For many small businesses, the COVID-19 crisis came in like a wrecking ball. Many stores had to close, and some were not able to reopen. Those that did open are facing a new reality that involves masks, cleaning, sanitizing, and very lenient attendance policies.
The good news is that the U.S. economy is responding well to advances in vaccine trials and other hopeful signs. Plus, people have been trapped at home for months and are eager to come out and find something to do – including shopping!
How can you prepare your business for a post-COVID rebound? Here are the things you need to keep in mind.
Build Trust Through Strict Cleanliness
People are tired of being at home, but they don’t want to get sick when they go out. As a result, if your store is going to be a top location for people who want to shop, you need to put plans in place to keep it safe.
For instance, post signs reminding people to wear masks and practice social distancing. Have sanitizer available and step up your cleaning routines. Make sure your staff has personal protective equipment (PPE) as well.
When customers see that you’re taking the virus seriously, they’ll have a lot more confidence in shopping at your store. The goodwill will last beyond this crisis as well – companies that show they care to build brand capital and a strong reputation.
Maximize Both Online and In-Person Shopping
The businesses that suffered the most from COVID-19 were those who had only brick-and-mortar stores and no way to sell products or services online. You don’t want your company in that position. Hopefully, you’ve taken time during the shutdown period to build your website and search engine optimization (SEO).
If you haven’t, now is the time. Update your website and merchant account so that online customers get a modern, efficient experience. Make sure the photos of your products are professional and high-quality. Streamline the purchase process and add upsells at the end.
Then, make sure your online presence is strong. Optimize your website with the right keywords, especially ones related to your location. Be sure your website is mobile-friendly, and claim your Google My Business page.
Encourage happy customers to leave reviews for you and provide complete information in your business profile online and on social media. These steps will amplify the voice of your company online and help potential customers find you quickly and easily.
Diversify Your Suppliers
Another significant hurdle that small businesses faced during the COVID-19 crisis was that they often had only one or two suppliers for critical components in their business. To make your company more resilient now and in the future, take the time to diversify your suppliers.
This might mean using a variety of companies right away, or it might mean having backup contracts with suppliers if your main routes fail. Of course, nothing is completely failsafe, but the more options you have when an emergency occurs, the better.
Having robust supply lines with backup options can help you thrive during the next disaster – you might turn out to be the only company that can supply your type of products while competitors with only one supplier shut down.
Review Your Business Plan
Was your company considered essential during the COVID-19 shutdown? If not, think about what you can do to be more central to your customers and the economy. For instance, perhaps you can sell a variety of high-quality groceries in your high-end bakery, or find a way to produce items that can be sold online if another shutdown occurs.
Many entrepreneurs pivoted during COVID-19 to save or even improve their business. The founder of Farmgirl Flowers offered additional, lower-cost options that had better margins. It was a shift away from the personally arranged bouquets she provided before, but it improved her bottom line. Sonder pivoted from vacation rentals to offering long-term stays and targeting medical workers. Fox & the Knife began to offer takeout for the first time.
What can you do to not only recover from this event but make your company better as a result? Think about what new offers you can put together, how you can improve customer service and ways to make the delivery of each purchase stand out.
Carefully Determine Your Funding Needs
Getting small business funding can be challenging, but federal government incentives in place due to COVID-19 have made it much easier. You can apply for the Paycheck Protection Program or take a look at Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
Think carefully about your needs before you apply for a loan, however. Even if you expect the loan to be forgiven, you want to be in a position to handle your bills if it doesn’t. Also, the funding for federal programs is limited, so you might not be able to access them.
If you still feel you need cash to keep moving forward, look into the variety of other options available. For instance, there are SBA 7(a) loans, bank loans, and lines of credit.
Make sure you don’t lose focus on the long-term future as you plan for your short-term recovery!
Be Ready for a Rush of Customers
While the COVID-19 pandemic has meant months of quiet for most businesses, the recovery will come with a rush of customers. Are you – and your website – ready?
You might think, “That’s a great problem to have!” And it is, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare. If social distancing is still a concern, how many customers will you allow in at once? Are your suppliers ready to send you extra goods as you need them?
If we do get a vaccine by the end of the year, as it appears we will, the “return to normal” timeframe could be just around the corner. Make sure you’re ready!
How’s Your Post-Pandemic Plan?
After reviewing the factors above, you might feel pretty good about the position your company is in. Or, you might have a list of changes you need to implement. Either way, being ready and moving forward is the only way to grow and succeed!
If your website and digital marketing are part of your to-do list, let us help. Our professionals understand small local businesses and can create a custom plan to bring in more of the ideal customers you need.
Contact us today to learn more!