It's no secret that the impact of Covid-19 on small and locally owned businesses has been devastating. Now, it's all about survival and making it through to the other side.
As the government increases pressure on people to stay at home, ban social meetings and ban all but essential travel, seen in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's speech on Monday, pushed many businesses over the edge and announced their closure. With pubs, gyms and most retail centres being forced to close, high street stores and handmade-goods owners need to change their approach:
Don't lose touch with your customers
Keeping in touch with your potential and existing customers is important. You may have announced your business has temporarily closed, has a change in staffing or working hours, or is moving to a different retail process entirely. You don't want to lose them.
Sending newsletters is a great way to communicate with customers - where once they might have contained new products, they can be used to be more content driven to keep customers connected with you. Think bespoke content like writing an interesting blog on things to do during self-isolation, 30-minute crafts to do during your lunch break at home, home office ideas, activities to do with your children ... endless possibilities.
Don't let your social media go stale: keep sending positive messages and your audience will respond in the same way, keep checking your inbox and respond to comments on your page. Even updating your page banner with a positive message won't go unnoticed.
Connect with other business owners
Smaller, independent stores have never needed customer support as they do now. Networking helps to share your customer base and pool resources and ideas. Keep a look out for what your local stores are doing to increase their flexibility, help their staff and still keep customers interested. It's helpful to see what customers are thinking by visiting the social media pages of larger companies, and watch the general feedback of customer comments.
Public opinion is very powerful, and if you are doing things to appear more admirable in the eyes of your customers, your business will benefit.
Understand your customers
Unique ideas and being able to react quickly will put you ahead in your survival strategy. Customers can no longer visit you? Move online. Use social media to your advantage. List your products in an online store. Offer a delivery service in your local area, or post items once or twice a week. Look for opportunities to help the community: make up a kit to help keep children entertained or something that will benefit the more vulnerable in the community.
We are all in this together, and community support is especially crucial.
Ask yourself what people need and what your customers may be feeling in the current climate. Customers might be concerned about job security, how to care for their children and vulnerable relatives. Media reports may instil fear and drive misinformation. They are currently feeling isolated and removed from friends and family - give them something that helps them feel more at home, something affordable and meaningful, and you will become more memorable.
Encourage people to message you through social media platforms and manage orders as flexibly as possible, keeping the customer wants and needs in the forefront of your mind.
Cutting down on staff and products on offer has an impact on your overall day-to-day operations and stock movements. However, operating on a more manageable level can help you focus on the few products or services that are essential to your business.
By simplifying what you have to offer, you can focus on building a plan around it and scale effectively when moving forward.
Keep up to date with government support
The government is putting measures in place to help support small businesses during this period of disruption. Support has been launched from March 23rd, including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will provide loans of up to 5 million to SME's.
Call the HMRC helpline to look into delaying your tax payments, claim on sick pay for ill employees and research your insurance or bank to find out how they can help.
Keeping up to date with what you could qualify for, and what the consequences will be in the long-term, will help you evaluate the future of your business.
Most importantly, make sure that you follow government advice and stay at home.
microDev can help with the affordable and quick setup of a fully-functional, bespoke online store in under a week. With a retail shut-down of certain sectors projected for at least the next 3 weeks, this is the perfect time to modernise your small business and be able to reach more of your potential customers.
This is a challenging time for small businesses - that's why we're offering 25% off all our packages, and have lay-by options to make setting up your online store more affordable.