The coronavirus is the only thing anyone is talking about right now because people are frightened: not only because of the disease itself but because of the obviously devastating effect it is already having on the economy.
But we want to suggest that this is the time for your small business to lean into the challenge and use this as an opportunity to not only reassure your customers but to grow your business.
Remember, even those who have not done Internet business with you in the past may want to now. In addition, those who are restricted to their homes will be on their devices more in the coming weeks, so this is the time to be on your game.
People will be relying on your product or service to continue operations to the greatest extent possible. It’s important that you not be perceived as taking advantage of or capitalizing on the situation in any way, but that you are providing them with alternative ways of accessing your product or service.
Keep them informed
Personal interaction and communication with your customers is key to success at any time, but particularly now.
If you have a brick-and-mortar business, tell them on your website and through social media what steps you’re taking to protect them (taking phone appointments, sanitizing often, etc.). If you’ve had to change your hours or way of doing business (drive-up options for picking up products, for example, or restricting access to your store), be sure this information is prominent on your website.
If you’re having supply problems due to the virus, let customers know, including whether you must limit purchases, what steps you’re taking to find alternate suppliers, and what products, if any, you have in stock that could serve as substitutes. If you’ve had to reduce your staff, explain this to your customers, along with what you’re doing to alleviate the issue, and whether they might experience delays.
Up your game
If you haven’t improved or updated your website in a while, now’s the time to do so. Make sure it provides not only the information mentioned above but features your latest products or services.
If your website doesn’t have a live online assistant to answer questions, you should consider adding one now. Those who might have come to you in person before likely won’t be able to now. Capture them when they’re on your site with a pop-up assistant: “It looks like you’re shopping for a home. We are offering virtual tours and can chat with you now.”
This would also be a good time to offer special sales, gifts, and contests to entice people to buy. Remember:
- many people will now have a lot more time on their hands, and,
- many who resisted buying online in the past will now be more willing to do so.
Retail therapy is a tried-and-true method for relaxing. You can help make their enforced isolation a little more enjoyable.
Assist your community
Another way people can cope with the crisis is by helping others. Right now, social media is brimming with opportunities to do this. If you become aware of a need in your community—someone needs help feeding their pet while they’re in the hospital, for example, or the local homeless shelter has a shortage of toilet paper—rally your fans to help.
Likewise, if you hear that one of your fans has performed an act of kindness, be sure to share it. In this time of fear and uncertainty, try to uplift your fans’ mood as much as possible. Forward Facebook links to uplifting stories, Instagram photos of flowers blooming, tweet jokes or amusing memes you run across.
Mind your own physical and mental health
Try to remain upbeat yet realistic about the pandemic. To do so, you will need to stay apprised of the current news regarding COVID-19, so you can relay it to your customers if necessary. Be wary of forwarding any news from unreliable or unvetted sources, and use your social media accounts to calm and reassure your fans. If you see something questionable in your newsfeed or in customer comments, counter it with a link to CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) or your local state health department or facts from trustworthy news sources.
Running a business is challenging in the best of times.
The coronavirus pandemic will naturally add to your stress. Take breaks not only from the constant barrage of COVID-19 news but from your business operations as much as you can.
During this time, get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet, take walks outdoors, and connect with friends and family to the greatest extent possible while also social distancing. Remember that any type of exercise is a great stress reliever.
We are all facing an unprecedented situation not only at the moment but for the foreseeable future. It will be difficult, but one way or the other, we’ll come out on the other side.
So chin up, lean in, and stay safe and please feel free to ask us for any assistance you may need.