These are unprecedented times. If you haven’t prepared your business to survive a worldwide pandemic, you aren’t alone. While current “shelter in place” and “shutdown” orders certainly come with economic challenges, that doesn’t mean that your business will automatically go under. The key is to acknowledge the potential threats that the coronavirus poses to your business while also exploring the operations you can adopt to keep running. As a savvy business owner, you’ve probably been asking yourself, how can you keep your revenue streams flowing? In short, the answer is that you must shift as many services, sales, and operations as possible into the digital sphere.
This article will explain how you can accomplish that for your business as efficiently and affordably as possible.
When facing the immediate impact of COVID-19, it’s important that you evaluate your current operations, assess the areas that you can tailor to be “social distancing” and “e-commerce” friendly, and ask yourself the following questions:
- • How will the pandemic affect my business the most?
- • What will the economic climate of my industry look like long term if the shelter in place order is not lifted?
- • What can I do to pivot and prepare for what could come next?
Adapting to the current economic climate requires an operational switch to a digital platform. COVID-19 has instantly dictated a sudden shift in how consumers shop and how businesses behave. Remote working has become the norm overnight. Businesses that have been staying afloat are those that have implemented technology that is easy and convenient for their customers to use. Not all, but some of these radical shifts will continue, creating a long-term disruption that will shape the way we do business for decades to come. Transfer as much selling and marketing strategies as you can to social media sites that have e-commerce integration, namely Facebook and Instagram.
Setting up selling options on social media platforms Facebook and Instagram will empower you to:
- • Sell products directly from the site’s e-commerce shop.
- • Promote discounts, deals, and opportunities via live-stream stories, chats, and video posts.
- • Hold classes online, stream your video content, keep your services going virtually.
- • Keep your customers engaged by broadening your retail store’s digital reach.
Implementing Business Pages on these social media sites—and utilizing the technology and marketing strategies that come with them—can help keep your business in revenue-generating mode. Visit this blog post for a step-by-step guide to setting up shop sections on your store's Facebook and Instagram.
With your social media pages set up and e-commerce shops in place, you can now market your business quickly and easily, all while posting photos and videos daily and interacting with your followers.
The best free marketing is a happy customer who posts on social media and other online review sites. Here are a few more incentives that will make your customers happy to spread the word about your business across the internet:
- • Offer significant discounts and irresistible deals through your loyalty rewards program. Don’t have a digital loyalty rewards program in place? No problem, you can implement one from home with the click of a button. We recommend Loyal~n~Save.
- • Pre-sell gift cards and create incentives for customers to purchase these by adding additional perks such as throwing in a free $10 card for every $50 card they buy.
If you’ve been running ads on social media, Google AdWords, or other sites, now is not the time to cut back on marketing. Do the opposite! Yes, revenue has likely suffered in these past few weeks, but that doesn’t mean you should reduce your advertising costs. In fact, many businesses are cutting their marketing budgets right now, which means that if you apply funds towards marketing, your dollars will go much farther. Ad rates are declining and there has been less clutter in the market. These days, everyone is on social media A LOT, which means that setting up Facebook and Instagram campaigns could yield your business a very high return. Just be sure to carefully select the “region” and “demographic” that you would like to target your ads to.
How can you maximize use of your digital platforms even more? Stay positive! It’s very much in your favor that America is couch surfing for the next 30 days! Consumers are relying on internet shopping, home delivery, and when they do venture out, they depend on drive-thru and curbside pickup! The name of the game is “adapt and never give up”!
HOST A VIRTUAL EVENT
During times of crisis, timely communication will go a long way with your customers. Providing transparent and consistent communication is key. Best practices for communicating in a crisis include speaking early, speaking often, and speaking directly with your consumers.
- • Stay connected with your customers and keep in touch with their needs by utilizing the “story” and “video” features on Facebook and Instagram.
- • Get in the habit of posting twice-daily video messages on both platforms.
- • In your videos you can solicit customer feedback, update your followers on deals and discounts, and also offer friendly business-to-consumer humor.
- • To interest your customers in tuning in to a live, video event, offer a freebie or other incentive to the first follower to tune into the live stream. You can even reward the first five followers—for example—with rewards points if your business is enrolled in a customer loyalty rewards program.
