Whilst I know it can be tough with all the ‘rona noise around right now, it is noisy for a reason.
People are scared. Societies are being challenged and changed beyond what most of us could ever have imagined.
There is no point pretending it is business as normal and not talking about it. Covid-19 is sweeping the globe and the pandemic is causing not just illness, but the impact of mass shut downs is putting many businesses into a difficult situation
However, despite everything going on right now, remember that you do still have control over many things in your business, so perhaps, rather than focusing on what you can’t control, put your energy into focusing on what you can control.
Just a heads up
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1. Reassure your customers
Firstly – take this seriously and make sure your staff take this seriously. I have been stunned at how many business owners are more concerned about how much this is inconveniencing them because it’s “just the flu”. People are worried, some very much so and if you have a in person business (that is still open) or your staff are handling goods, some of your customers won’t feel comfortable about that if they don’t feel safe. You could get cancellations or people not ordering from you.
However, if you make it your mission to reassure your customers that you are taking this seriously, that will go a long way. Explain your hygiene and infection control processes, ideally show photos and videos of your team cleaning and disinfecting. Show any extra steps you’re taking – such as staff wearing masks, or hygiene procedures, such as all patrons being required to use hand sanitiser.
If you’re in ecommerce, show the steps your warehouse is taking, such as wearing gloves or masks, the cleanliness of the packing environment etc.
Make it your mission to show your customers that you care about their safety above all else and you’re taking steps to protect them when they purchase from you. Right now – most of your customers will be thinking about themselves, naturally, show them you’re thinking about them too. It will be remembered long past the direct impact of what is going on now.
2. Help People Trust You (especially if you’re online)
In these current times, with fear being so prevalent, pay extra attention to trust signals for your business, especially if you’re an online business. Any online purchase carries a small amount of risk and anything you can do right now to make customers feel like that is less of a risk is a good thing.
I think we’re going to see people becoming more judicious with how and when they spend, so ensuring you do everything you can to show you are a business to be trusted is helpful. Many of these are best practice anyway but are more important now than ever.
Have photos of yourself, your store if you have one, your team to form an instant connection.
Ensure your contact information is easy to find and complete. An address, phone number and ideally an email or contact form.
If you don’t already have an FAQ page, now would be a perfect time to create one to address any questions that come up regularly.
On your shopping cart page, make sure trust logos like visa/paypal logos are prevalent, trust seals or badges. Make sure costs are broken down clearly and there are no surprise or extra charges at the end. Have shipping costs clearly displayed.
Pay extra attention to answering customer inquiries as quickly as possible, whether by email, on social media or phone. Consider adding a live chat to your site so customers can get instant answers.
Check your site for typos and ensuring that pages display nicely, on both mobile and desktop.
Focus on helping your customers to feel safe with their purchase
3. Find or create alternate income streams
If the main income stream for your business has suddenly disappeared or reduced, it is time to get creative and create additional income streams.
Look at how you can leverage affiliate income. If you have a large customer base, you could promote another product or service that could bring you one off or recurring income.
Now could be the time to add digital products to your business. Is there anything you can teach online? Perhaps a way to bring people together in a community, a virtual summit. Digital resources like templates or ebooks.
Are there any accessory products you could bring to market quickly to create some extra income if your main products have taken a hit?
Could you look at low investment additional products like branded t-shirts or other promotional items that are printed on demand.
Work out if there are ways you can upskill or side skill to offer your existing customers a different service to expand your income. You can get two months free premium access to skillshare here, where you will find thousands of courses so you can learn some new skills.
4. Get creative
In order to come up with these ideas to find or create alternate income streams, you may need to think outside the box. Give yourself the time and space to think and come up with ideas. Think of where you’ve come up with your best ideas.
For me, it is when I’m on a plane or travelling – so I will have to find a new strategy for a while.
For you it could be when you’re walking on the beach, in the shower or bath, perhaps when you’re relaxing with a coffee in the morning etc.
Think back to when you’ve got your most awesome ideas and do more of that (even if that is getting quiet and away from your business for a few hours or days).
This is not the time to be waiting to cut costs, you need to Marie Condo your business finances, right now! If it ain’t bringing you joy (or income!) it has to go.
Go through your budget item by item and cut or reduce anything you don’t need to spend money on at the moment.
Look at your subscriptions and see what you can cut, or lower to a cheaper pricing tier.
If you have staff, it is a tough time for sure, but perhaps you can negotiate reduce hours or flexibility, rather than letting people go, which could work out for both your staff and your business. If you can afford it, look after your staff right now as much as you can, they WILL remember your goodwill.
When you’re slicing and dicing, be careful not to cut too deep into marketing and other profit/sales generating spend, as that is what will keep the wheels of your business turning.
Audit everything and choose to keep what give you the biggest ROI, perhaps even double down on that. Pay attention to all your metrics and keep a close eye on what is working and what isn’t, so you can adjust and adapt.
Have a look at 24 ways to market your business for free on our blog, for some more inspiration.
If you have more free time than usual, don’t treat it like a holiday and go on Netflix benders. Use this time to your advantage, so your business is in a strong position coming out of all this chaos. Create digital assets for the future, the things that will give you a long term impact. All the content creation strategies you’ve been “meaning” to do, but haven’t quite gotten around to, now could be the perfect time.
Update your website, check all your content and copywriting. Is your homepage and product/services pages optimised? Can you create a new lead magnet to collect email addresses?
Create that blog/podcast or youtube channel that has been on your list forever. If you already have a great content plan in place and you’re creating regular content, perhaps double down on what is working best and do more of that. Create content in advance and schedule it out. Schedule out your social media for the next few months (although check your content each week, to make sure it is in line with what is going on in the world).
