We get it. Of all the possible scenarios you've planned for as a business owner, this wasn't one of them. "Social Distancing" was a phrase that most of us hadn't even heard of just a few days ago.
Yet here we are, trying to navigate through staffing shortages, supply chain challenges and drastic drops or surges in demand, depending on your product or service.
Here are a few tips that can help you run your small business during these uncertain times:
Focus on digital
If you sell a product or service in a brick-and-mortar, one way to navigate through a slow sales month is to be more intentional with digital sales. Chances are, as a small business owner, you already have a loyal following on your social media channels. If people cannot shop face-to-face, give them every opportunity to purchase via your website or Facebook page.
Host a virtual event
Have you been planning a meeting, event or big sale only to find yourself on the verge of canceling? Consider hosting the event virtually using tools like Zoom or Facebook Live. Make it a watch party, host a virtual sale, and give your audience a chance to purchase items from the comfort of their homes. If it's a service you offer, try offering a discount code or special incentive to purchase now for redemption at a later date.
Consider a subscription service
Subscription services are great ways to build recurring revenue, regardless of what's happening on a national/global scene. You may be overlooking something on your menu of products or services that you could already be offering through a subscription. Here are some examples: Florist = monthly deliveries; Restaurants = weekly deliveries or take and bake options; Clothing store = outfit of the month clothing box.
Review your delivery/layaway options
Similar to the points mentioned above, give your customers the option to purchase something now that can be picked up/delivered at a later date or paid for in installments.
Promote your gift cards
If you don't already have a way for customers to purchase gift cards online, you need this. Not only can this provide an additional way for loyal patrons to support you in lieu of shopping in person, online gift card purchases can be utilized by your customer base year-round for holiday promotions and quick birthday gifts.
Stay in touch with suppliers
If you're going to face a shortage of supplies from your vendors, you need to know sooner rather than later. Make regular phone calls to check on their business as well. The more you stay in contact with those who help keep your business in business, the better you can weather the potential storm.
Have a game plan for staffing issues
With an abundance of school closures, your staff may be forced to shift around schedules to arrange for childcare. Be understanding, but also have a game plan for how to get by if your employees can't get to work. Can they work remotely? Can you limit non-essential aspects of your business right now in order to focus solely on the things that will keep the lights on? While running this lean may not be ideal, it may be just the thing that helps you get through the slow days.
Seek advice from industry partners
Depending on your profession, there's probably a trade group or association that can be a helpful resource during this time. For instance, if you own a restaurant, the National Restaurant Association provides helpful tips on its website. Chances are, your industry has something similar.
Take note of lessons learned
This time it's COVID-19. The next crisis may bring something different altogether. By taking notes of what you learned during this experience, you'll be better prepared as a business owner to navigate any future challenges. Keep your crisis plan somewhere digitally and on paper.