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Pivoting Your Small Business to Shore Up Customers Today

May 6, 2020

Never before has the small business landscape seemed so uncertain.

While many companies were asked to close, even those that are open have been grappling with the fact consumers are feeling unsteady about their own economic future or are reluctant to go out in public. Although the timeline for re-opening is looking more positive in some towns, small businesses everywhere know it is crunch time to keep their companies afloat.

Here are some strategies to try, as everyone contends with the unknowns regarding what commerce will look like for the near future:

1. Offer curbside pick-up and delivery.

While many restaurants have been offering this service for the duration, it can work for other companies as well, especially as the economy begins to re-emerge. For example, a clothing boutique could allow clients to take various sizes of an item home to try on to replicate a fitting-room experience. A book or craft store could offer their wares to consumers who are looking to take on a new hobby. Think of creative ways to package your services so your customers can still buy them, and you can keep cash flowing.

2. Sell gift cards for future services.

From hair stylists to hotels, companies are taking advantage of this strategy to get cash in their pockets now, with the expectation customers can redeem the gift cards in the future. To help spur purchases, create an appealing offer that will incite customers to spend their money now. For example, a $50 card bought now could be worth $75 in the future, or you could boost a customer to a higher tier of service for a lower cost spent now.

3. Move your model online.

Many businesses have found they are able to recoup some income by moving parts of their business online. If you normally meet with customers in a one-on-one fashion, try the meetings as a video chat. You also could consider creating products customers can purchase online for a nominal fee, such as a tutorial for clients who want to cut their own bangs, assemble a gourmet meal, or other tips on how to use your product or service. As businesses gradually reopen, you can maintain some of these services to provide an additional stream of revenue and continue to serve those who choose to quarantine for longer.

4. Emphasize your commitment to new hygiene practices.

Many customers are wary of ordering food or buying products if they are unsure what special measures the business has put in place. It’s crucial to focus on trumpeting your efforts online on your website and social media, via posted signs if customers will be coming back in-store and when you take customer’ orders. Make sure your team is adhering to social distancing guidelines and underscore contactless payments, accelerated cleaning practices, and other programs you have put in place for improved health and safety.

5. Band together.

As areas of commerce begin to open, work collaboratively with other small businesses near you to cross-market services and/or work together to entice customers back. Consider creating a joint social media presence that will allow you to publicize updates to hours and services available as more business open their doors. You also can partner with fellow local businesses to address important legislation that might apply to you. Two heads are better than one, especially when everyone is dealing with a similar situation.

6. Seek best practices from others.

Remember everyone is in the same boat so take advantage of other companies’ creativity and bright ideas.  If you’re part of an industry association, make sure to subscribe to their email updates and participate in webinars, chats, or other educational events to access resources they might have. After all, a landscaping firm in Boise is likely facing similar issues to one in Bakersfield. Find groups of like-minded business owners on Facebook or LinkedIn to share best practices.

7. Look into all sources of additional funding.

Many small businesses have been able to access low-interest loans from the Paycheck Protection Program and Small Business Administration, but the finance vehicle proved so popular many companies were unable to obtain the funds. However, there are other options that might work, such as grants from local municipalities. Talk to your Credit Union representative about what might be available in terms of loans or other products.

8. Communicate like crazy.

As certain areas open, consumers will become more confused than ever about what’s open when and how they can access it. Ideally you’ve been keeping in touch with clients throughout the pandemic, but if your outreach has been lagging, commit to doubling down on your efforts to keep customers informed. Make use of your website, social media, email and even direct mail to really capture their attention. Step up marketing on all channels, including special offers designed to entice lapsed customers to give you a try. And always emphasize what you’re doing to focus on health and safety.

While these have been among most small businesses’ most trying times ever, the ones that succeed are those who design new avenues and revenue streams. And as always, touch base with us if there’s any way we can help your small business thrive in these new times.