In addition to Facebook and Instagram, here are some other online platforms:
You can set your videos to “public” or “private” at your discretion. Be sure to send out alerts and reminders from all of your digital platforms so that your customers and followers know when to log in and watch. Keep virtual interaction and customer engagement up with livestreams!
PANDEMIC-PROOF DIGITAL MARKETING TIPS
Customers want to invest in a better version of themselves and they shop accordingly, COVID-19 hasn’t changed that. Now more than ever, Americans and consumers the world over are committed to patronizing companies and businesses that are doing their part to slow the spread of the virus. Highlight your commitment to the health of the nation while you implement these fast-and-fun digital marketing strategies.
- • According to statistics, 92% of consumers trust recommendations they get from friends and family, so the first key strategy is this: let your target audience market for you.
- • Be sure to “sell the story” and “not the product” in your social media posts. While the image you post might (and should) depict the product or service you’re selling, try to tailor the caption so that it captures the story. For example, if you’re a diner promoting two-for-one burgers as delivery and curbside pickup, test out captions like, “There’s nothing like an ‘essential’ joyride with the whole fam to get the twins’ favorite burgers! Who said shelter-in-place can’t be adventurous?”
If you would like help with taking your digital marketing strategies to the next level, FasTrax is your one-stop solution. Our fully-customizable digital platform includes:
- • POS integration with a digital app that is free for customers to download.
- • Social media integration for seamless checkout experience that connect with your POS.
- • Loyalty Rewards Program that will organize your promotions and incentivize your customers to act fast on great deals.
RESHAPE THE WAY YOU CONDUCT INTERNAL BUSINESS COMMUNICATION
When it comes to general business operations, most companies have been functioning completely online even though employees occupy the same building. With COVID-19 sweeping the nation, that same workflow has been shifted out of offices and into homes, but that doesn’t mean you should let personnel-to-personnel interconnectedness slack. When employees are disconnected from one another, morale lowers and so does productivity. This is no time for your employees to work slower, and this is also no time for you to lose touch with your business associates. Invigorate their passion and uplift their spirits with the following strategies!
- • Organize webinars for your employees that offer insightful work-from-home tips that address productivity, organization, and morale. During these meetings, give them a chance to goof around, make jokes, and check in with one another in terms of how they feel.
- • Hold video conferences between employees and provide a forum where your personnel can share what has been working and what needs improvement in terms of your new digital workflow. Having facetime with coworkers while they work from home will do wonders for lifting spirits.
- • Stay connected with vendors, contractors, and other business associates via live streaming sessions through sites like Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts. Ask these associates for their feedback in how to maintain sales, increase revenue, and troubleshoot the pitfalls they’ve been experiencing. They could have solutions to problems you weren’t even aware of.
Remember, necessity is the mother of invention and this could be a great time to reinvent your entire business model. We would like to help your company to not only survive, but thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will all get through this together! Our digital marketing strategist, who are all working from home to slow the spread of the virus, are available to take you call and help you make the transition to digital marketing and sales every step of the way!
- • For digital marketing assistance, check out our FasTrax options
- • To sign up for our digital customer loyalty rewards program, explore Loyal~n~Save
Please also be advised that as a small business owner, you are eligible to apply for immediate governmental relief. The CARES Act includes programs that are designed to supplement your payroll and help you keep your staff working even though your doors might be closed. We’ve done the legwork for you, and have compiled all of the government programs and application links below. Take your time reviewing these small business relief loans, subsidies, and stimulus’ options that are available to you.
U.S. Small Business Administration Programs
The U.S. Small Business Administration has several Economic Relief programs in place to help keep your business afloat through the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider this section your quick reference guide to select governmental programs that you might like to take advantage of.
Paycheck Protection Program: To combat the economic downturn American businesses are experiencing as a result of nationwide lockdown orders, the federal government has reserved $349-billion toward job retention to be allocated across small businesses like yours so long as the business employs less than 500 people. Under this program eligible recipients may qualify for a loan up to $10-million determined by 8 weeks of prior average payroll plus an additional 25% of that amount. Loan payments will be deferred for six months. If your company maintains a workforce, SBA will forgive the portion of the loan proceeds that are used to cover the first 8 weeks of payroll.
