It’s hard to imagine a more challenging time to be in business. Just weeks ago, it was unthinkable that a third or more companies would be fighting for survival. Yet, here we are, and what we do next is going to have a major impact as the economy reopens.
It goes without saying that customers are critical to business. Priority number one should be to get your customers back in the habit of buying from you again. There’s good news and there are challenges. For businesses like restaurants and gyms, there is considerable pent up demand. So, while you may be limited in the number of customers you can serve, many are eager to get back to the things they enjoy.
On the other hand, many individuals are staying put until they feel the COVID threat has diminished completely. There has also been a shift in buying habits. Consumers under lock-down have gotten used to ordering online, goods they’d have driven across town for previously. In spite of the challenges, there are things, we as business owners can do to get the cash register ringing as quickly as possible.
- Stay liquid. When the shut-down order came, your first instinct was probably to circle the wagons and wait things out. Chances are nearly three months without cash flow has taken a serious toll on your business finances. As things open up, be extra careful about where your cash goes. Traditional advertising may not be effective until your consumer base regains some sense of normal. In essence, this makes your market smaller, even if ratings suggest otherwise. If you are advertising, test your messaging and placements until you can determine the measurable ROI. Be conservative, demand results and ask for discounts.
- Nurture past relationships. Hopefully, you’ve been keeping your customers and other contacts in some form of list. CRM would be best, but a spreadsheet or even slips of paper can get you back in touch with customers that have been stuck at home for way too long. If you have email addresses, start there. Forget slick, marketing emails. Just write as a business owner that would “like to see you back.” You don’t need to write individual letters, but be personal and underscore how you are compliant with safety standards, social distancing, etc. If you don’t have email addresses, call. If you don’t have phone numbers, send a postcard. Finally, if you aren’t quite sure what to do, call us. We’ll happily help you make a plan.
- Leverage local sentiment. Everyone knows how badly local businesses have been affected by the shut-down. Most are tipping more and going out of their way to do business locally. For those that visit your business, ask that they help you let their friends and family members know you are open for business. Even better, make sure they have something to hand out. It can be anything from miniature menus, coupons, refrigerator magnets… Anything to remind people to share their recent experience with your business. Finally, find out if local media is offering PR opportunities for local businesses impacted by the shut-down. Many are.
- Embrace digital. While on lockdown, nearly everyone kept connected to the outside world, friends and loved ones online. For many, it has been a lifeline and the only way to get essentials to their homes. Sadly, many businesses have been needlessly invisible throughout the crisis. It isn’t enough to have a website—especially if it is outdated. The Internet provides endless ways for you to build and strengthen relationships with consumers. Even in the best times, the Internet is critical to keeping relevant. If you aren’t sure what to do, let us help you. We’re neighbors and your business is important to our community.
We are all ready to get back to business and back to normal. Even small efforts will make a difference in bringing back customers. Be creative and do something today. Make a few calls, revisit your website or social media channels, write an email inviting people back to your business. Make a plan to do something every day and stick to your plan. You’ll be amazed how incremental efforts pay off over time. Keep in touch!