When Covid-19 came flooding, small businesses were especially hard-hit with 31% stopping operations as a result of the crisis, according to Facebook’s State of Small Business report. But even in these unprecedented times, business must go on. Here are some strategies some businesses have successfully used to address the challenges you may also be facing.
Leveraging on strategic relationships
This has especially been seen in the food industry where restaurants and eateries are suffering from reduced foot traffic. Enter cloud kitchens. The lockdown period enabled restaurants, home cooks and chefs to offer food directly to customers via websites, apps, social media and mobile contacts. This new development has it that the global cloud kitchen market will grow to $236 trillion by 2026. For instance, Moh Wingz and Bwibo blew up during the lockdown period.
Some businesses which operated on brick and mortar got creative and built a shoppable landing page where customers can buy their stuff online. For example, New Level, a fashion business which initially sold clothing from their shop on Ngong Road, started by selling via WhatsApp then built a website where women could shop for all their fashion needs.
An added advantage of landing pages is that they can also be a great way to collect contact information from your audience. “Through the website, I can organize my audience and send regular updates to keep folks informed about everything going on with the business,” says Nancie Mwai, founder, New Level.
With many businesses flooding the online space, it is easy to get lost in the mayhem. To help your business stand out, consider going beyond the hard sale. Demonstrate to your customers how the product you are selling works, for example. You could create a downloadable guide, an e–book, or even a series of helpful blog posts to help boost your sales.
Invest in digital marketing
According to Mastercardbiz.com, you need to ensure that your current and potential customers are aware of the services and solutions you are providing. Leverage digital and social channels, local media, and like-minded local businesses to help spread the word. Focus on current customers who are supporters of your business and are willing to help spread the word about your new way of selling and providing services. You can also make use of digital influencers to push your brand.
Supply chains have been impacted leading to shortages in raw material especially Chinese-made goods. To deal with this disruption New Level identified sources of materials locally. This provided stability to supply chain issues and also supported local businesses.
Rent out equipment
Some fitness companies had the brilliant idea of renting out all their equipment to their members. Members took the gear home, so they could continue a workout routine, and the business generated some income over lockdown. These companies also kept their members engaged by doing regular online workout sessions which were live-streamed on Facebook and Instagram to add value and keep people engaged. This helped to build community spirit and brand loyalty, and they will be among the businesses that hold on to clients post lockdown. Similarly, if you have any gear, say kitchen equipment which is not generating income just lying in your premise, consider renting it out.
Figure out how your customers’ needs have changed
It is easy to panic when thousands are dying the world over, and unemployment is skyrocketing. Don’t! Almost all your customers’ lives are different than when Covid-19 hit and may never be the same. Your short-term cash flow depends on providing them with goods and services during the crisis. Your long-term viability depends on understanding how their needs will be different when the pandemic is over.
The first thing to consider is that people are building new habits right now. There are millions of isolated households whose normal routines have been upended, and just like them you have to experiment if you want to remain a part of your customers’ lives. Some restaurants are offering takeout comfort food, even if they usually just serve in their dining rooms. Retailers are emphasizing online experiences. Your customers do not need a vapid email about how you care about them, but they do need entertainment and comfort and hope. Some of their new habits will persist after the pandemic, which means it is particularly important for you to figure out how to continue to offer services that deliver value during the crisis.
While many of your customers may have lost their jobs, they will also be eager to enjoy themselves after the long seclusion. Many will still be scared about the risks of contracting the disease. Some of them may have decided that they like ordering online. Reach out to them to learn how their lives have changed and figure out the most exciting thing that you can offer your customers once they can leave their homes. Ask them what they are looking forward to and help them look forward to the day that they can buy from you again.
Life is a challenge right now but with a little bit of creativity, small business owners can ride the pandemic wave with equanimity.