The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects. As countries have quarantined themselves and shut down non-essential businesses, few sectors of the economy have come under more pressure than small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
As SMB owners have been asked to shutter their brick-and-mortar operations for an indefinite amount of time, many entrepreneurs are struggling to keep cash flowing.
If you operate or work for one of these small businesses, here are a few tips to help you adapt to the changes, maintain your operations, and stay afloat through these turbulent times.
Research and apply for funding
If you’ve found your company’s business hit by this crucial development, fortunately, there are options to help maintain your cash flow until you can get things back up and running again. The primary course of action at the moment is to apply for coronavirus specific funding that the federal government has made available specifically to help small businesses.
- Canadians, check here for small business loans and financial resources.
- Americans, check here for small business loans and financial resources.
- Residents of the UK, check here for small business loans and financial resources.
- If you’re in the EU, review this guide for small business support.
While this does provide a way to get a low-interest—and possibly forgivable—loan to help you float through the tough times, you might want to check with your accountant and even your lawyer before taking advantage of programs like these. Ensure that taking out a loan of this nature is in the best interest of your company’s future.
Take stock of your resources
It’s also important to take stock of your small business’s current and short-term future resources during COVID-19. This consideration can fall into several different categories:
Start by adding up your current inventory
If it’s perishable, such as food at a restaurant, you’re going to need to freeze it, store it, or give it away. For non-perishable items look for ways to temporarily warehouse your inventory until you can resume business. You may also be able to liquidate some of your current stock through selling online as well (more on that further down).
Think about your manufacturing resources
If you have products that must be assembled, take a look down your supply chain and consider if any of the various parts may become difficult to access in the coming months. Things made in China, for instance, may suffer shortages as Chinese manufacturing struggles in the wake of the pandemic. Make sure to take stock of what you have in abundance, what is limited, and what isn’t available at all. Then allocate your existing supply resources to the most efficient areas possible.
Remember your brand
It’s also essential to remember the intangible yet invaluable resource represented in your brand and customer loyalty. These are key pieces of your marketing collateral that must be valued and preserved as you go about reacting to the situation. Consider your brand identity and how it is reflected to customers in each business decision that you make.
10 tips for adapting your current business strategy
Once you’ve addressed cash flow and current resources, it’s time to consider if and how you can maintain your previously physical operations in a digital market. There are many ways to make adjustments and adapt, even when your small business existed in the brick-and-mortar market.
A few ideas and suggestions as you look to adapt your current operations to a quarantine friendly alternative include:
1. Set up contactless delivery
If you own a restaurant, you can operate an online menu and sell your food for curbside pickup. You can also consider selling your food as a product. Waffle House decided to sell its waffle mix online and sold out in a mere four hours. The point is, don’t be afraid to get creative as you adapt.
2. Adapt your product
Demand is higher than ever for certain essential items across the globe: groceries, masks, gloves, sanitizer, and soaps. But there are other product categories soaring in demand that aren’t necessary for survival—rather, enjoyment while we all stay in the house. Entertainment, backyard supplies (up 44% in Italy!), indoor fitness gear, and home office supplies have all risen in demand during this isolation period.
If you own a restaurant, you may consider offering meal-kits, or grocery delivery through your unique suppliers. If you’re in manufacturing, consider pivoting to create masks, gloves, or other sanitation supplies right now.
3. Set up an online store
If you’re used to having a brick-and-mortar shop, now might be time to consider moving to ecommerce. With a logo, website, and social media presence to promote yourself online, you might be able to sustain your small business by selling your products online.
4. Waive shipping fees
Consumers keep cash close in tough times, and shipping fees often lead to abandoned online shopping carts. Relieving consumers of delivery charges make for a smoother transactional experience online, leaving the price much closer to what they’d originally anticipated. If your small business can afford to remove shipping fees during COVID-19, it might help sustain your profits for the time being.
5. Move your services online
If you are a wellness practitioner, educator, health specialist, consultant, or other, now is the time to move your services to a digital platform. Take advantage of video conferencing tools and host your meetings and consultations through platforms like Zoom, Facetime or Google Hangouts. Adapting your business offering to an online platform now will make your services more accessible in the long run!
6. Discount what’s not selling well
Small businesses should lean into a discount and promotion strategy to incentivize purchases during COVID-19. Product-driven businesses should set short term goals (2-3 months) to make sure they aren’t sitting on inventory. This is essentially like sitting on cash. Prioritize the products that are most valuable to your business, and anything considered low-value should be heavily discounted to bring in small, but daily transactions.
7. Extend your return and exchange policy
Many big-name brands are opening up their return and exchange policies during COVID-19. This means extending the amount of time people have to return from 30 to 90 days, or 30 days after stores open. Doing this relieves a buyer’s wariness around making online purchases. People don’t want to be stuck with a product that doesn’t work for them. By extending your return and exchange policies, you’ll be showing you empathize with your customers, a small move that goes a long way.
8. Adjust your newsletter
Community is important now more than ever. Focus your newsletter on community features, behind the scenes stories about how your small business and the people behind it are coping. Include other current event information that will help preserve your brand and cultivate customer loyalty.
9. Go live on social media
Practitioners across the globe are taking to Facebook and Instagram live to host free online workshops, yoga classes, meditations, fitness hours, and more. While doing this won’t make you any money directly, it’s a great way to keep people engaged with your brand and stay top of mind. People who remember you will want to buy from you when this is all over.
If you sell products, consider doing a live showroom, or demonstrations of your product. This will present a more realistic experience of your product, in lieu of customers being able to engage with it in-store.
10. Look into cybersecurity
Cybersecurity tips like encryption and limiting data gathering as you attempt to process orders and take financial information online.
As you look for ways to maintain at least a semblance of your previous momentum, remember that you’re not alone. Thousands of small businesses are struggling to keep up with the crisis right alongside you. Use the event to focus on customer appreciation, community, and building your brand’s reputation.
While it’s worth keeping your business operating online, it’s also important to consider the future. Many small businesses were caught off guard by the coronavirus, and it’s important to use the lessons learned to create a crisis communications plan to help your brand react to future catastrophes.
Look into recession-proofing your business so you can keep cash flowing steadily back to your brand even in a tough economic climate. Times like these take positivity, and creative innovation. Remember to stay positive and put one foot in front of another. You’ve got this!