As of this writing, the coronavirus has infected at least 176 countries. Many governments had implemented travel restrictions and placed their territories under lockdowns. For the first time in history, more than a third of the world is in lockdown. While everyone is hoping that this pandemic will end as soon as possible, there is an uncertainty that pressures institutions— including small businesses. The disruption on businesses that coronavirus had created is challenging, to say the least. However, this disruption should be nothing more than a hurdle that small businesses face and overcome. When customers cannot visit stores, it is about time to visit customers in their space. Small business owners might feel overwhelmed, but it is time to adapt, innovate, and overcome.
COVID-19 And Small Businesses
Small businesses are generally unprepared for the pandemic. Business strategies once thought to be fault-proof are now sitting in folders as owners wrestle for prompt solutions. A report from the JPMorgan Chase Institute states that about 50% of small businesses have a cash buffer that can shoulder 27 days. A cash buffer pertains to the days of expenses that the cash balance of the business can support its operations. In short, about half of small businesses can close within 27 days if the cash inflows remain stagnant. Small businesses, unlike multinational companies, have a limited cushion when the market shifts. While some owners can secure financing or use credit to keep their businesses going, the majority of small businesses have limited choices. The reality of small businesses is grim as the cash reserves drain by the day. Fortunately, this is not the reality for small businesses that will remain relentless.
Market Shifts Affecting Small Businesses During Coronavirus
Small businesses should stop obsessing over the losses that they have incurred and start adjusting appropriately. Think of the pandemic as a game-changer, and as a player, winning remains to be the goal. Yes, the restrictions have changed the playing field, and governments have limited resources to save all small businesses, but the customers have the same demand. Businesses operate under the impression that they supply the demands of the customers, and that they solve a problem. Well, the demands of the people remain the same, if not more so, as evidenced by the panic-buying that has left many supermarkets empty.
So, where is the market now? Customers are sitting in their homes, craving for the products and services that normal business operations provided them. Several governments have suspended school and work, affording these hundreds of millions of socially distant individuals longer screen times. The customers are not in the streets, they are on the Internet, looking for ways to avail products and services. The demand is in an all-time high, and small businesses could not get through because of the lack of a digital marketing strategy. The problem is not the lack of demand; it is the lack of accessibility and engagement.
As we have established that the demand from customers has not dwindled, it is only appropriate to ask the proper questions. Do these customers know you? If they know you, do they know that you are still operational? If they know you are operational, how could you come through? Now that small business owners have clarity that the game remains afoot, a digital marketing strategy is shaping nicely.
What Small Businesses Need To Do Now
Reports from the University of Stellenbosch Business School suggest that small businesses remain operating. If your small business can allow, you can arrange a work from home set-up for your staff. Several tools are available to get you through remote working conditions, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Slack, Asana, or Monday. If your small business is production dependent, then make sure to comply with the necessary health practices and adhere to social distancing. Likewise, if your small business has a limited number of customers due to their inability to go out, you should work on your connections and start outsourcing. There is an abundance of delivery services that customers may utilize to get products. Linking with local delivery services will allow your small business to start earning cash flow. Of course, the rent for small business owners will still be a significant cash outflow. You should consider talking to your landlord on how you can arrange payments. After all, a tenant is difficult to come by during the pandemic.
Yes, there is a learning curve for digitizing processes and working through a pandemic. Yes, the challenges faced by small businesses may seem to be the end of the road. However, small businesses only have two options: fight or flight.
Search Engine and Social Media
After coming up with a feasible operation, the next thing you must do is to get the word out. Customers do not know you are operational, nor do they know that they need your small business. Communicate with your potential customers through search engines and social media. As of the moment, millions of people are on their phones using social media or search engines. Use this opportunity to let them know that your business is operational. Encourage potential customers to engage with your business through offers and a clear plan on how to get through them. Let them know that you can solve their dilemmas during these trying times.
Google and Facebook suggest several measures to keep businesses going. According to Google, businesses should regularly update changes that may affect customers. The customers need to know your updated operating hours, and how you may mitigate health risks through extra precautions. Small businesses should also be active on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram . In this manner, you constantly remind customers that you can solve their problems. Facebook likewise warns people of misinformation. As a small business owner, you should vigilantly monitor misinformation or hoax that may dampen the interest of potential customers. Customers, due to the uncertainty of circumstances, need constant reassurance that you are undertaking the most suitable measures to cater to their needs.
Online traffic has increased, and you have to steer through digital marketing with a sharp mind. Of course, while online traffic has spiked, this is no guarantee that your potential customers will find you, especially when they have more important matters in their minds. Perhaps it is not the time to be searching for flowers or pastries, but through a targeted approach, you can reach them. Let us help you navigate this with our social media services.
Website and SEO for Small Businesses
As previously mentioned, there are hundreds of millions of people who type their queries on search engines and social media. The problem is, out of these hundreds of millions, only a small portion is your potential customer. Local SEO, designed to promote businesses with a specific regional target, comes into play. A strong and efficient SEO strategy that will allow small businesses to target their main customers can keep owners afloat. It is crucial to come up with a local SEO strategy that will permit small businesses to find customers who are also looking for them. Spending money on untargeted and unspecified marketing strategies is not a luxury that small businesses can support nowadays. A large number of impressions on ads may not mean that customers will patronize your small business. The impressions on ads are merely numbers that show how many screens showed your ad. You do not need the numbers. You just need to reach the right people.
The head of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Matt Kilian, claims that the short term challenges for small or local businesses are difficult. He also claims that there will be a post-pandemic growth for businesses that those who will successfully navigate these short term challenges can expect in the future. In the meantime, small businesses should continue operating and utilize digital marketing strategies to remain afloat during the pandemic. Furthermore, small businesses may also take several measures to secure their future in a post-pandemic economy.
Several strategies can lead a small business through the economic upheaval. As Google suggested, businesses should highlight the efforts that they have done to help the community. For instance, you can post how your business upheld strict health practices to protect your staff. If you have hosted efforts to aid the community, you should use the opportunity to strengthen brand loyalty. The compassion that your small business has for the community will allow your brand to be associated with good business practices—an association that conscientious consumers value.
Communication Is Key
If there shall only be one take away from this article, let it be this: small businesses should know how to communicate. Communicating changes in your business operations, communicating your implemented health precautions, and communicating that your small business can lessen your consumers’ problems will steer small businesses towards success. Small businesses, however, face the reality that communication is not conventional at this point. The pandemic has restricted the venues from where you can sell your products or services to digital spaces. If you need help with digital marketing, please contact us.