The next couple of months will be telling ones. We’re not saying a lockdown is inevitable, but a lot of communities have spent the past week or so escalating their precautionary levels and this article will give you some advice for overcoming slower business times with a potential shelter in place order.
Ditch Your Space
We’re not making any friends with landlords here but there are some businesses that just don’t require storefronts anymore. One way to survive is to eliminate your biggest expenses, and for most, rent (or mortgage on a building) ranks right up there at the top of the list.
Is your business the type that can function without a physical space? What are you giving up? A survey by website provider BlueHost in August 2020 found that 48% of business owners surveyed said they saw no reason for a physical space in the future.
Even if you have slightly less business from lack of foot traffic, consider what it’s costing you to run the physical space. You can even consult with a tax adviser to see if there are tax benefits or deductions you can be taking if you move your business to a spot in your home.
Boost Social and Online
Whether you’re giving up your physical space or not, you have to hit social media hard right now if you want to stay in business. Keep in mind that while some people want to buy local this holiday, sometimes going down and strolling Main Street isn’t possible with schedules (or at all if businesses are shut down). Those people may look for local shops online and may be surprised how few offer online purchase options.
One business announced the temporary physical closing of their storefront and suggested web visitors make an appointment to come to the store. What is the likelihood for someone who’s online to decide to make an appointment to come to a physical location? They are online with credit card in hand. They are in the mood to buy, not make appointments. You’re losing business if you’re asking people to make appointments with you.
At the very minimum, you need:
- Online purchasing options. You can do this through outside sites (more about that in the next section) or your own online store. Even if you sell services and not products, you should be looking for ways to sell online. That’s where people are spending their time these days.
- Images of what you sell. The business that wanted potential customers to make an appointment sold handmade jewelry and yet there wasn’t a single picture of their products on their site. Missed opportunity. If you sell services, videos and images of your work should be on your website.
- A presence on social media. Build those follower numbers by sharing amazing content. Facebook is cracking down on what they show people in their streams. Check out your stream. How many posts are sponsored posts? Every fourth post of mine is sponsored. You either need money to reach your audience or you need them interacting with you.
Get Out There
A lot of businesses don’t want to take on the hassle of an online store but there are easier ways than a WordPress Plug-in (although those are really easy and not as intimidating as you might think) or online commerce software (again, the technology is getting a lot easier to set up than it once was). If you don’t want to run your own and sell from your website, you can sell on:
- Facebook Marketplace
- A Facebook page
- Facebook groups in your area and elsewhere (check the terms of the group first)
- Google Express
There are also commerce places for specific types of businesses like Uber Eats, GrubHub, DoorDash, and Slice (pizza) for restaurants, Best Buy and Newegg for tech, and Bonanza and Hollar for fashion. Don’t think that online sites are just for physical goods. There are many booking sites for people who offer specific services too from fishing charters to wedding officiants. Listing your services on these sites can help you reach new customers for a small price.
This is a disconcerting time for small business owners, but flexibility is key to staying in business. Cut costs and stay top of mind with customers. You can easily do this online with the many options out there.
Christina R. Metcalf (formerly Green) is a marketer who enjoys using the power of story and refuses to believe meaningful copy can be written by bots. She helps chamber and small business professionals find the right words when they don’t have the time or interest to do so. Christina hates exclamation points and loves road trips. Say hi on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.