We’re living through one of the most economically tumultuous times in history. While many developed countries have already moved past the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, nobody knows how the virus will continue to affect society. And the damage to businesses – from mandatory lockdowns, strict hygiene and social distancing requirements, and a general reluctance among consumers to return to high streets – remains to be seen.
Small businesses need to do everything they can to limit losses if they’re going to survive. In this post, we’re going to outline six practical tips that will help you “seal up” inefficiencies, take advantage of new opportunities, and leverage your existing customer base fully.
1. Limit Losses from Cancellations
Cancellations are a serious issue for small businesses. Slots that are dropped at short notice are difficult to refill. And often, company owners and managers have to resort to discounts to find new customers. What’s more, the cost of cancellations is even greater at the present time, when many businesses are operating at less-than-full capacity due to health and safety measures.
One of the best things that small businesses can do to overcome this problem is to leverage online scheduling infrastructure. Inexpensive, easy-to-use scheduling software solutions provide an online portal for clients to schedule, reschedule, and cancel appointments. It’s also possible to add pre-payments or late-cancellation penalties to the cost of a booking.
2. Diversify Your Range of Products of Services
The coronavirus pandemic has caused many buyer preferences and needs to shift. Certain sectors, like home computing, gardening, and home appliances, have seen a huge increase in demand. And it’s not difficult to see why. Stay-at-home activities and remote working have become more commonplace. Hygiene products are also understandably popular.
Consider how you might take advantage of this new demand by adapting your own product range. Consider which products and services your customer base is most likely to need. And if you’re not able to find new suppliers, it’s always possible to concentrate your advertising efforts on newly-popular items.
3. Adjust Your Marketing Campaigns
Along with greater interest in certain product categories, COVID-19 has also altered consumer preferences and needs in the way that services are provided and items are delivered. Your marketing campaigns should reflect these mindset changes and seek to alleviate customer concerns and appeal to new preferences.
Do you, for example, highlight the fact that your health and safety practices are in line with the latest government measures? Are items handled safely in your warehouses? Are you supporting your staff? Are you offering any discounts for business clients that might be struggling? All of these questions are worth asking.
4. Partner Up With Other Companies
Now is an excellent time to partner up with other companies, many of whom will also be struggling. By forming strategic joint ventures, you can take advantage of new markets while also providing your own customers with products or services that you can’t provide.
Partnerships may offer an opportunity to tailor your range of products or services to better meet shifting consumer demands. Many restaurants, for example, have joined up with delivery networks to provide take-out meals.
Competitors will also often be willing to purchase any discounted excess stock that you’re unable to sell. This will enable you to limit losses associated with storage and perishable goods.
5. Focus on Your Online Presence
While brick-and-mortar businesses have seen a significant decrease in foot traffic, online sales are booming in many sectors. If you don’t already have an online presence, or if you haven’t given it much attention in the past, you’re missing a potential opportunity.
Consider building an ecommerce site, leveraging online marketing, and growing your mailing list. Inexpensive online tools, that don’t require any technical experience to use, will enable you to build your online presence and craft digital marketing campaigns quickly.
What’s more, many software providers are offering coronavirus-related discounts and free plans to help small companies. And when things do get back to normal, and you don’t have as much free time, you’ll still see returns from the online arm of your business.
6. Evaluate All Government and Other Aid Packages
While you’re likely already familiar with many of the government grants, loans, and other forms of aid at your disposal, it’s still a good idea to double-check the options available to you. It might even be beneficial to consult with a professional so you have a complete picture. Many banks, for example, are providing “soft” business loans. And short-term credit can help you make it through particularly tough times.
Suppliers and landlords will also likely be open to deferrals if you’re unable to meet invoice or payment deadlines, so this is another area that’s worth exploring.
The global economy has taken a major hit in the last few months. And many businesses have already closed their doors for the final time.
It’s the companies that are able to adapt – by diversifying their product lines, catering to new consumer needs, and limiting unnecessary losses – that are most likely to make it through.
By committing some time to developing a robust plan-of-action, you will put yourself in the best possible position to weather the storm, both now and in the future.