2020 was undoubtably one of the most challenging years for small business owners across the U.S. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. An approved vaccine is being rolled out and states are slowing reopening.
But there’s a “new normal” in 2021. Business owners need to adapt to reengage previous customers and attract new ones. Here are strategies you can use to help you get back to business.
1. Craft a detailed internal plan for your team
Workplace communication, whether a formal presentation or a quick email, is the foundation of success for any business in good times and bad.
During the coronavirus pandemic and economic shut down, it’s imperative that business owners practice transparent communication with employees. This strategy can build trust, improve productivity, reduce turnover rates, and boost morale during a crisis. It is the oxygen every company needs.
While communication is a key part of most employees' day-to-day work, it isn't always done efficiently. Too often, managers assume that employees know the information or don't think communicating is necessary or important. Take some time to review communication best practices through these steps outlined on the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: The Importance Of Communication In The Workplace.
2. Increase vendor/lender communication to manage cash flow
During the economic downturn related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to manage your cash flow and debt obligations. However, many small businesses are experiencing a difficult time making payments to their suppliers, vendors, and lenders to keep their businesses afloat. Negotiating can help.
Review these steps to help you negotiate with lenders and suppliers for more favorable terms during this time: How To Negotiate With Lenders and Suppliers During COVID-19.
There are vendors and suppliers who might be easier to negotiate with if your cash flow is impacted. It’s a good idea to tackle the low-hanging fruit first before you spend time and energy on businesses that might make negotiations difficult.
3. Create comprehensive, honest customer messaging
Whatever you decide to do during the coronavirus crisis, don't stop communicating with customers. First, acknowledge the issues you’re facing and how your company is adapting. Then assure consumers that you are open and ready for business.
Share via email, social media messaging, and other channels how you are staying in operation and what your plans are if you have to temporarily close. Outline what you are doing during the quarantine. Let people know as soon as you plan to open again. Your customers want to support you, and communication can help them keep your business in mind.
Find out how to improve customer retention and learn why client loyalty is so important to your business in this blog post: Improve Customer Retention by Following Our 12 Strategies.
4. Use the “Buy Local” popularity to set yourself apart from large competitors
Chances are, your business not only pays employees, but you also spend money at other local businesses. So when your customers buy local, they help create jobs for your friends and neighbors, contribute to improved public infrastructure, and invest in your community both socially and economically.
For example, Small Business Saturday, held the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the U.S., has exploded in popularity. Consumers are now starting to understand the importance of supporting small businesses to help improve the economy. Be sure to participate in this special shopping day and look for other opportunities to promote your small business.
5. Activate your social media channels
If your company had to shut down or let employees go, you might have let your social media messaging lapse. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Yelp are common first stops for consumers checking in on business shut-downs, revised hours, etc.
Freshen up your channels with new photos or images and put an editorial calendar in place so you post regularly. But don’t just post and leave. Look for opportunities to engage with customers, answer questions, or resolve any issues. If you run into problems, check out How to Respond to Negative Reviews on the SmartBiz Blog.
6. Focus on safety
A good idea when you return to operations, is to create an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. The IIPP is a basic written workplace safety program. Read 5 Ways to Keep Your Employees Safe During COVID-19 for plans you can put in place.
You should also put testing for symptoms of the virus in place. Testing should be administered in the least invasive way possible, like utilizing forehead thermometer guns.
The national OSHA organization is always adding and updating workplace safety publications to their website as well to help employers as well. Everything from construction safety, to ergonomics and blood-borne pathogens is covered.
As the coronavirus vaccine is rolled out, stay on top of up-to-date government guidelines regarding when you and your employees can receive the vaccination.
7. Embrace new technologies
Part of getting customers to return includes using new technologies to interact with them. For example, to limit the number of people in workspaces, some businesses are using new online tools so appointments can be made in advance. Other businesses have put video chat in place to accommodate people that aren’t comfortable with in-person interactions yet.
8. Be flexible
Now is a good time to remind yourself that flexibility is often important to success. You may need to design new customer experiences and ways you engage with them. You might need to add – or discontinue – products or services. You team may still be learning to work in the new normal so practice flexibility when working to reach business goals.