As of May, over 100,000 small businesses have closed their doors forever thanks to the lockdowns required to fight COVID-19 and the attendant recession. According to Marketwatch, 41% of businesses registered on Yelp have permanently shut down as of June. And yet, the pandemic isn’t even close to over.
Despite some meager help, the government has done almost nothing to help businesses survive let alone thrive in a country crippled by coronavirus. Because fully opening the economy is not an option until new infections drop off entirely or a vaccine is found, businesses need a roadmap for holding on amidst the pandemic.
Though every business operates differently and requires its own, unique plan, here is some good advice for business owners fearful of the COVID-filled months ahead.
First: Stay Calm
No business does well when its leaders are panicking. Though the COVID crisis is pretty much a worst-case-scenario for many businesses, losing control of your emotions and actions won’t be beneficial in the short or long term. Before you can take any steps toward maintaining your business, you need to feel calm and confident. This might require you to close shop for a week or so while you relax and organize your thoughts; you should do whatever it takes for you to settle down and gain control of your senses. You might need to continue practicing calming behaviors throughout the crisis, any time you encounter a threat to your business, to ensure you are responding with a clear mind and heart.
Next: Talk to Your Bill Collectors
The ongoing crisis is not of your own making. You aren’t losing revenue because your products aren’t good, and you don’t have to close your physical locations because of bad money management. Rather, your business is suffering for the same reason other businesses are suffering: COVID-19. Governments are forcing businesses to close, and as a result, you aren’t able to pay business-related bills.
Most banks, landlords and other bill collectors are more than understanding of current circumstances and hardly expect you to pay your bills as usual. However, you shouldn’t just stop paying out of nowhere. You should contact your business’s creditors, explain your financial situation and ask for leniency for the duration of the COVID crisis. Most will work with you to develop a more reasonable bill collection plan, giving you more space to find success in this trying time.
Focus on Your Audience
If you are struggling, you best believe that your audience is also having a hard go of it. More than 1 in 10 Americans is unemployed, which puts strain on home finances in addition to eliminating many sources of health care — in the midst of a health crisis. Your business’s audience has much more to worry about than the state of your business, so you should consider altering your marketing messages to show more compassion and empathy.
Marketing will continue to be exceedingly important as long as the pandemic lasts. Even if your business cannot open, it should be maintaining a digital marketing campaign. The benefit of marketing is keeping your business at consumers’ top of mind, even while it isn’t functioning as usual. Digital marketing tactics, like SEO services, are effective and affordable, especially considering that internet use has skyrocketed. You should offer your audience content and communication that meets their wants, which you can learn through audience research.
Pivot Your Production
If possible, you should pivot your business to fill a pandemic need. For example, many businesses that pre-COVID produced clothing or furniture have altered their manufacturing to deliver face masks to help prevent the spread of the disease. If you can slightly alter your business to deliver items that are currently in high demand, like face masks as well as antibacterial soap, home office supplies or loungewear, you might not merely survive the crisis — you might easily thrive.
No business leader was adequately prepared for the emergence of COVID-19, which means every business is at risk of failing during this crisis. To stay afloat, you need to remain calm while navigating these uncharted waters, remaining flexible and creative with your solutions. Only then will your business have a chance at returning strong after the pandemic.