South African businesses are currently experiencing what may be the biggest upheaval in the history of our country. Thousands of non-essential services have closed their doors, and millions of employees sit at home, wondering about the future.
If you don’t offer an essential service, it’s still possible to keep your enterprise operating and moving ahead during the COVID-19 crisis. In this article, we’re going to cover seven highly effective ways to keep your small business running during the lockdown.
1. Stay relevant.
Right now, your usual marketing strategies probably won’t work. People are stressed and panicking, so your normal marketing messages are unlikely to hold anyone’s attention. You can adapt by shifting the focus of your business and tuning in to the current times. In your business interactions, acknowledge the crisis, and use hope, compassion and solidarity to show your clients you are there to help them out.
2. Focus on marketing rather than bringing in revenue.
This is a tough pill to swallow when people everywhere are losing revenue streams and wondering how long they’ll be able to keep paying the rent and buying groceries. Certainly, it’s possible to earn an income during the lockdown, but you may experience the best returns on your time if you focus your efforts on marketing rather than revenue. People are far less likely to spend money on goods or services than they were a month ago. However, life will return to normal, and business will continue. This is a chance to make your brand memorable and gain an edge over competitors by showing clients that you are dependable and resourceful and that you care.
3. Adapt to clients’ needs.
If your business is non-essential, you are going to have a tougher time convincing people to part with their precious resources. Start by considering what people really need in this crisis, and ways your business can help to meet those needs.
Among other things, people need:
- Practical advice
- Financial advice
- Contact with others
- To keep daily life running as smoothly and normally as they possibly can.
Get creative. You can offer free (or paid) online teaching sessions, hands-on courses, entertainment, consultations or brainstorming meetings. You can send advice, news or encouragement via Whatsapp, SMS or email. For some clients, a simple phone call is hugely appreciated.
To make the most out of your efforts, stick to these guidelines:
- Your offerings should be relevant to your brand and niche.
- Stay professional.
- Keep overt marketing messages to a minimum.
- Visual branding (like a logo or slogan) displayed in an email, on your desk during a video conference or as part of a Whatsapp message is an effective but unobtrusive way to keep advertising your brand.
4. Move business online.
You may offer services that are impossible to render over an online voice chat. Or, if you’re a small business that sells goods, you may be wondering how it’s possible to move your enterprise online when postal and courier services are shut down.
The best place to start is by maintaining contact with suppliers and clients you’d usually see face to face. Assure them that your business will continue post lockdown. Discuss delayed orders, appointments or deadlines, set new dates, and explain where they can currently get hold of you.
If you haven’t given much thought to online marketing in the past, now is the perfect time to start. In today’s world, online marketing is crucial. Creating or updating online marketing strategies could give you a huge edge over your competitors once business starts up again. There are loads of online articles and tutorials to help you get started. Focus your efforts on preparation, design and strategy; keep overt marketing at a minimum until things return to normal.
And even if you’re used to conducting business online, you’ll need to adapt to communicating from home with employees you usually see in the office. Open a business room on free collaboration programs such as Skype or Discord, send out invites, and encourage all employees to post about company matters there so that everyone can continue to effectively communicate and collaborate.
5. Stay visible.
Ideally, you’d like to be on people’s minds, even if they can’t currently enjoy your goods or services. Step three in this article may have helped you to come up with some ideas for keeping in contact with existing and potential clients. Aim to engage your audience once every four to seven days with an offering that’s useful and relevant.
It’s also possible to offer daily content. For example, if you’re a gardening service, send daily garden upkeep reminders and inspiration. Or, if you sell baby-related goods and services, send daily ideas for fun activities people can do at home with their kids. However, make sure your audience voluntarily signs up for daily content.
6. Get to those delayed projects.
We all have projects which are kind of important but somehow haven’t been tackled yet. Maybe you need to learn a new skill that will help your business run more successfully; maybe you’d like to update your website; maybe there are piles of tax or admin paperwork that you’re required to work through. This is the perfect time to get these projects out of the way.
7. Start preparing a sale for when the lockdown is over.
After lockdown ends, many people will be struggling with financial difficulties and complications. However, they will probably still love the opportunity to make use of all the non-essential services and goods that they never had access to during lockdown. Meet your clients halfway by offering a sale on your most popular goods and services, or the ones you think people are most likely to invest in post-lockdown. Feel free to advertise your post-lockdown specials. This will encourage foot traffic and help your enterprise to hit the ground running when the business starts up again.
Remember, your business is essential.
You don’t have to feel guilty about marketing your business during this crisis. All businesses, both large and small, contribute to the success of our country’s economy. It benefits everyone if local businesses can continue to be successful and grow local wealth after lockdown ends.