help? They may have a specific challenge or worry that you can solve that has nothing to do with the virus.

You may be able to position your business, products or services to be helpful and maybe address some of the problems your customers are facing right now.

So, get out that pen and paper right now (!) and take 15 minutes to think about your customers. Try and answer these three questions…

  1. How can you provide value to your customers – real value to help them and to build up trust between you?
  2. What can you offer your customers right now that they need? Try and be creative here…maybe even a little ‘off the wall’.
  3. How can technology help you to still offer your products and services in a way that you didn’t before?

I definitely don’t in any way mean for you to exploit your customers – definitely not! Remember, people (including us) are all a little bit scared at the moment; we’re all out of our comfort zone and over the coming weeks, maybe longer, we are going to have to adapt to our new ‘normal’.

People who are in business themselves, small businesses as well as bigger corporations, will be spending a lot of time looking for answers to their problems. This could be in the form of solid help, albeit virtual, for their business, advice to help them move their business forward despite the virus. But not only that, there will be hundreds or thousands of people out there looking for products that can be delivered to their homes; if they are ‘locked-in’ without being able to go out for longer than an hour a day, they will be looking for entertainment, things to do, looking for things to read…and yes, turning almost certainly more and more to the internet for inspiration.    

Embrace the change

Time to get out that pen and paper again, can you answer these questions about your business?

  1. People still need and want to buy things. Can you create a space online where people can look at and buy your products or services? If you already have that place online, look at advertising it or, if online on social media, post about your products – without the hard sell or you will get loads of negative comments!
  2. If you run a restaurant or café, can you do takeaway meals or meals that can be delivered?
  3. How can you up your game with your online marketing? As well as just advertising you products on social media, start conversations about your products – ask for opinions and post a photo of the item you’re talking about.
  4. Think about starting up a new social media channel – are you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest? If not, now is the perfect time to learn how to use these channels. There are lots of free resources online and lots of FB groups where you might be able to get an expert to speak to you one to one.
  5. If you normally have meetings with clients face to face, can you use  Facetime, Skype or Messenger Video?
  6. If you’re in a profession, such as the beauty business where you can’t physically work, can you give people hints and tips on social media about their hair or beauty regimes? Take this time to set yourself up as an expert…it might bring you new customers when you can get back to business. And it keeps your business out there and not forgotten. Focus on your visibility.
  7. Do you have a website? If you do, now is the time to update it; change wording, add new products/services, look at your SEO (search engine keywords and phrases)…in fact, why not go the whole hog and give it a new look and freshen up your brand? Hell, yeah!
  8. You don’t have a website? Well, now you have the time to sit down and think about planning one for when you can afford it. Look at other websites who do the same as you and make a plan as to what you want yours to look like. Think about your brand, how you speak to your customers – what do you want them to come away with after visiting your website? What would a website do for your business?  
  9. Can you pull together some online resources for your customers that you give for free? You can do this no matter what you do for a living. Information sheets in pdf format – ‘how to’ information, ‘what to do if…’ information – the list is endless. If you have an email list, ask people for their email address in exchange for your information sheets, and ask them to confirm that they’d be happy for you to send them a regular email giving details of your products and services.
  10. Start a monthly newsletter with the email addresses you collect. Mail Chimp is a good place to set this up and it’s free until you hit around 2000 subscribers.

Be accessible  

Focus on your accessibility – are you easy to contact? If you are online on social media, or have a website, is your contact details immediately visible? If you email your customers, make sure you give contact details…an email address or telephone number where they can contact you.    

And finally…

Enjoy working on new things – make this time away from the stresses of work, a time that you sit back and take a long, hard look at your business. When you’re back up and running, can you change anything to make it better, more efficient? You have time now to research new products. You have time to learn new things, so you can offer a new service.

If you work from home, clean your desk, clear away the clutter.

If you do decide to put some new practices in place now, make sure you have a measurement in place, so you know if it’s working or not. This saves you wasting your time if it’s not working and then you can look at other ideas. On the other hand, it gives you a boost and the impetus to do more if it is working. 

Above all, during this dreadful virus and the fall-out afterwards, we are all in this together. My message to all the small businesses out there, keep strong, keep safe and keep thinking of new ways to do business.

