The owners of small-medium sized businesses across the world are on high alert at the moment. Things are changing daily within continents, countries, states, counties, and cities. Business owners have no idea what the day is going to hold once they get out of bed. There is no need to panic. You can start adapting to the changes brought by this pandemic now and ride out the COVID-19 storm.
1. Present only the facts
When issuing an update regarding COVID-19, make sure that you are offering credible sources for your employees, customers, and community to check out. Some media available on the internet was born to incite panic among the masses, only presenting the facts will help alleviate misconceptions.
- Daily updates from the World Health Organization
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Institutes of Health
- Committee on Small Business
- United States Small Business Administration COVID-19 Guide
- National Small Business Association
These tools and resources are only the tip of the iceberg and offer a plethora of information. Make sure that the information you are giving people is accurate and up-to-date.
2. Adapt to Change
Changes are occurring daily with the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is vital as a small-medium sized business to be able to roll with these punches. What do you, as a business owner, need to do in these circumstances?
The United States Chamber of Commerce has put out resources for prioritizing your vital operational components. They recommend being open to changing structures to facilitate operations during this pandemic.
Make your customers first during this time. Depending on the type of small-medium sized business that you run, you can offer specials during this uncertain time. Show your customers how much you appreciate their loyalty and continued support.
A way some businesses have accomplished this is by helping those with life interruptions caused by the virus. An example of this is electric companies that are not disconnecting power during this time. They understand that a lot of people are without work, so they are not penalizing them for being unable to pay their bills.
On the flip side of this, some businesses are offering exclusive perks. These perks include additional add-ons through a specific date at no extra cost.
3. Support Your Employees
The first thing you need to stay on top of as a business owner are the current updates from the United States Department of Labor (or equivalent in your native country). These updates can help you better handle situations that come about regarding business and employee resources during this time.
Keep communication open and honest with your employees during this time. Make necessary changes that safeguard their health, your customer’s health, and your health during this time. The practices you learn during this time can be carried forward to help prevent a pandemic like this in the future.
Let your employees know that you are empathetic to their situations.
Utilize FAQ pages to help explain signs, symptoms, and what to do. If you can arrange for your employees to work from home, make it happen. There are toolkits out there to help as a resource when setting up work-from-home situations.
4. Supporting Your Business
You know that there is the elephant in the room when it comes to the financial security of your small to mid-sized business right now. It is acceptable to feel uncertain during this time. You don’t have to spend all of your time worrying when you could be using this time to help stop a potential fallout.
- Try to forecast your cashflow for during the crisis, as well as afterward. If you have to find a financial assistant to help in the calculation, do it.
- Take advantage of possible rent deferment solutions. Your suppliers may offer the same type of program. Anything you can do to preserve the profit you have will help.
- Take a look into emergency funding resources. The Small Business Association’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans can help keep your business afloat.
- Look into the options that the IRS is currently offering, like tax extensions.
- Check into the resources at the local level as well. Some cities are offering low-loans and emergency grants. Check with your local municipalities for details.
No matter which route you choose to take on for helping keep your business financially stable during this time of crisis, make sure that you are exploring and utilizing all the options that are available to you.
5. “Social Distancing” Bandwagon
The CDC explains that the act of “social distancing” is avoiding settings that require a group-like structure, staying away from mass gatherings, keeping at least 6 feet between you and someone else. Avoid shaking hands or touching someone if possible.
Help keep your employees and customers informed by using the resources about social distancing available on the CDC website.
The materials available include signage and literature like the one below.
Social distancing is having a tremendous impact on your “mom and pop” stores and businesses. These businesses are ones that thrive on in-person interactions, but now are being forced to limit how they do business.
It is easy to offer up solutions in the content you put out for your customers and employees.
Thankfully, a lot of these places have begun curbside service to help stay in business.
6. Keep Customers Privy to Your Business Information
In the wake of COVID-19, a lot more businesses are trying to keep their customers up-to-date with changes and updates as they are available. Your business should not be any different. Make sure you are letting everyone know any changes that you may have to accommodate or hour changes. This can be done via email, blog, website, social media, text message, phone call, etc. Let your content do the work for you!
- Let your customers know how much you appreciate their support and flexibility during this time. A simple “thank you” can go a long way during a time of crisis.
- Share with your customers how your business is coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Let them know what changes are being made to accommodate the social distancing practices.
- Send an updated terms of service or a link to the updated version. During this time, regular business practices are not always manageable.
- If your business has had to change its procedures on transactions, refunds, and cancelations, make sure you make it clear.
- Have some method of communication available for customers to reach you. A personal approach to issues at this time shows your customer you care about them, and you are invested in the quality of the service they are receiving.
