With the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its long-term impacts on small businesses, this is the time to see the silver lining in the chaos. As a small business owner, you may have your doors temporarily closed. However, this is a perfect time to reflect, regroup, and reload for when business is back and you’re open again. Here are some tips and resources for small businesses to help you use these slower times to improve your business for when you reopen.
Organize Your Business Finances
Though you may not be in your regular office in the back of your shop, or sitting next to your manager who helps you run daily operations, this is a great time to organize your business’s finances from home. You can also use this time to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. Many brick and mortar banks are closing for safety reasons and are making it difficult to access your accounts and organize your finances. Take advantage of this bit of downtime to explore alternative options in case anything like this occurs again. An easy to use a digital bank is great to keep your business moving forward with no interruptions. Whether you set limits on your business cards from your phone, or pay employees and collect invoices through the app, digital banking could help keep your finances simple.
Aside from transitioning to a reliable digital bank, take the additional time to organize your business taxes. If you haven’t started the process yet, lucky you. Not only is QuickBooks offering three months free to help businesses in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak, but the U.S tax deadline has extended to July 15th, again to help small businesses and those affected by the pandemic.
Refresh Your Public Profiles
While new reviews may not be rolling in on your company’s Yelp for Business or Google My Business pages, take this downtime to update your online identity to your exact specifications. While your website may sound like the obvious place to keep your customers updated, Yelp and your Google listing are customer facing and a great place to positively represent your brand while interacting with customers, since they’re made up of reviews from people who’ve interacted and experienced your brand.
Staying on top of your business’ Yelp page during this time gives you the opportunity to read through past reviews both positive and negative. This can help you forge a bond with your customers and develop that trust. Guides like this can help any business owner to navigate the best ways to utilize Yelp.
As with your Yelp Business page, your Google My Business is another great spot for prospective customers looking into your business. Make sure all of your information is up to date, from your hours to your website address. Even uploading new pictures can give your business a clean and professional first impression when people are actively searching.
Double Down on Social Media
You might wonder why doubling down on your business’ social media would be relevant, but think about what people are doing while “social distancing”. Many are at home most of the day, not leaving, and consuming content via their television/streaming service, and scrolling through their social media.
Doubling down on your social channels means connecting and keeping your followers in the know about what’s going on. This is a great time to run A/B testing for Facebook ads, run promotional giveaways on Instagram, etc. Not only is it a good time to experiment, but while people are seeking interaction, it’s an opportunity for you to engage with them and stay at the forefront of their mind. While you are testing new methods and campaigns, remember the gravity of the situation. Be sure you are being sensitive to any #StayAtHome movements by not calling people to “Come hold hands and wait in line starting at 6am”. It sounds silly, but double and triple check your copy before posting, especially now!
Explore Alternative Options
The decrease in foot traffic may slow down your business and affect just about every industry. This can force more and more suppliers to improve their customer service, which may give you leverage to negotiate better deals or even net terms. Not only should you discuss your payment options for the near future, but also look at other outlets for services you currently outsource that your business relies on.
One of the biggest challenges COVID-19 can cause for businesses of any size is how and when they get paid. The #paytoday campaign urges governments and other enterprises to fulfill payments to small businesses right away, instead of waiting the typical 28 days until their net terms are due. Not only could this help support employees immediately (even before PPP loans are applied for and dispersed), but it’s estimated that if all small business vendors were to be paid right away, it would amount to an infusion of nearly a trillion dollars into small businesses.
While COVID-19 continues to impact the day-to-day operations of businesses across the country and around the world, there are many relief programs and other resources to help and steps you can take to improve. The fallout of COVID-19 may also affect your staff, taking extra time to focus on managing your own employees and taking care of them as best as you can. From organizing your finances and curating your online presence to negotiating fair payment terms, these few tips could help your business not only fare this storm, but face an even better future.