As a small business myself, I would just love to hear from other small businesses out there – no matter where you are in the world. How are you coping with the virus and the impact on your business? What are you putting in place to help you through the crisis? Do you have any other ideas that people might be able to implement? Feel free to leave a comment here or pop over to email and send me a message cindymobey@outlook.com    

Pulling together your marketing strategy for 2019

2018 is fast coming to a close…can you believe it? If you haven’t already started to think about it, now is the time to be planning what you’re going to do with your business next year. It’s also a time to look back on what has happened this year – what worked well, what didn’t. So, before Christmas is here, it’s time to take stock, get your thinking cap on and decide what you want your business to achieve next year.

OK, what’s first?

The Seven Ps

If you haven’t already got a mission or vision statement, now is the time to write one. A mission/vision statement is just a couple of sentences stating what your business is, who you’re selling to (your target market), what you’re selling and what makes you stand out from the crowd. Once you have this, you can start working on how to market your business…to help me focus on every aspect of my business, I use the seven Ps…

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  1. Product(s) – what is it about your product that makes your customers want to buy it? Do you need to change your products in any way to meet your customers’ needs?
  2. Pricing – how do you aim to compete with your competitor’s pricing? Do you want to match it… undercut them… or do you want to charge more for a more quality product and service?
  3. Place– where and how are you going to sell your products? Do you sell them yourself or outsource them to retail outlets?
  4. Promotion– how are you going to let your existing and potential customers know about your products? This includes thinking about advertising, PR, direct mail and personal selling.
  5. People – this refers to who works for your business, including yourself! Do you create the right impression and provide excellent customer service, so your customers have a good customer experience? I’m sure you do, but never forget to keep learning, training yourself and any employees to develop relevant skills to deliver your brand and excellent customer service.
  6. Process – this includes the processes involved in delivering your products to your customers. Are you easy to do business with? Is it easy for customers to find your products? If you have a website, is it easy to navigate? Are your contact details prominent, so you are easy to contact?
  7. present-2891870_640Physical – everything your customers see and feel when interacting with your business. This can be from the physical environment of your shops, office or wherever you provide and showcase your products or services, to meeting you face to face and how you come across to them, how you act and relate to your customers. It also includes your packaging and your branding.

Set your objectives

Now you can plan the future of your business. What objectives do you want to achieve? Get yourself a cup of tea or coffee and sit down with your laptop, tablet or good old pen and paper, so you can write each one down.

Each objective should include a description of what you intend to achieve, a goal if you like, and should include numbers to aim for. For example you might want to sell more of February-Stok-Photoa particular product, but just saying you want to sell more isn’t enough – you need to be specific, so you have something concrete to aim for. For example, say you have a crafting business and you make rag dolls. An objective might be to sell 40% more rag dolls in 2019, than you did in 2018. This gives you a solid and specific objective.

Don’t be tempted to write a long, long list of goals or objectives – aim for a maximum of five to six or you will find it all overwhelming and you won’t achieve any of them. As you achieve each objective throughout the year, you can add more then.

beard-2286440_640Once you have your list of objectives, put them into a timeline – what you want to achieve and by when. This makes it much easier for you to review at a later date. I usually put a date in my diary at the beginning of the year to review my business objectives every three months…of course, I’m not always brilliant at keeping to that date, but by having it in my diary, at least it’s a reminder and I do review things…even if it’s a couple of weeks after the date I originally set!

How will you achieve your objectives?

Now, go through each objective in turn – you already know what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it by. Next on the list is how you are going to achieve each of those objectives. Let’s go back to that earlier example – you want to sell 40% more rag doll-1043499_640dolls over the next 12 months. You know what you want to do – you know when you want that result. How are you going to sell that extra 40%? These could be some of your options…

  • Get your rag dolls into a retail outlet, café or craft shop
  • Start selling your dolls at a local craft market or at craft fayres
  • Start an online shop on Etsy or Ebay
  • Sell the dolls using party plan – people have an evening at their own home and invite their friends. You show the dolls and potential customers get to see them, touch them and hopefully put in an order

Put all your objectives, what you want to achieve, your timescale and how you’re going to do it into your timeline. This makes it easier for you to see at a glance what your business and marketing plan is for next year for each of your objectives. It also makes it easier for you to review at a later date.

Measure your success

tape-measure-1186496_640The last thing on your list is how will you measure the success of each of your objectives? Sticking with the rag doll example, this is an easy one – each quarter, measure how many more dolls you have sold compared to the same time last year. To achieve your 40% increase over the course of the year, you need to see a steady increase in sales from the new selling strategies you’ve put in place.

I hope this has helped you to start planning your business and marketing strategy for 2019.

If you would like to receive a free Goal Setting Timeline template, please fill in your name and email below and I’ll be happy to send it to you…Happy Planning!