Make sure that you tell your customers and employees that this is a team effort. No one is alone in this, and together we will conquer.
7. Make Sure All Contact Methods Are Up-To-Date
From freelance business owners to mid-size chains, the best way for you to show your customer you care is to keep your means of communication up to date and available. What this means is periodically checking to make certain information pertaining to your particular business is up to date. The methods commonly associated with contacting businesses are:
- Online business listings- If you are featured on Google My Business, Yelp, etc., make sure that you have the most recent address, phone, and other contact means updated.
- Email Information- Even if you have had the same email since your business started, permanent information within the email may be outdated. Periodically check your email signature to ensure you are reflecting correct phone numbers, business hours, etc.
- Social Media- One of the most common resources today for information about a business is in the form of social media accounts. Updates, hours, phone numbers, who likes it, who dislikes it, and everything else under the sun comes up on a social media feed about your business. That is why it is essential always to address your social media page like updating anything else.
- “Old School” Signage- Some businesses are old fashioned. They don’t feel that a social media presence is necessary to build a customer base. This does not mean that traditional business signage does not need an update from time to time.
One of the best methods to make sure that your contact information and hours are correct during this time is to affix a letter explaining your new hours and possible address changes. This can be added to your social media, printed and posted in various locations, and even in print like newspapers.
8. Give Your Customers Personal COVID-19 Updates
Using targeted content, especially content that shows how you are handling this situation, can raise your customers’ confidence levels.
How can your content accomplish such feats?
Use blog posts to highlight articles that are COVID-19 specific. “How to cope with home quarantine during COVID-19 pandemic” or “What activities are you doing to pass the time amidst the COVID-19 outbreak”.
Mix in a little humor and heartfelt targeted posts as well. Everywhere you look, people are posting something regarding the pandemic, and you don’t ONLY have to publish that stuff.
Try adding some targeted posts about “What board games are popular among families?” or “Try this recipe, you won’t regret it.” Choose things that are off the wall-it can be a relief in times of crisis.
Social Media Posting
People freak out because other people freak out. Look at the distress caused by a shortage of toilet paper, someone probably went into the store and bought three packages, and someone saw them do it. That person then bought four packages.
Hello, snowball effect!
You have the power to change the direction of someone else’s social media page. Merely posting a live feed of your family playing outside in the sun may get your customers to run in the sun. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and you can use your content to break that cycle.
Vlogging is the new blogging. People sit and watch hours of funny animal videos online, and that perks them up when they are sad. Why not try to do the same for your customers?
Create videos, and they don’t have to be cinematic masterpieces, but they show you being real. Messy hair? Don’t care! Pajamas? Slumber party! Anything that inspires hope is an excellent source of content right now.
Don’t forget that Iris Writing International is here to help you make your content dreams a reality.
One of the most accessible forms of communication right now is through social media. If you never really engaged your audience and customers on social media before, now is the time.
- Share real-time updates with your family, friends, and customers. Respond to your customers comments like you do any other comment on your posts.
- Use content not only to keep customers informed but create a soft-sell infrastructure. No one is looking for a hard-sell right now. Everyone is scared, but subtle suggestion never hurt.
- Share updates and post videos. Whether you are promoting something for your business or posting a picture of your dog catching a stick, your customers need to see life is normal.
10. Focus on Healthy Habits
Focusing on healthy habits is a loaded section. Not only is it essential to learn and execute new practices that help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s not a bad time to start looking at your overall health either.
To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19
The CDC has a list of practices that should be followed by all individuals to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
- Avoid contact with those who are ill
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw it away after use and wash hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces-frequently
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Some people find that wearing a face mask or gloves help them avoid doing this.
- Stay home, especially if you are sick. The only exception should be to seek medical attention.
- Make sure that you are washing your hands frequently. Make sure you are using water and soap for at least 20 seconds each time.
For All the Other Health-Related Stuff
Remember that diet you have been putting off until Spring? Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, Spring has sprung. Get out and get active!
- Take a walk
- Video chat with a friend while you are walking, so you don’t have to do it alone
- Ride a bike
- Play in the yard with the kids
These are suggestions, and there are probably a million different things you could do right now to get out of the house and still social distance yourself.
You have to worry about mental health during this time too. Staying indoors without sunlight can take a toll on a body. Make sure you are active at some point during the day. Working from home makes this even easier to accomplish.
Iris Writing International will continually update this link to deliver useful information during this time of crisis. We know that it is crucial to stay informed and stick together during this uncertain time.
We are also preparing two special guides for businesses and online writers to help them survive this. Stay tuned for more.