Small Biz COVID-19

Small Business Tips In COVID-19 Times

In Small Business by Ryan Freeman

It’s a tough time for businesses of all kinds. People are staying home, events are cancelled, shopping habits are changing. Even if you manufacture in-demand products, you have to manage keeping staff safe, expediting delivery, and options for adjusting capacity. It seems no one has been spared.

As with every challenge, though, we’re starting to see more and more businesses adapting and evolving with some good ideas for survival and growth. We will keep updating this article as ideas are discussed and as recommendations change.

  1. Update Your Website
  2. Gift cards for local businesses
  3. Delivery instead of in-store
  4. Curbside pickup
  5. Google My Business updates
  6. Communicate with customers
  7. Digital Interactions

(This article is being updated regularly. Please check back for expanded content.)

SAF recently recorded a very helpful webinar specific to florists on Planning, Prep, and Best Practices. The webinar is available to everyone, not just SAF members, and there is plenty of useful info that can be applied to all businesses.

Update Your Website

Leave no doubt. “Yes, we’re open for business!” “Store is closed, but we’re delivering daily.” When someone visits your website, they should never have to guess if you’re currently accepting orders. It may be helpful to add a date to your message, as local regulations are changing frequently.

Banners, text, blog posts, etc. All of these are options for clearly and effectively making your statement on your website.

Promote Gift Cards To Support Local Business

Restaurants and retailers are being hurt badly by the mandated quarantine. While we all know it’s for the best, many smaller local businesses may not have the cash reserves to endure a long sales drought.

One idea that can help is to promote the purchase of gift cards from local businesses. This gives the business some immediate cash to sustain them and gives the customer something to look forward to when the quarantine is lifted.

Transitioning To Delivery

Recently, Amazon announced they are hiring 100k new employees to help with a sudden and overwhelming demand for deliveries. Customers are choosing to stay home and have their items delivered; and who can blame them?

Banners like this one can quickly communicate that you are able to take and deliver orders, even if your storefront is closed. Feel free to use this one!

For some businesses, delivery has always been a part of life. Florists, pharmacies, gift basket & balloon sellers, all have established delivery procedures. In this case, some extra care around sanitation, effective communication with customers and recipients, and some minor tweaks to protocol may be all that’s required.

For other businesses, delivery may be a new concept. If you’re new to the delivery game, here are a few tips to consider with your implementation.

  1. Presentation matters: Everyone is living in a heightened state of fear. Making sure your delivery team looks professional and personable will go a long way toward making the delivery successful.
  2. Offer a leave-at-the-door option: In some climates, this gets more challenging and may require prior communication with the recipient. Despite the extra admin work, this solution will be really helpful in easing the fears of customers and helping to ensure repeat business.
  3. Communicate clearly: Let people know that delivery is an option, and let them know what steps you’re taking to avoid transmission of a virus while facilitating the delivery.
  4. Consider using a service: Depending on what resources you have, it may be wiser to contract with a professional delivery service to handle the fulfillment. Just be very clear with them about your expectations for behaviour, conduct, and cleanliness.

Always remember that your delivery personnel represent your brand on the front lines. They are likely the most direct contact people will have with your brand.

Offer Curbside Pickup

When delivery isn’t an option, either because of urgency, logistics, or something else, consider offering a specialized pickup option.

Dick’s, the sporting goods retailer, is now providing what they call a “Contactless Curbside Pickup”. This is a co-ordinated hand-off of a customer’s order that has been prepared by staff in-store and delivered to a meeting point outside the store. Staff and customers maintain a safe distance, and the customer gets what they need. Many other major retailers have followed this model.

*Really* Use Google My Business

In normal times, over 50% of Google searches have local intent. Most of the time, customers can expect reasonably accurate information from the Google My Business listings for local shops. These days, there is very little certainty in the customer’s mind. Updating your Google My Business listing with specific information about hours and services can make you stand out.

  1. NEW: Google has temporarily allowed some businesses to add “Delivery” or “Carry Out” terminology to their business name in GMB. Adding “Online Only” might also be a good idea, just don’t go crazy. While restaurants are the primary category mentioned, any business offering delivery should be ok doing this. (Note: GMB edits are staying in pending status for longer than usual these days.)
  2. Text in Cover/Post Images
  3. Update your hours: If you have altered or restricted your hours, make sure the GMB page has the current info. If you are closing certain days, mark those as well.
  4. Update your description: Be sure to include a note in your Description to affirm that hours and contact info are accurate and will be updated regularly.
  5. Use GMB Posts: The Posts feature gives you the opportunity to publish longer content on your business updated related to COVID-19. Let people know what you’re doing, what’s changing, what’s the same. Show them what options they have to do business with you.
  6. Delivery & Curbside Attributes: Google My Business has added new selectable attributes like “Same-Day Delivery”, and “Curbside Pickup”. If you are offering these services, be sure to update your GMB listing today! Log in to GMB -> Click on your location -> Info -> Add Attributes -> Start typing “Delivery” or “Curbside” -> Select the option when it appears
    GMB Curbside Pickup and Delivery Attributes

Ultimately, the fact that you are proactively delivering information will boost customer confidence and build your brand.

Email Is Your Friend

Take the time to communicate with your clients. Are you open? Closed? Delivering but no retail store? Drive-through but no eat-in? Offering new options?

Your emails don’t have to be fancy, but they should be professional. That means double-checking a few things.

  1. Don’t CC your entire customer list. Please. That’s a violation of privacy and will make customers angry at the best of times. Use a proper email marketing service. MailChimp is free for lists under 2k, or $9.99 for lists up to 50k recipients. There’s no excuse for bad email etiquette.
  2. Spell check. Grammarly is free, folks. It costs nothing but time to catch those errors.
  3. Don’t try to be funny, ok? Many people react to stressful situations with humour. Others really don’t appreciate it. Save the jokes for your personal Facebook feed. Keep the business messaging positive and appropriate for the situation.
  1. Update often. But not too often. “We’re still open” is a good message the first time, and maybe a week or two later. “We’re still open and nothing has changed” is not helpful 1-2 days after the first message. Send updates when something has changed, or when enough time has passed that confirming the status quo is beneficial.

Offer Digital Customer Interactions

Recently, we spoke with a florist client who is using FaceTime to conduct bridal consultations. A lawyer client is arranging secure video conferences to replace previously-scheduled in-person appointments. We had a video check-in with a medical specialist.

Using video helps to create a personal connection, much more so than a traditional phone call. If you can’t meet in person, use video options to personalize the meetings as much as possible. Even Grandma does FaceTime, right?

Give Us Your Tips

What neat ideas or useful tips have your or the businesses around you implemented? Share your ideas in the comments below.