With countries all over the world imposing restrictions to contain the coronavirus outbreak, small businesses are wondering what to do next. On one hand, you want to continue trading as long as possible but on the other hand, the health of yourself and your workforce is your top priority. If you’re worried about the implications of a temporary closure for your business, here are eight steps you can take to help protect your company now.
8 steps you can take now to protect your business
1. Be open and honest with your customers
We’re all facing uncertainty right now—whether we’re self-employed, business owners, stay-at-home parents or working a full-time job. So be upfront with your customers and tell them what actions your business is taking. Are you closing temporarily, switching to doorstep deliveries or operating limited opening hours? Adding an FAQ section to your website is the easiest way to give your customers the info they need.
2. Work from home or get serious about workplace precautions
In almost all affected countries, the advice is to work from home if you possibly can. If you’re used to going into your shop, office or restaurant every day then this can feel strange at first. But did you know that 86% of people feel less stressed working remotely (according to FlexJobs)? Get started with our guide on how to work efficiently from home.
Not everyone can work from home. But aside from enforcing strict hygiene practices (keeping a safe distance away from others, regular hand washing, and disinfecting communal areas and equipment) look for ways to keep your social contact to a minimum. Could you teach your yoga class online using an app like Zoom or Google Hangouts? Or offer a doorstep delivery service throughout your local area instead of having customers shop in-store? If you’re not sure what you can do, ask your customers for their input on social media. They’ll quickly tell you what they want and what they’d be willing to pay for.
3. Find out what help your government is offering
Across the world, authorities are already putting measures in place to help ease the economic impact of COVID-19. These range from loan schemes for small businesses to helping employers claim back sick pay.
The UK has announced plans to offer various grants, loan schemes, reduced business rates, and statutory sick pay relief for SMEs. British businesses can also call the HMRC Coronavirus Helpline on 03000 456 3565 if they are worried about paying their taxes. In the US, many cities are starting funds to support affected businesses, like the Boston Arts Relief Fund, while the Australian government has a range of strategies in place, from business investment incentives to cash flow support for employers. New Zealand’s measures include wage subsidies for small businesses with employees and financial support for people in self-isolation.
Check your local city or state website to find out what’s available in your area.
4. Update your Google My Business page
If you haven’t got one yet, take a moment to claim your Google My Business listing now. It’s free and it will help customers find your business online.
If you have a Google My Business page, log in to your account and you’ll see a new option on the homepage called “Coronavirus (COVID-19).” Follow the link and you’ll reach a page where you can make suggested changes to your business information—like updating your business hours, adding extra services you’re offering to customers or your local community, or informing them about delays to normal service.
5. Move your sales to an online shop
Selling online has never been easier, and now is the perfect time to start an online shop to give you an extra revenue stream. Depending on your country, postal services and couriers might still be running, otherwise, lots of companies are starting to offer “doorstep deliveries.” This is when the business owner drops the parcel on the doorstep and the customer collects it from there, so there’s no contact involved. This is also a great way to help the most vulnerable people in your community get the goods they need.
In addition to your refund policy, consider giving customers the option to receive a gift card or voucher in place of money back. Of course, you must still honor your refund policy but if you explain how these alternatives will help your business, you might be surprised how many customers choose to support you.
6. Take donations via your website
We love local businesses—and we’re not the only ones! If you’re a local business, the chances are that you’re important to your community. Add a donate button to your website and give your patrons the chance to support your business now, so you can keep supporting them in the future.
7. Notify customers of any updates
During the pandemic, lots of businesses are finding new ways to adapt. If you’re offering a new Local Pickup option, have changed your opening hours, or will require customers to wear a mask when they visit your store, let them know with a News Block. This will get their attention and help you avoid any miscommunication. Just open your website, click + to add a block, and select “News.”
8. Keep posting on social media
Most businesses use social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to promote their products and interact with customers. Normally they’re a luxury or even a distraction, but with more and more people working or isolating from home, these platforms can be a lifeline that offer a vital connection to the outside world. Even if you’re forced to stop trading temporarily, don’t stop posting! Use your profiles to show solidarity and keep in touch with your customers instead, and you’ll have an even stronger relationship with them when things are back to normal.
9. Check-in with your suppliers
Depending on your line of work, there might be interruptions in the supplies you need to make your products or do your job. Knowing this ahead of time can help you prepare and set realistic expectations for your customers. If it’s going to take you longer to fulfill orders than usuals, your customers will be more understanding if you let them know in advance.