If you’re a service provider or freelancer, update your bio or portfolio. If you’re on freelance websites, update/improve your profile. Audit yourself and look for ways you can improve.
7. Pay attention to your clients and customers
I have seen a LOT of people who are really worried about selling right now, thinking that doing so is taking advantage of a pandemic or feeling like it is not OK to sell at the moment.
But what I strongly recommend, is do you think that your customers are thinking the same way you are. Pay attention to what THEY want right now.
Everyone is thinking differently about this. From the OMG the world is ending, consumed by panic buying people at one end of the scale, through to the I don’t care, this is just the flu people, at the other end of the scale. And a whole lot of people on forced or self isolation who are like well, this is just how it is, how can I make the most of the next 14 days so I don’t get bored out of my brain at home. There are 50 shades of corona response – not everyone is thinking like you.
If you’re worried about selling because you think it is bad, think about this. Do you think the executives of toilet paper, long life milk and pasta manufacturers are sitting around having discussions about whether it is wrong to take advantage of a pandemic? Or do you think they are more worried about the logistics of how they can increase production to meet the current demand and just getting it done? It is a beautiful thing to care, but take YOUR emotions out of it and let your customers and clients decide if they want to buy your products or services. NOT selling or promoting so you don’t offend anyone, isn’t going to help your business and it’s not going to help the people who need what you have.
The best thing you can do is pay attention to what people are saying, ask how you can help and what your customers need right now and see how you can do that – perhaps by getting creative with extra services, products or offerings. That could help your customers AND help you build an alternate income stream.
Remember, many people, who are in a position to do so, will actually be TRYING to help small businesses right now and supporting people doing it tough, so don’t stop selling.
If you don’t have a business plan, now would be a VERY good time to create one or at the VERY minimum a budget or cashflow projections. Ideally looking at different financial scenarios of how things could play out over the next 6-12 months.
Look at your worst case and maybe even your worst, worst case, so you can prepare as best as you can.
Knowing what you’re up against, can get you out of fear mode and into action mode. Knowing exactly what you could come up against, gives you time to take steps to mitigate NOW, rather than find out later you’re in trouble you can’t recover from.
You will have a better idea of just how ruthless you have to be with your cost cutting or how much extra income you need to bring in from a new income stream or service
Make a plan, so you can give yourself a roadmap to navigate this instead of flying blind.
I am the worst at practising self care (currently recovering from burn out and still not doing enough of the self care) but right now, it’s not some fluffy, nice to do thing, self care is CRITICAL right now.
Taking care of yourself, as a business owner, has never been more important.
In addition to handwashing and hygiene practices, take regular exercise, make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy food as much as possible, take some short meditation breaks once or twice a day, get away from your business periodically to give you brain a break.
Everything you know you should do but you don’t do… is more critical now than ever before.
Your business needs you to be on your A game and be as healthy as possible to keep things running.
Your customers and clients are your most valuable asset and there has never been a more important time to look after them.
Word of mouth and referrals is the most valuable form of marketing – especially as you don’t need to pay for it! Happy clients and customers, ones who appreciate you for looking after them, doing a great job are going to tell their friends and colleagues about your business.
Think of all the ways you can surprise and delight your customers and go big on that. Handwritten notes with orders, an unexpected gift or card in the mail, improving communication or creating a great onboarding kit. Things that don’t cost a lot (or sometimes don’t cost anything) but go a LONG way to impress a client or customer, those things are so important anyway, but especially right now.
If you have clients or customers wanting to cancel bookings or orders, see how you can help them out. Offer credit notes or alternate dates instead of refunds to help them and protect your cashflow. Perhaps negotiate payment plans or give a little extra time to pay.
If you have unexpected downtime and you’re stuck at home, don’t waste it. Use this as a season for learning. Complete the training course you bought last year but never got around to finishing.
Find a course or program that teaches you something you’ve been wanting to learn. Perhaps discover how to DIY your Facebook ads or create a website or anything you’ve been wanting to do but didn’t have the time for.
If you’re on a tight budget right now, lots of online training businesses (The Unicorn Advisory included) are offering programs at reduced prices or Pay What You Can, to help people right now.
Get a skillshare membership if you don’t have one already. Get two months premium access for free and choose from thousands of courses.
This could be a perfect time to improve yourself and your skills.
I know you’ve heard it 100 times (if not 1000 times) but please don’t panic! Things right now are in the heat of the moment. Emotions are high, so many of us are stressed.
Many people are worried about their health and their loved one’s health and how they can get food – critical survival things, the needs which tend to trump all else. Even if you might think that having 100 rolls of toilet paper is irrational, it might be what is helping people to feel safe in these uncertain times. So try to have empathy for that need for safety.
Those feelings of panic at will pass and things will come back to normal, it could be a new normal, but the panic will subside. I have a good friend in China and at the end of January, she was scared and locked down in her apartment, but now, 6 weeks later, things have reversed and she is messaging me, asking if she can send masks or sanitiser to help me, as things are coming back to normal for her in China now.
The worst of it has passed. Knowing that, is what is keeping me positive and looking towards the future right now.
You can’t control what will happen with the virus (unless you’re the leader of a country or health department) but you take control of many things in your life and business, to ensure you make it through these challenging times.
As the very wise and old buddist saying goes, this too shall pass.
I hope these ideas help you and your business in these tumultuous times. Please know my thoughts are with you or a loved one is unwell 💕
Happy handwashing, Sue x
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