- • This loan is designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on payroll
- • Loans will be forgiven in full if you keep all of your employees on payroll for at least eight weeks and 100% of the funds lent to your company are used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, and / or utilities
- • This loan program will be available through June 30, 2020
You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. You can get started downloading your application SBA Form here.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans: You can apply for up to $10,000 as an immediate advance for disaster relief, and the loan value in full can be up to $2-million, which can be used at your company as a working capital so that you do not experience a loss of revenue. The loan advance will provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. Funds will be available to you within three days of applying and this loan advance will not have to be repaid. You can apply for this loan immediately by clicking COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Application.
SBA Debt Relief: The SBA Debt Relief program provides a reprieve to small businesses as they overcome the challenges created by this health crisis. Under this program the SBA will pay the principal and interest of new 7(a) loans that are issued prior to September 27, 2020; and SBA will pay the principal and interest of current 7(a) loans for a period of six months. To learn more about the SBA Debt Relief program click here.
SBA Express Bridge Loans: If you currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender, this Bridge Loan will allow you to access up to $25,000 immediately as vital economic support to help your company overcome the temporary loss of revenue you are currently experiencing. This can be a term loan or used to bridge the gap while you apply for a direct SBA Economic Injury Loan.
- • Up to $25,000
- • Fast turnaround
- • Will be repaid in full or in part by proceeds from the EIDL loan
Find an Express Bridge Loan Lender by connecting with your local SBA District Office.
Local Assistance: SBA works with a number of local partners to council, mentor, and train small businesses. The SBA has 68 District Offices, as well as support provided by its Resource Partners, such as SCORE offices, Women’s Business Centers, Small Business Development Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers. When faced with a business need, use the SBA’s Local Assistance Directory to locate the office nearest you.
Common Issues Small Businesses May Encounter:
- • Capital Access – Incidents can strain a small business's financial capacity to make payroll, maintain inventory and respond to market fluctuations (both sudden drops and surges in demand). Businesses should prepare by exploring and testing their capital access options so they have what they need when they need it. See SBA’s capital access resources.
- • Workforce Capacity – Incidents have just as much impact on your workers as they do your clientele. It’s critical to ensure they have the ability to fulfill their duties while protected.
- • Inventory and Supply Chain Shortfalls – While the possibility could be remote, it is a prudent preparedness measure to ensure you have either adequate supplies of inventory for a sustained period and/or diversify your distributor sources in the event one supplier cannot meet an order request.
- • Facility Remediation/Clean-up Costs – Depending on the incident, there may be a need to enhance the protection of customers and staff by increasing the frequency and intensity by which your business conducts cleaning of surfaces frequently touched by occupants and visitors. Check your maintenance contracts and supplies of cleaning materials to ensure they can meet increases in demand.
- • Insurance Coverage Issues – Many businesses have business interruption insurance; Now is the time to contact your insurance agent to review your policy to understand precisely what you are and are not covered for in the event of an extended incident.
- • Changing Market Demand – Depending on the incident, there may be access controls or movement restrictions established which can impede your customers from reaching your business. Additionally, there may be public concerns about public exposure to an incident and they may decide not to go to your business out of concern of exposing themselves to greater risk. SBA’s Resources Partners and District Offices have trained experts who can help you craft a plan specific to your situation to help navigate any rapid changes in demand.
- • Marketing – It’s critical to communicate openly with your customers about the status of your operations, what protective measures you’ve implemented, and how they (as customers) will be protected when they visit your business. Promotions may also help incentivize customers who may be reluctant to patronize your business.
- • Plan – As a business, bring your staff together and prepare a plan for what you will do if the incident worsens or improves. It’s also helpful to conduct a tabletop exercise to simulate potential scenarios and how your business management and staff might respond to the hypothetical scenario in the exercise. For examples of tabletop exercises, visit FEMA’s website at: https://www.fema.gov/emergency-planning-exercises
Don’t panic. COVID-19 isn’t the first pandemic that has hit the nation and world. We’ve survived worse and we will get through this!