The outbreak of Coronavirus in the UK has seen members of the public stocking up on essential items, huge businesses shutting down their offices for weeks, and Boris talking of ‘household-isolation’ for families. The COVID-19 situation is causing panic and worry across the UK for individuals and business owners. In this article we will explore the impact this may have on small businesses and how you can minimise risk and maximise opportunity.
Having a contingecy plan in place is essential for minimising business risk during this uncertain time. Look at your cashflow, monthly income and expenses, and work out what the impact to your business will be if your revenue stream is implicated. Do you pay for a website, weekly venue hire, travel or any other business expense? If so, work out, at which point, those expenses will need to be cancelled or frozen. During this time it is imperative that you are aware of any unecessary costs that exceed your income.
If you are worried about the lack of awareness of your business after closing down your website, or cancelling your upcoming community event. Maximise the use of free marketing through social media, free directory listings, online groups and forums. This is now the time to be thinking about a plan B. If the outbreak was to last for another few months, have you got the right alternative business model in place?
Social distancing means exactly what it says on the tin: people not wanting to go outside or interact with large groups of people as much. This is where your adaptation strategy should come into force. (FYI that doesn't mean being an idiot and selfishily buying 100 loo rolls and selling them on for a profit!). During this time, we will see a lot more people spending time at home, but still in need of meaningful stimulation to avoid lonliness, boredom and a lack of connection with the outside world.
How can your business bring a sense of community to these people? If you usually run (say for example) a class or provide an in-person service, think about how you could provide your services online or digitally. Set up a Youtube page, Facebook group or run live videos that you can charge people from afar to join. Be creative with your ideas and think about all the opportunities to target an even wider audience who will be looking for a way to engage, learn and interact with others from the comfort of their home.
If you're a restaurant owner, look at signing up to apps like JustEat and Uber Eats and think about how you could adapt your business model to offer a takeaway or delivery service. Could you even make an income selling a pack of meal ideas or receipes to families and children who will be wondering what they can make with pantry items?
If you're a hairdresser or makeup artist, could you provide paid-for hair and makeup tutorials online? The opportunities are endless, it's just figuring out the right approach for you and your business.
Do not rest on your laurels, waiting for the government to provide some sort of releif to small businesses. Go out there and get it for yourself! There is still revenue to be made during the Coronavirus outbreak, it's just time to think outside of the box!
Send an email, text, whatsapp or DM to your clients to keep them updated with your current business situation. Help to reassure them that you're doing everything you can to protect their health, whilst also exploring alternative approaches to delivering your services. People will be looking for as much support as possible during this time, so be sure to share any increased cleaning, disinfecting and hygiene tips or guidance that you're following, and let them know that you're doing all you can to stay safe.
Now more than ever, it is key that you increase your customer service capabilities to ensure that they can reach you no matter their location. Social media is a great place to start, as you can offer various ways of communication from Instagram DM to Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other instant messaging platforms. You can also offer live video options through Zoom or FaceTime so your customers can get one-to-one, face-to-face interaction without you having to actually be there in-person.
During the expected "lockdown" that Coronavirus might bring, your customers are likely to be checking in on their social media platforms much more frequently. For updates on the virus, but also due to the fact that they could potentially be at home for long stints of time with limited human interaction and engagement. So whether you're posting about COVID-19 specifically or offering positive, valuable content to help take people's minds off the current situation, it would be wise to increase the amount of content you are posting to ensure you are showing up on people's feeds. This will ensure that they aren't forgetting about your fantastic business and the services you offer.